Water polo requires more strength, endurance than some might guess

Austin Arnold and Austin Arnold

Often sports like football and hockey are regarded as physical games that require a lot of toughness and stamina. But any member of the University’s water polo club will tell you the game they play is as tough as any other sport.

Water polo club President Matt Pierzchala, a junior who has been playing since he was a freshman in high school, said water polo is a very physically demanding sport.

‘You have to be able to take a hit,’ he said. ‘There’s a lot of rough play that goes on underwater that the refs can’t see, so sometimes you just have to take it.’

The physical play involved in water polo is what four-year senior player Eli Fellers enjoys most about the game.

‘I love the rough and physical play, and it can get real scrappy at times,’ he said.

Fellers plays hole-set, which is the position right in front of the opponent’s net. Because of his position, Fellers said he takes the brunt of the physicality.

‘Our offense is centered around me getting the ball,’ he said. ‘So it’s the opponent’s objective to slow me down and defend me.’

While Fellers encourages the physical play, junior Laura Haner, who plays driver position, said that aspect of the game can be a challenge for her.

‘Since I’m a girl, it can be difficult playing against guys who are 100 pounds heavier than me,’ she said. ‘Sometimes I have to use my speed and swimming skills to try and even it out.’

Although the physical aspect of the game can be a disadvantage at times, Haner said she does not shy away from it.

‘I like how competitive and rough water polo is,’ she said. ‘Sometimes it lets you take out your aggression. I like proving people wrong by doing what the guys do as a girl.’

Junior goalie J.J. Ohlinger said on top of rough play, people may not understand how much stamina is needed to play water polo. The continuous swimming and treading water is one of the toughest aspects of the game, he said.

‘My first ever practice, I couldn’t keep up with the other swimmers,’ he said. ‘That’s when I found the goalie position, and it has worked out better for me.’

Members of the water polo club described the game as a combination of three other sports, if they were to be in water. The play and positions are very similar to basketball, the scoring and fouling is much like soccer and the passing is a lot like football, they said.

The water polo club has played in several tournaments so far this year and even hosted one tournament at the University. The club’s tournament games usually consist of four seven-minute quarters. Fellers said they usually play clubs from other Ohio schools.

Even though the team plays competitively in tournaments, Fellers said they are still a rebuilding program.

‘Since I’ve been here, the team has done a 180,’ Fellers said. ‘When I first started, there wasn’t much seriousness in practice, but now we are getting competitive and we are learning more and more. We are also bringing in a coach in the spring.’

The club also looks forward to more tournaments in the spring, Pierzchala said.

‘The good thing about water polo is that you can play it any season as a club team, and we plan on playing in about four or five tournaments next semester,’ he said.

Pierzchala also said while the club is coed now, he hopes to have the numbers to support both a men’s and women’s team in the future.

‘We are a growing program, so we are definitely always open to new people,’ he said.’


Water polo teams consist of six field players and one goalie. The team’s objective is to get the ball past the other team’s goalie and into the goal. Each goal is worth one point, and the team with the most points at the end of four seven-minute quarters wins.

Players move the ball through the pool toward the goal by passing or dribbling. To dribble, players push the ball in front of them, but they cannot hold the ball or push it underwater.

Field players in water polo can touch the ball with only one hand, and they cannot use their fists to hit the ball. Field players also cannot touch the bottom or sides of the pool.

Goalies can touch the ball with both hands and may also use their fists.’ Goalies are also allowed to touch the bottom of the pool, but they are not allowed to cross the half-way line.

Source: ‘The Sports Book: The games, the rules, the tactics, the techniques’