Written by Daniel Sharadin, AWP Executive Director
There are many occasions when an experienced team will be required to play a developing program. In these instances, the goal disparity can quickly become large. If this takes place, no one benefits. The athletes on the receiving end feel discouraged and rarely learn anything from the experience other than humiliation. Those players involved in running the score generally get very little from the game as well, often reinforcing bad habits in the process. Likewise, they begin to learn the meaning of the phrase, “because I can, I should.” Neither group in this scenario experiences good sportsmanship and the entire exercise is a waste of everyone’s time and resources.
Experienced teams will defend their actions by explaining the other team was so bad, they had no choice. We strongly disagree and believe that using the right strategy in the correct manner will produce five positive results.
1. Weaker teams will remain involved
Many of the skills in water polo are difficult to learn, producing frustration in beginners. Athletes experiencing additional failure by getting beaten by large margins will often get so discouraged they quit. Losing teams means greater travel distances for current members and in some cases, the dissolution of the division.
2. Physical Violence is Reduced
Athletes getting beaten by large margins often have such strong feelings of humiliation that they decide to vent their anger on the opposing team. Although a team may be capable of scoring more goals or swimming faster, it only takes one angry fist to end a player’s season. Showing the other team respect during the competition by helping them be competitive will reduce the chance that the situation will escalate to this level.
3. Respect is Fostered
Teams with great ability have the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge of the game without humiliating their opponents. By doing so you gain the respect of the other teams in the division far more than you do by running up the score on a brand new program.
4. The stronger team will benefit
Actively working on specific skills rather than scoring as many goals as possible will teach your kids discipline and will help them work on areas they need to develop.
5. The stronger team learns responsibility
Water polo is not as popular as a sport like basketball, with teams dispersed in pockets around the country. Consequently, athletes involved in the sport need to travel longer distances than their counterparts in other activities until the sport grows. One of the best ways to grow new teams (and prevent others from disbanding) is to help them enjoy success during the early stages of their development. The best way to accomplish this is to ensure they have a good experience when they play. Helping your athletes understand their role in this process teaches them responsibility for the growth of the sport.