Friday, May 27, 2011

Senior Women's National Championships

This week Bushido hosts the 2011 Senior Women's National Water Polo Championships at Pan Am Pool. There will be live webcasts of the games on Saturday and Sunday at the link included here.

Broadcast quality should be decent but won't likely keep up to the quality of play which will be very high.

There are only 5 teams involved but all are full of National Team, Junior National Team and NCAA players.

Results are also on the web at the second link here,


Monday, May 9, 2011

Old vs New

It's National Championship season in Canada so lots of games going on at various levels so hot topics are bubbling to the surface this month. Last weekend in Calgary I had the chance to hear our National Sr Men's coach (Dragan) present his ideas on a new Age Group Development League for boys 16-18. Great idea, just lots of politics and delivery issues that hang over it like a dark cloud.

Everyone loves the idea of standard competition, it's so close to what European Coaches who've come to Canada can relate to from home. It's a wild dream of Canadians who have never had such things as national leagues for age group or standard events. So, we are all excited to see how this will unfold as there is a significant chunk of Federal cash going into this project if we get enough clubs behind it at the outset. We are all happy about that influx of money to the men's side and how it will reach developing players and not just be the token funding that the Senior National Team used to travel in the past.

The few issues that exist as hurdles for this project to develop are geography and facility. Right now we have been presented with a draft format that has teams in Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton for the West (cities that can be seen from the top of the Rocky Mountains that separate them) and Ottawa/Hull, Montreal and Toronto for the East (Lake Ontario/St Lawrence River). The costs are acceptable with the games and standard of events but there is no allowance for trips to the prairie cities of Winnipeg and Regina which have a long history of producing National Team players for the country. When those cities are included in the calculations the league costs will jump unless there is a new Central Division (ie Edmonton, Regina, Winnipeg). Of course, a Central Division as a whole will have only the total population of places like Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver so making the thing work with that dynamic is going to be a challenge that will test the sport.

This is a super project to take Water Polo toward fully implementing the national LTAD and as long as teams are easily incorporated in to the league as clubs grow then this will be great for the sport. If new teams do not have easy access then this league will serve only to kill existing local club events and force the sport to atrophy or die on the Prairies and in the East Coast.

But, what is the option if the league does not grow and thrive? It's not "same old, same old" as some would want you to think. That is because the country and the sport landscape have changed drastically in the past 10 years. To give an example of what I am talking about I'll mention a conversation I had on Sunday in Calgary. I was speaking with a referee who had played against me in my generation when we were in our teens and in university. He asked me about how players were identified and developed now, in the 21st century, to be competitive at the U18 level. I mentioned that we developed them from U12, or had them join at 13-15 years old from school programs with multi sport backgrounds. If not that process then it was almost impossible to develop competitive players at U18. This referee mentioned how vastly different that was from when we grew up and started playing at 15, in high school.

It was possible to start playing at 15 in the 70's or 80's because of 2 things; lack of high performance training and competition in the sport (ie the country wasn't that great internationally) and the influence of an active childhood that created physical literacy. Today we do not see many kids leading an "active lifestyle" and physical literacy is lower than ever before. That means kids have to play sports that are related directly to water polo before the teen years if they want success; "Call of Duty", "Facebook" and "Glee" are not what we consider sports related to water polo so they aren't helping develop any Olympians.

I'll help Manitoba Water Polo target the age group and year that they are best able to enter the new Age Group Premier League so that players here can look forward to that challenge. But, I will also keep vocal about the need to have realistic avenues to enter this league for developing clubs so that it does not shrink the sport to 5 cities in 4 provinces.