The Manitoba Water Polo Association (MWPA) is offering free water polo instruction for girls and boys aged nine to 16 at the St. James Assiniboia Centennial Pool, 644 Parkdale Street, 7 to 8 p.m. every Saturday until June 8.
"Literally all they need is swimming trunks," said MWPA president Cindra Leclerc of what’s needed to participate.
No water polo experience is required, Leclerc said, though "they do have to swim that lap for the lifeguard."
The MWPA offered the program in February at the Elmwood Kildonans Pool, Leclerc said, and had about 60 youth participate.
The program, called I Love Water Polo, is part of a MWPA effort to generate awareness of the sport and hopefully get more schools interested in joining the school league, she said.
The MWPA runs a school league which had 11 high school teams and six middle school teams in 2012, as well as four Manitoba provincial teams. There are also two Manitoba athletes playing water polo on scholarships amongst more than 40 teams, male and female, in the National Collegiate Athletic Association, Leclerc said, and several MWPA athletes will be attending Canada’s national team selection camps in the coming weeks.
Although the MWPA is hoping to grow by offering their free instruction program, Leclerc says that’s not the only goal.
"We want more people to understand how much fun it is to play water polo," she said, adding the free program is non-contact.
"It’s very much like team-handball in the water. Some people compare it to basketball."
Last Saturday about a dozen youth showed up or were heralded over from the free swimmer population.
Leclerc and her son Quillan taught them the "eggbeater kick," which allows someone to tread water without the arms. The youth also did laps while pushing a ball along, played keep-away, and practiced one-handed passing skills.
"It’s a good sport because it can give you muscle and lots of exercise," said Westwood resident Timothy Yeung, 14, who was trying out water polo for the first time.
"It needs practice, (it’s) not too hard, but you need practice," Yeung said of swimming laps while controlling a ball.
Youth can just show up on the pool deck (it’s a free youth swim from 7 to 9 p.m. at the pool each Saturday) and take part, or they can send their name and age to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 204-925-5777.
For more information on the MWPA check online at www.mbwaterpolo.com