College water polo has been a part of the NCAA landscape since the initial NCAA Water Polo Championships for men were held in 1969 and for women in 2001, one year after the women’s version of the sport was initially incorporated into the Summer Olympics; men’s water polo was first contested in the Olympics in 1900. Several NCAA water polo players who were part of teams at the top of the NCAA water polo rankings later played for USA Water Polo at the Olympics. A significant number of players have also reported top achievements in a variety of athletic and non-athletic fields after graduation.
This is one of the smaller NCAA sports as about 40 men’s NCAA water polo teams and 60 women’s NCAA water polo teams compete in this sport. As a result, it’s not broken down into D1 water polo, D2 water polo and D3 water polo as far as officially sanctioned national championships are concerned. There are two NCAA Water Polo Championships, one in the fall for me and one in the spring for women. However, D3 water polo is set to hold non-NCAA-sponsored men’s and women’s national championships for those squads starting with the 2019-20 school year.
Regardless, despite competing for one official national championship per gender and having all of these squads play each other regularly throughout the season, men’s and women’s teams are still broken down into D1 water polo, D2 water polo and D3 water polo otherwise. Generally speaking, D1 schools tend to be stronger than D2 and D3 sides. However, it should be pointed out that UC San Diego, a D2 school that will start transitioning to D1 in 2020, is regularly amongst the nation’s best and even participated in the national championship match in 2000.
The NCAA has been overseeing college athletics since it was formed in 1906. The 1921 NCAA Track and Field Championships were the first national championships that it organized. Today, the NCAA administers 90 national championships in 24 sports, selecting and seeding teams to those competitions and arranging host sites. It’s also the organization that ensures that its members follow the rules that have been passed as they relate to NCAA water polo scholarships and scholarships in all of its other sports and otherwise. The NCAA is responsible for approving and finalizing NCAA water polo rules as well.
The official resource for NCAA water polo news is NCAA.com, which has pages devoted to the men’s and the women’s sides of the sport. It also regularly uploads videos of water polo action and provides live video coverage of several matches in the NCAA Water Polo Championships, including both national championship games.
Also check out the official athletic department websites for teams that interest you as news, rosters, schedules, statistics and other important pieces of information are found there. Many schools offer live coverage of their home matches. Otherwise, media outlets local to the team often cover matches. For example, the Los Angeles Times reported on USC’s women’s team’s heartbreaking 9-8 loss to Stanford in the 2019 national championship game. On a national level, Swim Swam is an outlet that provides regular coverage of the sport.
The NCAA schedule is a short but intense one. Men’s teams open play around Labor Day and take part in about 20 regular-season matches over the next couple of months before heading to conference tournaments in mid-November. However, a run to the national championship will extend that team’s NCAA schedule a bit as the title match in this sport is played around Dec. 1
Conversely, women’s teams play a somewhat longer schedule, opening at the end of January and playing until conference championships take place towards the end of April. This national champion is crowned in the middle of May. However, the number of matches is similar; they’re just spread out more on the women’s side.
The Collegiate Water Polo Association is responsible for putting together the NCAA water polo rankings, overseeing a top 20 for men’s water polo and a top 25 for women’s water polo. These NCAA water polo rankings are released on Wednesdays throughout those respective seasons.
NCAA water polo individual rankings are not compiled, but conferences do compile them.
The NCAA Water Polo Championships get underway with NCAA Water Polo Regionals.
In the 2018 men’s bracket, six teams competed to join two that were initially placed in the four-team final bracket. Four of those teams played at two campus sites with those two winners joining two more at the finals site to play off there to determine which would complete the final four roster. Six of the 10 teams selected won their respective conferences while the other four selectees were at-large picks.
In 2019 women’s water polo, there weren’t really any regionals as the two opening round matches, which pared the field from 10 squads to eight, were played at the same site as the rest of the competition. Seven of these 10 sides earned spots after winning league titles while the other three were at-large selections
Note that the format that’s adopted is subject to change on a yearly basis. Also, the addition of non-NCAA-sponsored D3 national tournaments is expected to shrink the sizes of the official NCAA events.
California-based schools dominate this sport with all 100 men’s champions and runners-up and all 38 women’s champions and runners-up through the 2018-19 school year hailing from the Golden State. UC Berkeley water polo is the premier men’s side with 14 trophies, the most recent one coming in 2016, while UCLA water polo is right behind the Golden Bears with 11 championships. On the women’s side, UCLA water polo and Stanford water polo set the pace with seven titles apiece.
