New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

Finding Community Through Water Polo

The men’s water polo team has maintained success throughout the years by promoting an environment of inclusivity and fun.
NYU Men’s Water Polo team practice. (Photo by Alex Tran)

The NYU men’s water polo team is one of the most successful club teams at NYU, making consistent appearances at Division I and Division III NCAA competitions. Unlike varsity sports, club sports are student organizations that exist under the sponsorship of NYU’s Department of Athletics, Intramurals and Recreation. Club teams often have an atmosphere that is more laid-back and inclusive — and the men’s water polo team is no different, welcoming people of all skill and experience levels.

NYU alumnus and Water Polo Head Coach Colin Hong said the water polo team can serve as a home base for students as they navigate college life.

“Everyone should have the same experience where you don’t fit in exactly,” Hong said. “But here, we’re your teammates and also a part of your everyday life and stuff like that — even though we’re all different.”

 Now, he is focused on balancing the success of the team with maintaining a positive team atmosphere.

“You’re here to be a part of something,” Hong said. “Like competition, that’s a focus for us, but I also think that building a safe space for everybody is first and foremost.”

Team members see the team moving closer toward that goal each passing season. NYU Law second-year Aaron Lawrence said everyone is valued on the team and is a part of something. 

“We have players of different skill sets, people who have played varsity in college, and people who have never played before,” Lawrence said. “Everybody is welcome and everybody is very accommodating. Whatever you bring to the table, we will work with to make sure that it gets better.”

Stern senior and team co-captain Ben Conley said that relaxed expectations and the emphasis on academics help. 

“I like the club sports aspect,” Conley said. “It is way less serious. If I need to skip practice, it’s pretty easy for me to. It’s nice to have a mellow fun team to be a part of.”

Since many members of the water polo team do not come to NYU with extensive playing experience, Hong attempts to assist in their transition to the game by comparing it to other, more popular sports. Water polo is played in water, but involves the formation and strategy characteristics found in many land sports.

“I usually use basketball as an example, just [because] you have perimeter players and have a center, and soccer because you have a goalie and then there are like different cuts and drives that you make,” Hong said. “I think the skills that you can take from other sports that go into this are baseball players who throw and transition really well into water polo. The basic mechanics of wrestlers and judo players are really good, too.”

Liberal Studies sophomore Jordan Chen believes that the sport itself is a combination of endurance and strength. 

“It’s definitely an endurance sport where you’re sprinting to get the ball into the net while also sprinting back on defense,” Chen said.

A version of this article appears in the Monday, Sept. 23, 2019, print edition. Email Rebecca Choi at [email protected].

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