By Nicole LaBosco
The YMCA of Central Florida (YCF) has introduced beginner water polo programs for the younger generations. The programs are being called Splashball, as it has an adapted set of rules that allows younger children to easily learn the basic skills and rules.
“Splashball is an incredibly fun route for children to become strong, confident swimmers. Much of the instruction in practice comes through game play and travel to other YMCA family centers for competition adds to the excitement. Those that continue with the sport can look forward to joining YCF water polo’s competitive teams, which compete in local, national and international tournaments,” said Andrew Gordon, the director of YMCA of Central Florida. Splashball is currently only available at a handful of YMCA locations across Central Florida, but several other locations will start the water sport in spring and summer. Our Lake Nona YMCA will be one of those locations to begin the program in the spring or summer.
Water polo is dubbed one of the fastest-growing sports in America, and having the Splashball programs available at such a young age will allow kids to develop skills before the typical high school age when most begin playing. Gordon looks forward to children further enhancing their skills and adds, “Above all else, I want this program to add positively to participants’ lives. I hope all athletes enjoy their time playing and end up as faster swimmers and stronger tread-ers. Over time, the CFYMCA splashball program has the potential to drastically elevate the level of water polo play in Central Florida. We currently lag behind other areas in the U.S., like southern California, since most athletes here don’t start playing until high school.”
The YMCA of Central Florida received more than $3,000 through the USA Water Polo grant program to purchase youth-sized equipment. The Splashball format also had to be adopted, prohibiting athletes from making contact with one another and permitting the use of floats where needed. “In Florida, water polo is an excellent way to exercise outdoors since athletes have some protection from the summer heat, but it is much closer than other aquatic sports (e.g. swimming, diving) to popular mainstream sports like basketball or soccer. It is the perfect sport for kids who love the water but crave the social or tactical elements of team sports. Water polo proficiency also helps prevent drownings since athletes learn to reflexively perform the eggbeater kick, which can efficiently keep one’s head out of the water for extended periods of time,” Gordon stated.
If you have any questions about the upcoming Splashball programs, you can contact Ramana Lewis, the aquatics director at the Lake Nona YMCA, at RLewis@cfymca.org.