Is Water Polo Drowning?


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Girls water polo team battling hard during a grueling game

Water polo is one of the most ruthless and physically demanding sports at Latin—players often return home with long, thick red scratches, bruises from dirty jabs, and fatigue from treading water—yet it is rarely mentioned in the halls. And when it is, the team is begging for new players to join.

Both the boys and girls teams have struggled with recruiting players. Currently, the boys play with the minimum of seven players, and the girls play with eight. Most teams have 13 players, with six waiting on the sidelines ready to sub in for fatigue maintenance—a luxury Latin water polo players cannot afford. 

Although usually leading after the first quarter, the Romans frequently struggle to compete in the second half. Their exhaustion from treading water, sprinting past others, and remaining afloat for 45 minutes hinders consistent scoring and defense late in games, leading to losses against beatable teams. 

Junior water polo player Anton Schuster said, “It’s a collective torture. It’s a group suffering.”

Not only is the sport extremely arduous, but it is also violent. Since the referees stand outside the pool, much of the action beneath the water is hidden. Scratching, jabbing, drowning, punching, and tugging haunt the swirling waters. 

Still, senior and captain of the boys water polo team Eric Ward said, “I find that this adversity only makes us work harder.”

The aggressive nature of the sport is what attracts junior Elynor Starr. “It’s what makes the game exciting,” she said. “Aggressive teams make difficult opponents, but that forces us to play to the best of our ability to counter them.”

Players also often get ejected from games. Anton reminisced on one of his counterattacks. After barely hearing two whistles over the sloshing water, he made a break for it, sprinting to the opposing goal with the little energy he had left. “The other team grabs my feet to drag me back, kicking, scratching. With water splashing in my face, I turn towards the sound of my name. That was my cue,” he said. “I climb over my opponent grabbing the ball midair, turning and chucking it towards the back of the goal.”

The team celebrated, but Anton did not. “In anger, my opponent turned towards me, punching me in the jaw. I pushed him underwater by my adrenaline and fury-filled self,” he recalled.

Anton, and his new enemy, were ejected moments later, and Latin was now down a player. They went on to lose that game.

Due to dwindling numbers, Anton and Elynor posited that water polo might become co-ed unless more players join. According to Elynor, “It’s intense but super fun and rewarding! Even if you’ve never played, you will learn fast!”

However, for Anton, reality drowns out optimism. When asked how or if water polo will get more recruits, he said, “We won’t. Nobody wants to play. I don’t even want to play.”