I was happily surprised by the number of email, Facebook, Twitter messages and phone calls following the publishing of my first water polo article on Linkedin. Parents sharing their gratitude for having had the good fortune to find this sport for their kids; coaches – of course - but many adults as well, reminiscing about how water polo had contributed to their lives.
I am definitely one of those fortunate adults. In fact I cannot think of anything significant in life that I do not owe to the sport of water polo: my fitness, health, love of water, my handsome husband and father of my kids (an ex Hungarian “A” division water polo player himself), getting to call Canada my home, my friends, and the privilege of water polo being one of my most important endeavours to the present day. I was able to hand down this sport to my kids, and share it with many children in the community. The gift of fitness, health, delivered it in a fun way, through the magic of a game.
It all began with my father, the legendary Mr Rezso Gallov, whose journalism/water polo/sport diplomat career spanned two continents, and who is a devout practitioner of aquatics to the present day. My earliest memories involve tagging along with my father to watch water polo games he coached, refereed or covered as a journalist. By age six I knew every single pool in Budapest and most rural pools in Hungary where water polo was being played. The biggest thrill was sometimes getting to go behind the net, outside the field of play, and throwing the stray water polo balls around. This precursor to my eventual water polo career, was a joyful contrast to the soul crushing lengths I had to endure as a competitive swimmer in the Hungary of the early seventies.
I was happy in the water as long as I wasn’t swimming.
We landed in Canada when I was 11 years old. Ottawa to be precise. We came in September. By Christmas neither my brother nor I could recall what it was like not to be able to speak English. It was that simple. My father had won an international competition and became the Hungarian-born technical director for Water Polo Canada. One of his pilot projects was the establishment of a water polo school based on the Hungarian (KSI) model; and the Ottawa Sports School was born. The kids were all middle school aged boys, most of them without any significant aquatic experience. I watched my dad teach them - from scratch - how to swim the “water polo way”, and forge them eventually into a powerful squad that supplied players for the Canadian National Water Polo Team through the 80-ies. His practices were tough and entertaining and as a coach I can now appreciate the miracle he performed by getting kids - relatively late in development - through the hurdle of fighting and mastering a foreign element, then raising them to a high performance level in one of the toughest, most complex sports in the world. The comment he had upon reading my first article was that one of the main advantages of water polo, is that the sport is played in a foreign element. Consequently, it requires rigorous and consistent practice all year around without any substantial breaks, demanding higher consistency than school itself. My quest is to deliver the sport of water polo to as many kids as possible, knowing what I know about the complex benefits of the sport.
In my conversations with fellow coaches, the challenge lies in capturing the audience as early as possible to enable us to teach all the components of this very complex sport effectively, and “effortlessly”. If we can take five year old children, and help them to build the muscle structure necessary for water polo in the early years, and teach them to not “just” swim but to walk on water, plus build their reflexes, speed up their reaction time with the help of the game itself and the magic of the ball, then we have the ultimate 21st century sport program!
Please send me your stories, ideas, experiences to share!
Gabi G. Vindisch