Introduced to Water Polo in Y4, ESSA National Champions at U13 – Interview with U13 Water Polo Captain Manpreet
We were thrilled to hear about our U13 water polo team being crowned National Champions at the English Schools Swimming Association’s National Finals earlier this month, so we decided to interview the team’s captain, Manpreet of Year 8 about their success and the sport of water polo at school.
How did you reach the final?
Our team reached the U13s ESSA water polo finals by continuously working hard and never giving up even when the opponents were giving us a tough competition. Throughout the day, the spirit remained high, everyone continued to push through and gave it their all whether that was in the pool working hard or on the sidelines supporting the team.
On the way to victory, we played a range of teams who were all water polo players on different levels. We started very strongly playing against James Allen’s Girls’ School, winning very comfortably. In the second match, our competition was Manchester High School, who were the winners in 2022. We knew we had to beat last year’s champions to get a step closer to the gold! As expected, they were a very strong opposition but we managed to secure a win with the score 2-1. Later that day, we played semi-finals against Alleyns and everyone on our team played, without a doubt, amazingly and this led to a win with a massive goal difference, meaning we were in the finals. The excitement level was high, but at the same time, the nerves also kicked in. With support and coaching from Mr Bent and Claudio and after a day full of fun, hard effort and positive team spirit, we managed to narrowly defeat Bolton 4-3. We were overjoyed with our achievement of winning gold for our team and school and we can proudly say that we are the U13s ESSA Champions of 2023.
How long have you and the team members been playing water polo at school?
The majority of our team are not necessarily water polo players, however, many of us got introduced to water polo in Year 4 in NHEHS Junior School, which helped create a strong understanding of the basics of the game. We are all team players and have thoroughly enjoyed water polo in school over the past few years and hope to continue inspiring other girls who enjoy swimming and like ball games to join the school team and win more golds for the school.
The U13 squad is a combination of players from Years 7 and 8 – how long have you been playing together as a team?
We have been playing as a team since September 2022 and we have received a consistent high level of training. Our team consists of talented players with various strengths, such as strong swimming skills, excellent ball and coordination skills and of course the common mindset of determination and the will to do our best. Since the beginning of our training, everyone has improved tremendously and the encouragement from everyone in the team has kept everyone going during this season. I really enjoy the sessions here at school, as they help us girls to bond as well as play and compete together in a sport we love.
How often do you train?
As a team, we train once a week, every Thursday after school. In these sessions, we usually focus on leg work, tactics, passing and shooting techniques and then we move onto match play to make use of the skills learnt. Since, many of the girls on our team enjoy water polo a lot, they also try joining as many of the other water polo sessions offered in school over the week.
What skills or attributes do you need to be a good water polo player?
To be a good water polo player you need extremely good swimming skills and strong legs to be able to continuously tread water, (also known as egg-beater, which is a way of keeping yourself afloat during water polo). You should also have ball skills, coordination and a mind that can read and understand the game in order to make the right choice when the opportunity strikes in the game. As any team sport, a water polo player also needs skills to support and connect with the other team players to create a positive and enjoyable environment that will lead to a team playing the best water polo game they possibly can.
How does water polo compare as a team sport to netball or hockey?
Teamwork is vital in many of these sports, but especially important in water polo due to the physicality of the game. It requires a lot of strength and determination to persevere in water polo, making it a game where tactics are essential in outsmarting the opposition
Do you or team members play outside of school too?
All of the girls on the team are dedicated to training regularly in school, however, a handful also represent clubs such as West London Penguins and Ealing Sharks that compete in local and national tournaments. Three girls, Emily, Iskra and I, were also chosen to train and play for the London Region Water Polo Team and additionally, Iskra and I were selected to become a part of the National Talent Centre for the U14s competing across the UK and eventually feeding into the National Team GB Squad. This shows that we are a team of different levels that come together as one.
Tell us in 30 seconds why water polo is a great sport and why everyone should give it a try?
Water polo is a sport which people should definitely give a try because it is a sport where you can enjoy being in the water and play as a team. It is a great variation of a sport, especially if you are fond of swimming and like playing other ball sports. Any talents which you have will be appreciated in water polo in one way or the other, and you can connect with your friends at the same time. Overall, water polo is the next sport you should try as you will have a great time and your team will always support you. NHEHS needs you to join the water polo team to be part of the future of the sport at the school!