Uganda Swimming Federation (USF) has taken on the initiative to grow water polo as another aquatics discipline.
But listening to South African coach Brad Rowe, who is in the country to help fast track the initial stage through a clinic at Green Hill Academy – Kibuli, an enormous task lays ahead.
First, the coaches who have been accustomed to only training swimming will need to embrace new ideas and “get swimmers interested in another aspect of aquatics.”
“Water polo should never be a threat to your swim school but rather a reason to have more people come into your swim school,” Rowe advised the coaches.
Water polo provides an opportunity for those who might not be able to make the cut in swimming. In South Africa, a country with over 100,000 swimmers, only 6-12 make it to the Olympics – a sign that the success rate isn’t that big.
Uganda is only the sixth country in Africa to embrace water polo and there is a higher chance of taking the lone Olympics slot for Africa, usually ignored by South Africa and Egypt.
While Rowe conducts his classes in Kampala, back home over 1700 students are taking part in a national provincial tournament. At school tournaments in his region, there are usually 25-30 teams while his Westville Boys High School, where famous swimmer Chad Le Clos emerged from, they have four water polo teams.
“You need your schools to grow. It helps take care of the dropout rate. We have 10,000 students doing it but only 300 keep in for the long haul.
“For a start, Uganda will need four to six teams to play each other at tournaments and one of them trying to be the best. That will create momentum,” Rowe explained.
There has been enthusiasm here. Over 60 swimmers attended the first ever water polo national team evaluation session at Green Hill on November 18 while 31 coaches are involved in the ongoing training that climaxes tomorrow.
“Your numbers are awesome but the question is not whether the kids will keep interested. Give them a ball and they will play but will the coaches stay interested?” Rowe pondered.
There in lies the million dollar question. And as USF pushes for the growth of aquatics, with synchronized swimming also expected to start next year, hopefully there will be solutions.