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By Aaron Brown


The following article appeared in the February/March edition of The NISCA Journal:


As a former swimmer, I’ve always wondered what it was like for my parents to experience watching me play water polo for the first time.


It has been awhile, so instead of asking my own parents to wax poetic about their experience, I turned to a few parents of current and former water polo players from Illinois who have experienced a similar situation and got some amazing feedback:


What was it like watching your son/daughter play water polo for the first time?


Eric Flanders (father of Matt & Tyler Flanders, Metea Valley HS): "Confusing!  It seemed like the defense was all over my son and so he pushed off, and before you knew it, the other team scored a fast-break goal. He figured it out pretty quickly, though."


Dan Roberts (father of Nolan Roberts, Naperville North HS): "What I remember most was how much fun Nolan and his friends were having in an outdoor pool on a hot, summer day."


K.N. Arun (father of Rahul Arun, Stevenson HS): "I was nervous and excited! Rahul was a swimmer, but he was so much thinner than anyone else in the pool. He was so raw, but I could almost immediately see that he loved the sport. He learned something new every time he got into the pool and was lucky to have wonderful coaches and supportive teammates."


Debbi Mathews (mother of Emily & Rebecca Mathews, Homewood-Flossmoor HS): "The high school coaches at H-F asked the swim club if we would start an age group water polo team. Rebecca was only nine at the time. They taught the kids the basic stuff and scrimmaged a little, but Rebecca did fine and really liked it. I was totally clueless!"


Did you know about the sport or was it a new/confusing experience?


Eric Flanders: "No, it was a fun, physical and fast-paced game, but the common fouls were tough (and can still be tough) to understand."


Dan Roberts: "Though I grew up swimming competitively from grade school through college, I had never played before or even witnessed a water polo game, so it was a brand new experience."


K.N. Arun: "I did not know anything about water polo until Rahul started playing in the fall of his freshman year at Stevenson. The games were easy to follow, but the referee calls were hard to understand. I still get confused by some calls!"


Debbi Mathews: "They learned the basics but didn't play any games. That went on for a few years.  It was a little more consistent by the time Rebecca got to fifth grade and she learned a little more about the rules. I was still clueless."


What advice do you have for parents who are just getting into the sport?


Eric Flanders: "If your child comes from a team sport background, they’ll do great even if they aren’t a good swimmer."


Dan Roberts: "My advice is simple, if your child shows interest in water polo (or any other sports), let them play.  If they show interest in advancing within the sport by participating in camps, clubs, high school, and even in college, then encourage and support them as much as you can…but never force them."


K.N. Arun: "Never discourage your kid from playing water polo. The sport teaches them so many things that can be used later on in life."


Do you have any final thoughts for parents who are just getting into the sport?


Dan Roberts: "Parents should try to learn as much about the game as they can so they have a better understanding of the rules and strategies, thus making it much less likely they will get frustrated while watching the games."


K.N. Arun: "I quickly became a fan of the sport, and now consider it the best (and one of the toughest) sports in the world. It teaches teamwork, discipline, toughness and mental strength. Water polo has done so much to shape the person Rahul has become today.


My final thoughts:


It was clear that the sport of water polo made a tremendous impact on the lives of both the players and parents over the past several years. I hope I get to share the same experience with my own children no matter which sport they choose in the future.


Can you think of any other advice for future water polo parents? Please send an e-mail to if you would like to comment and possibly be included in a future article.





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