Make the most of underwater sports in your facility

Make the most of underwater sports in your facility

One of the most frustrating things for pool managers in facilities that experience flagging attendance is the belief among the public that pools are only good for swimming. In certain respects, some facilities might encourage lap-heavy schedules that leave little time for free play or other activities. While swimming 50 laps every night is a great exercise, it might not be the best use of your pool – especially if pool management is trying to attract new patrons.

Underwater sports are a great opportunity for pool management to show swimmers that their facility is so much more than a place to take a dip and towel off. While you might think that swimmers need to be Olympic athletes to play sports like water polo, there are plenty of low-impact equivalents that you can promote to patrons. Consider setting up a league or club for one of these underwater sports at your facility and watch the interest grow.

Melted ice
Typically, ice hockey and water don’t mix. Puddles on the surface of a rink can cause skaters to fall unexpectedly and they can catch the puck mid-pass as well. Maybe that’s why underwater hockey seems like such a strange sport at first.

However, Aquatics International magazine explained that this odd activity is gaining popularity among college students and others in search of a way to stay active in the pool. Invented in the 1950s in the U.K., the game is no different than its frozen counterpart, except that swimmers use miniature sticks to bat a weighted puck around the floor of a pool. Rules can vary, but most players wear flippers for more speed, goggles for better sight and a snorkel to help them breathe without leaving the water.

Aquatics International noted that some pool managers may be hesitant about activities like this that require players to hold their breath for stretches of time, but the number of players – 7 on each side – and common strategies make injuries unlikely. Just like ice hockey, the puck can change possession every other second. Instead of diving and holding their breath, most players hover at the surface, waiting for their moments to strike. At most, players are underwater for 15 to 30 seconds.

“It’s a great feeling for a guy my age to compete at a pretty strong level with young people and feel very good about yourself,” John Meisenheimer, M.D., a dermatologist, avid underwater hockey player and member of the board of directors of the YMCA Aquatic Center in Orlando, told Aquatics International. “And we don’t cost the ‘Y’ anything. We’re just a renter at a downtime.”

Diet water polo
There’s no question – water polo is a tough sport. You might watch it every time the Summer Olympics roll around and wonder how in the world those people manage to survive with so much going on in the water, let alone score some goals. Despite taking place in the water, this is still a very physical sport and not really suited to the safety that your facility needs to promote.

Fortunately, USA Water Polo explained that splashball is a modified version of water polo that includes much less physical contact between players. Whereas water polo players can’t push off the bottom of the pool and can only use one hand on the ball at any given time, these rules are thrown out the window. Children can use flotation devices or life jackets to help them stay afloat.

Mary Cousineau, coach of youth splashball teams in Lake Forest, California, told USA Water Polo that it’s a great way to introduce kids to the world of aquatic sports.

“Splashball’s kind of like the tee-ball version of water polo, so it’s just getting the kids in the water,” Cousineau said. “It’s making the sport very simple and accessible for little kids. Fun is about 75 percent [of the focus].”

If starting a league for one of these or another sport altogether sounds like it might be perfect for your facility, make sure that you have the proper safety measures in place to help swimmers in the event of an emergency. You may want to double up on lifeguard staff during particularly intense matches, but for the most part, people who are interested in trying out one of these new sports are just looking to have a good time.