Staying Afloat and Having Fun

In recent years, water polo has become a bonafide sport in the United States, boasting more than 50,000 athletes—a number that has doubled since the early 2000s. Despite its growing popularity, most Americans aren’t familiar with how the game is played and how grueling it is.

“I quickly realized that it’s a very difficult sport and gained a new type of respect for it and the players,” said junior Javier Garcia, who joined Bradley’s Water Polo Club last year on a whim. “I was looking for a unique sport that would be fun to learn. I had no idea what it entailed or what I was getting myself into, but everyone was very welcoming and helpful.”

Two teams of seven compete to score the most goals by throwing a ball roughly the size of a volleyball into the opponent’s goal. It’s much harder than it sounds. Players are treading water the entire time and must keep the ball above water as they pass it to their team mates without opponents intercepting. As Garcia noted, “The hardest part of water polo has to be the amount of cardio that is required.”

Senior Donato Sahlas, who has been president of the club since November 2022, learned the sport in high school, saying he enjoyed the comradery. “The bonds I shared with teammates were incomparable—whether it be struggling through practices or assisting each other through games, we were always there for each other. It quickly became a community of team members I could rely on in and out of the pool,” he said.

So when he joined Bradley’s Water Polo Club, he wanted to create a safe and friendly space that was welcoming to all. “Everyone is encouraged to join, regardless of their experience or background in water polo. We’re willing to help anyone get started or build on their experience. Our mission was to create a more diverse co-ed club, and we have accomplished that.”

Junior Hannah Pigott would agree. “I joined the club after I met someone in class and we got to talking about water polo. She told me that I should go to practice,” she said. “I decided to step out of my comfort zone, so I went to the next practice and have loved it ever since."

The executive board recently transformed the club and renamed it Bradley's Swim & Waterpolo Club to accommodate members interested in swimming laps to be more inclusive. The club also took a road trip to Augustana College to practice with their water polo club and build connections outside of Bradley. 

“The community is unlike anything I've experienced before. Everyone is so dedicated to the sport and has a growth mindset that pushes you to improve and push yourself,” Pigott explained. 

“What's unique about our club is that we understand that all students look to where they can socialize, network and fit in. So, even if they don't stick with our club, we are happy to help them figure out where they might like to go,” Sahlas said.

For more information about the Water Polo Club, follow them on Instagram @bradleywaterpoloclub. 

Emily Potts