CAMPUS: An unconventional water polo season

Due to a shortage of girls interested in playing water polo this year, two joined the boy’s team in an effort to continue playing. Despite seemingly unfortunate circumstances revolving around COVID-19, junior Emily Wood and sophomore Katrina Colwill are appreciative of the experiences and skills they have acquired from participating on an unconventional team. 

Wood said there was very little information about the girl’s water polo team due to distance learning, leading only four girls to get cleared to play, three short from a starting lineup. She was then given the chance to join the boy’s team and excitedly took the opportunity.

When Colwill first found out there were not enough girls to have a full team, she had lost hope in playing. 

“Once I found out that there was a girl on the team, I jumped on the opportunity to play. I had not played for a year due to COVID, and I wanted to start as soon as I could,” Colwill said. “So I went to the athletic clearance site and got myself cleared for boys and girls water polo. Later that day, I went to my first practice. I was really excited to play. I didn’t care who I had to go against.”

Both Wood and Colwill are glad there were no new rules implemented after joining the team. Wood did not want the fact they were girls to change the way anyone played the game.

“I get treated exactly like how the other guys do,” Wood said. “I would be upset if they made rules limiting what I or my teammates could do. The sport is meant to be physical, and I signed up knowing that.” 

Similarly, Colwill likes how everyone is equal and no changes were made after joining the team.

“There are no extra rules or exceptions, and I like it this way. I want to be treated equally because I know that I can handle myself easily,” Colwill said. “We use the 5 ball compared to the girls size 4 ball. We practice the same, and we drown each other the same.”

Upon having Wood and Colwill join the team, junior Tyler Venator was appreciative of their skills and their contributions to the team.

“They play well and have experience, and to me they’re just another member of the team regardless of gender,” Venator said. 

Additionally, Venator feels that having Wood and Colwill is beneficial for the team due to their work ethic.

“They take practice seriously, and our dynamic hasn’t changed much. They do a lot for the team, and I’m grateful they’re here,” Venator said. “They play just as well as we do, and they are real contributors. I think that it’s great to have a team that’s diverse while also being easy to get along with.” 

According to Wood, the main difference between playing on the boy’s water polo team instead of the girl’s is the size of the ball.

“The girls ball is smaller than the boys, which I’m still not used to,” Wood said. “My coach always gets on my case for not being able to pick up the ball. If I could change one thing, it would definitely be to make my hands 10 times bigger, or the ball 10 times smaller.”

Colwill, although also not used to the bigger ball, looks on the bright side. She said that practicing with the bigger ball now will help her have better grip and shooting precision once she goes back to using the girls ball in the future.

Furthermore, Colwill likes that she and Wood get the girl’s swim locker room to themselves. This is one of the first years they have had space to utilize the locker room, according to Wood, whereas in previous years, there was not enough space to put down her belongings.

Despite the water polo season being different this year, Wood enjoys the fun and positive environment created by her teammates.

“They found this foam mannequin head and made it a part of the team. They even brought it to away games, which was quite embarrassing,” Wood said. “One practice, I did them a favor and just took it. It’s currently in the mini fridge in our locker room.”

Wood is grateful for the experiences from playing water polo and values the lessons she learned.

“I am going to be able to tell my kids that I played on the boys varsity water polo team. Water polo has taught me loyalty, and I don’t think I could ever play another sport or else I’d feel like I’m cheating on it,” Wood said. “Being able to say I have played all four years on varsity has been a goal of mine since freshman year. I couldn’t give up now.”