Despite Californian teams setting the pace nationally, national championship matches have been played outside of California from time to time. Men’s national championship matches have been hosted by Albuquerque, N.M. (1972), Providence, R.I. (1977), Indianapolis (1989), Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (1997), Lewisburg, Pa. (2005), and Princeton, N.J. (2009). Women’s national titles have been determined in the following non-Californian cities: Ann Arbor, Mich. (2005 and 2011), College Park, Md. (2009), Cambridge, Mass. (2013), and Indianapolis (2017).
It’s important to take into account general water polo guidelines so that you know what’s expected of you and the likelihood that you’ll be offered spots on teams at schools that you’re considering. In most cases, you should have experience as a Junior Olympic qualifier or as a Zone Team member with swim times in the 50 free of less than 22 seconds and in the 100 free of less than 48 seconds. If you don’t have that club experience, junior college might be the best option before moving on to a four-year school.
Most NCAA water polo student-athletes need to have been approved by the NCAA Eligibility Center. Every year, nearly 200,000 high school and junior college athletes do just that. The NCAA Eligibility Center is responsible for ensuring that all academic standards have been met and amateurism has been confirmed; if you’ve played water polo professionally, the NCAA Eligibility Center will not approve you.
It’s recommended that fill out a free profile if you’re undecided or unsure if you will need to. If that “maybe” turns into a “yes,” it’s easy to make the move to the next level.
One of the most important things that prospects and recruits can do to impress coaches is put together and disseminate highlights videos. Prior to seeing somebody play in person, water polo recruiters want to see those they’re considering in action on video. In order to best impress them, ensure that the camera is placed mid-pool with a good angle of the action. It’s important to see the player’s relations with teammates as far as movement and communication go.
Utility players should have the following features be shown: quickness, scoring ability, shooting range, vision and play-making ability. Hole sets should be able to show the first four of those traits and others such as ball handling. Hole defenders need to show that they are quick and can defend and steal. Goalies should be shown diving to both sides on both high and low shots and how they respond to breakaways. You want to ensure that you meet and surpass the NCAA water polo standards expected for your position.
If you’re looking to play NCAA water polo en route to possibly playing for the USA water polo team, you should ensure that you’re taking the steps necessary to impress those coaches so that they give you that opportunity. Continuously improve your skills and fitness by spending plenty of time in the pool, and spend time on schoolwork, partly to impress coaches but mostly to help you in all areas of life.
You should also consider taking part in water polo camps and maybe a water polo combine. Water polo camps provide you with opportunities to improve your skills in settings that are likely different from what you’ve experienced previously. You’ll likely start looking at things in a new way learning from new coaches and being with new teammates, even for somewhat abbreviated times. Experiences at water polo camps tend to resonate.
Conversely, a water polo combine is focused more on exposing your skills to as many college coaches as possible. Oftentimes, the college coach who you’re most looking to impress will be at a water polo combine, but also consider that a coach and school that you may not have considered up to that point could show interest and might end up being the perfect fit for you.
One of the most important aspects of getting the most out of your water polo experience and maybe even ultimately joining the USA water polo team is your coaches and mentors. You want quality ones, but you also want ones who blend with your learning style. It’s okay if you don’t click perfectly with a coach, but, if you don’t, it should be in ways in which you’ll be pushed out of your comfort zone in a positive fashion. A coach should help you grow as an athlete and as a person.
Using a recruiting service like Next College Student Athlete can help you impress the college water polo coach or coaches who may be just what you need to get the most out of your athletic and life skills. Although you absolutely should consider every aspect of the schools that you’re considering such as the quality of their academic offerings and their cultures, the college water polo coach there is an important piece to the puzzle.
The bottom line is that you have one chance to play college water polo, and those four years will go by faster than you had imagined possible while concurrently having an effect on the rest of your life. While engaged in the recruiting process, you should have the assistance of those who’ve been there and done that and can help you show the way. This is especially important when you consider that those recruiting you will be so much more experienced than you.
NCSA has helped 24,000 athletes secure their spots on college rosters in a variety of sports over the past year through the networking and education that it offers. As a result of its services, which it’s offered since its founding in 2000, NCSA has garnered many positive reviews. It’s averaged a near-perfect 4.9 stars on Google Reviews. Also, 35,000 coaches have seen NCSA’s value and have joined its system.
If you want to see firsthand what NCSA can offer you, fill out your free profile today. Make sure to call 866 495-5172 if you have any questions.