Hybrid sport causes a splash in Anderson

By Tara Snowden

There are no touchdowns scored or home runs hit, but the sound of splashing water is eminent.

To some, a group of people swimming in a pool and throwing a ball around may seem like a mystery, but to these players, it is a passion.

For two hours Tuesdays and Thursdays, the NIU Water Polo team practices in Anderson Hall.

Steve Hatcher, second-year team member and a sophomore kinesiology and physical therapy double major, picked up water polo in sixth grade.

Hatcher, one of the three captains of the team, said water polo is unlike any other sport.

“The best way to describe it is as a hybrid sport,” he said. “It is a very high intensity sport comprised of the skill and technique of soccer and basketball, and the physicality and brutality of rugby and wrestling, all in a few meters of water.”

Others agreed the combination of several sports with water makes it difficult and demanding.

“It has aspects of hockey, basketball and soccer,” said Steve Michelau, a sophomore finance major and team co-captain. “The largest and most obvious difference, however, is that it’s played in the water, which means you have to be a strong swimmer and be able to tread in the water for long periods of time.”

Although water polo has been around at NIU since 1988 and in the Olympics since 1900, the team gets little publicity and few students know such a team exists.

“The best part [about playing water polo] is the fact that not everyone can do it or will do it,” said Brad Donatille, a senior economics major and co-captain. “It is unique, everyone you ask when you ask what sports you like gives the common, well-known sports like basketball or football, but when I say water polo people tend to be in awe and very interested.”

Despite the high number of new players at NIU, Hatcher describes the team as having great talent, which includes important victories over the Big Ten’s Iowa and the Big 12’s Iowa State last spring.

“In the two years that I have been here we have had a lot of incoming young talented players that are all committed to improving the program,” Hatcher said.

Younger players on the team agreed.

“We have some good leadership from the older guys and some good young players that are freshmen and sophomores,” said freshman accountancy major Kevin Reeve. “We have really come together as a team and continue to look forward into the future.”

The team fell recently one goal short of competing at the Collegiate Water Polo Association’s national tournament in New York this year. The team’s success, however, already exceeded years passed, Hatcher said.