How hard is it play water polo in college?
Of the 22,500 men’s high school water polo players, 1,600 go on to play at one of the 50 NCAA and NAIA collegiate water polo programs. These athletes are elite competitors, many of which were All-Americans and competitors on a Junior National Team, who are able to adjust seamlessly to the transition from high school to college water polo.
While high school water polo is played in a 25-yard course, college water polo teams compete in a 30-meter course. Student-athletes must have the speed and swimming skills to quickly adjust to the eight-yard difference without any impact to their technique and ability to compete at an elite level. Experience is another factor that plays into an athlete’s successful transition from high school to college water polo. Prior to playing at the collegiate level, athletes have developed a strong water polo IQ from their time competing on elite water polo teams at the high school, club and junior national levels.
Collegiate athletes must also keep up with a rigorous training schedule, both in the pool and in the weight room, while juggling academics and extracurricular activities.
How important is club water polo vs. high school water polo?
While completing at the high school level is important, student-athletes need to play for a club water polo team during the offseason. Club water polo allows student-athletes to remain focused on developing their skillset and gain valuable experience in competition year-round. However, the most important benefit of competing on a club team for college-bound student-athletes is the visibility and access to college coaches that high school water polo does not give student-athletes.
Local and travel club water polo tournaments give student-athletes the opportunity to compete in front of college coaches who attend these tournaments to evaluate and recruit athletes. Student-athletes who compete outside of California and the Northeast region, in areas where college coaches typically don’t travel to recruit, can especially benefit from these travel tournaments.
When do colleges start recruiting for men’s water polo?
In 2019, the NCAA updated the recruiting rules to prohibit communication between college coaches and student-athletes until after June 15 of their sophomore year.
The NCAA Division 1 Student-Athlete Advisory Committee surveyed 15,454 recruited Division 1 student-athletes on their recruiting experience. While the majority of athletes reported that their overall recruiting experience was positive, the survey also revealed a trend of early recruiting. The survey concluded that the later recruiting began, the most positive of an experience the student-athletes had during the recruiting process.
Before June 15 of a recruit’s sophomore year, college coaches will build a prospective students list by evaluating athletes at tournaments, camps and showcases. During this time, student-athletes should focus on researching water polo programs and marketing themselves with a recruiting profile and highlight video.
How does the college water polo recruiting process work?
Communication between college coaches and student-athletes may be prohibited prior to June 15 after the athlete’s sophomore year, but the recruiting process can start as early as 8th grade. Below is an outline of the college water polo recruiting process from early recruiting to National Signing Day.
- Early recruiting: Before college coaches can contact student-athletes, they spend a good deal of time evaluating athletes at tournaments, college camps and showcases to build a list of prospective recruits. They also reach out to high school and club coaches to express interest in an athlete.
- Contact and verbal offers: Starting June 15 after the athlete’s sophomore year, college coaches and student-athletes can begin communicating and building a relationship. This is also when the NCAA allows college coaches to make verbal offers to athletes.
- Official and unofficial visits: Starting August 1 of the athlete’s junior year, student-athletes and their families can go on official and unofficial visits and schedule recruiting conversations on campus with college coaches.
- National Signing Day: NCAA Division 1 and 2 institutions invite student-athletes to sign a National Letter of Intent (NLI) to officially accept their athletic scholarship. National Signing Day is in November, but water polo athletes have until the beginning of August to sign an NLI. National Signing Day dates can be found on the NLI website.
Should I create a water polo recruiting video? What should it include?
Recruiting video plays a large role in water polo, especially for student-athletes who live outside of the Northeast region and California, where the majority of water polo programs are located. Depending on the position that an athlete plays, college coaches’ expectations vary. Student-athletes will need to understand what position-specific skills college coaches look for and capture footage that highlights the athlete performing these skills in varsity-level competition.
Recruiting video should be no longer than three to four minutes and include roughly 20–30 clips that showcase the athlete’s talent. Student-athletes should start their video off with their most impressive plays to capture a coach’s attention within the first 30 seconds. Below we outline the skills that goalies, utility players, center forwards, center backs and drivers should focus on when shooting and selecting recruiting video footage.
Water polo recruiting video tips by position
To make the most impact on college coaches, the video needs to be high quality, engaging and highlight all of the skills that the coaches are looking for in that position. Before we go into the position-specific video tips, we’ve listed a few general tips on how to capture, edit and promote a recruiting video.
- Capture footage: Student-athletes need to capture enough footage at multiple varsity and club games to cover a three- to four-minute time span. This footage can be shot on an iPad, tablet or professional camera. Athletes should set up the camera at mid-pool with a wide enough angle that coaches are able to see the player's vision, movement with and without the ball, knowledge of the position and passing with teammates. The camera should always follow the primary player to clearly capture their technical ability.
- Edit footage: Student-athletes should start by selecting 20–30 clips that best demonstrate the skills that college coaches are looking for in their position. The video should begin with the most impressive clips to catch the coach’s attention within the first 30 seconds. The clips to follow should all highlight the athlete performing key skills for their position. Student-athletes are encouraged to use an arrow, circle or spotlight at the beginning of each clip to identify themselves, so college coaches can easily follow along. The video should both begin and end with the athlete’s information: name, email, phone number and their coach’s contact information.
- Promote video: Once it’s ready to share, student-athletes should upload the video to their NCSA recruiting profile where college coaches can easily access it. YouTube is another video platform where student-athletes can post their recruiting video to increase visibility. On YouTube, student-athletes should title their video “[Full Name] Water Polo Recruiting Video Class of 20[XX]” and include a link to their recruiting profile in the description.
Student-athletes should also send their recruiting video to college coaches in a recruiting letter. This letter serves as a starting point for student-athletes to build relationships with college coaches. In the recruiting letter, student-athletes should express their interest in the water polo program and explain to the coach why they are a good fit for the team. They should include their general information, academic and athletic stats, as well as their recruiting video to introduce college coaches to their skillset. The letter should end with a clear next step, whether that be stating when the athlete plans to call the coach or inviting the coach to watch the athlete compete.