Memphis Adult Water Polo Team creates small community



The Memphis Adult Water Polo Team poses for a photo after an outdoor competition in Nashville. Andrew Bell (not pictured above) was not yet part of the team.

The shouting of teammates, acrid smell of chlorine and feeling of adrenaline coursing through the veins make it difficult to decide. Who should he pass to? Andrew Bell, marketing teacher, must decide where to pass the ball to keep possession. With the snap of his arm, the pressure is gone. 

The Memphis Adult Water Polo team consists of six regular members, one of which is Bell. He already has a strong foundation in swimming, which is vital for any player on the team. 

“I was on … swim teams in the summer and … my high school swim team, and in college … [I] started playing polo in ninth grade,” Bell said. 

Along with attending practices twice a week, Bell also goes to the gym and yoga classes to avoid injury. 

“It’s a really good all over body exercise, you know,” Bell said. “Like running is good, but it’s just your legs, but swimming … it works all the muscles, and so I think that’s really good [and] I think it’s particularly good for your back.” 

According to Carlton Athletics, for every hour that someone plays water polo, over 700 calories are burned. Not only does water polo decrease body fat, but it also helps to increase cardiovascular strength, flexibility and is a low-impact sport, meaning you can play it as you age, unlike most other sports.

“You have to be a very good swimmer,” Bell said. “If you aren’t able to swim up and down the pool pretty much repeatedly for … eight minute quarters … you might be able to play one game like that but no more … I think you should probably be able to swim 40 laps, 1000 yards, like pretty easily.”

Although a lot of swimming is involved when chasing after a ball, most of the time athletes are treading water. In a typical lifeguard certification exam or naval entrance exam, one is asked to tread water for five minutes, but in water polo, players test their endurance as they tread for extended periods of time, and often play more than one game each day. Though the physical aspect may be difficult for most players, for Bell, the community that he has found within his team compensates for the challenges. 

“It’s also a team sport, unlike swimming … you get that camaraderie,” Bell said.  “You get to compete [against your competitors] and so it gives you this feeling when you’re in the water… you have like a low level of adrenaline running all the time because you’re trying to wrestle with the other guy and you’re trying to score a goal … it just feels really nice.”

Team sports often help to build leadership skills as well as confidence in an athlete throughout their lives, and water polo is no different. However, without regular practices or tournaments, athletes may find it difficult to fully connect with teammates.

“I started playing water polo again back in February,” Bell said. “It’s been eight months and in that eight months we’ve only gone to that one tournament and I couldn’t go.” 

Throughout Tennessee there is a lack of pool space and teams for the Memphis Adult League to play against, so they are forced to compete in surrounding cities, often having to leave the South. The lack of pool space also affects how many players are on each team. 

“Sometimes the Saint George’s team practices with [the adult team] so we can have a full scrimmage,” Bell said. “We kind of need each other to have a full scrimmage because you need 14 people to scrimmage because it’s six field players on each team and a goalie.” 

Due to the fairly small water polo community in Memphis, most teams collaborate with others, helping to build relationships between players in the area, while also encouraging its development.

“We’re trying to have two practices a week … the second practice is hopefully going to be now at Memphis University because once that is renovated and open they said that they would let us play there,” Bell said. “I would think once we got in there and we had practices … there, we could probably attract some of the Memphis college kids, and they might be interested in playing, too.”

Once the practices become more regular, the Memphis Adult team hopes to compete more often while also welcoming new members. 

“I would just say that, you know, … if you are a pretty good swimmer then I think you should give water polo a chance,” Bell said. “I think it’s a lot of fun, and I would prefer doing it over swimming … I do like to swim, but … it’s that extra little competitiveness that I like and the play … that’s all really nice.”