Playing co-ed in a men's league: A look inside UB Water Polo
The water polo club began in 2010 with only six friends. Since then, the team has grown to over 20 co-ed players.
Now in its eighth season, the club competes through the Collegiate Water Polo Association and finishes its third consecutive season in the Men’s Club for the New York Division. The team has struggled to win but finished ninth this season after coming in last place the season before. The club includes international students, graduate students and former Division-I water polo players who want to continue competing.
The SA club team is one of the few to compete co-ed in the New York Division.
“I think I’ve learned more playing with the guys,” said Nicole Johnson, a senior health and human services major and the club’s secretary. “I’m not fake, so you have to figure out how to play water polo; you can’t figure out the shortcuts.”
The co-ed roster competes in the CWPA, but it has its own complications for the female players.
“The ball size, my hands are so small, and the ball is pretty big compared to the women’s size,” said Alexa Kluepfel, a senior biology major and the club’s vice president. “I’m not uncomfortable playing with all the guys.”
One of water polo’s goals involves increasing player numbers in order to field an all-female team in the future. The club currently features five female players.
“I don’t expect it to happen next semester, but if we gain two more girls and keep doing that I think it will eventually happen,” Johnson said.
For club president Andrew Hossenlopp, a senior environmental studies major, one of the biggest issues with recruitment is people’s ignorance of the sport.
The club practices from 8 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday at the Alumni Arena pool.
“It’s not mandatory –– attendance isn’t taken –– but it is preferred that people are there,” Hossenlopp said. “We’re not going to force you to come to practice, so if you want it to be a large time commitment, that’s great and you’ll probably learn more as well.”
The club welcomes beginners and experienced players. Both Hossenlopp and Johnson were competitive swimmers in high school but had no prior experience with the sport before joining the club.
“I’ll see people go from not even being comfortable in the water, to being good at water polo. If you keep after it for long enough, you’re going to be a solid player,” Hossenlopp said.
Throughout the year, the club competes in tournaments and scrimmages all around the state. This year they look to host two tournaments for the first time. They first hosted in September where the team went 1-3 versus other New York Division opponents including Binghamton University and Syracuse University. They plan to host another tournament inside Alumni Arena on April 14-15.
The club’s budget does not allow for it to hire a full time coach. The members rely on team talent to come in and help in practice.
“It’s a little more difficult since we don’t have a coach, but the seniors are so knowledgeable that they take the time to step up and pause drills to give criticism and advice to the best of their abilities,” Kluepfel said.
Both Hossenlopp and Johnson expressed their own interest in continuing with the sport after graduation.
The club will continue playing individual games and tournaments throughout the spring. Its next home game is a scrimmage versus the University of Rochester on Feb. 22.
Nathaniel Mendelson is a staff writer and can be reached at email@example.com.