A noticeable gap and lack of progression among age group players are among the factors affecting female water polo in Barbados, says national head coach Ryan Forde.
Forde said that at one point there were a lot of female teams playing water polo on the island but that has changed over time and it is not just Barbados but across the Caribbean as a whole.
“So we have a lot of girls who were at the time 13 to 15 and they were very good. But then we had girls that were 18 and 19, so we didn’t have a continuation of the progression. The other challenge is that the region as a whole there aren’t many female teams playing water polo. In the English-speaking Caribbean, it is Trinidad, Barbados and Jamaica. And then you have the Dutch islands such as Bonaire that is now coming up and Curacao in the younger age group,” Forde said.
There is also this theory that the girls should not play against boys, which Forde described as a misconception.
He explained: “The other problem is in the region the associations tend to be run through the swimming world. And their understanding is that girls should not play against boys because things can happen either aggressively or sexually. These are the misconceptions and they have not realised that the number one girl in the world plays against men.
“…The reality is no one goes into a game with the idea of ‘let me go punch somebody or sexually assault them’. You have hundreds of people on the pool deck, two referees walking up and down, coaches and teammates (are there). It does not happen.”
A former national swimmer, Forde stated that schools should incorporate water polo to attract participation and pointed to the fact that in the United States of America there are more women playing the sport than the rest of the world combined.
He revealed that in the Caribbean “we already don’t have enough money, don’t have enough infrastructure, don’t have enough professional coaches and yet we shoot ourselves in our foot as usual.” Forde noted that until some of those disadvantages were addressed, the region would remain in its current position.
While there is a struggle to get female water polo where it needs to be, the males have been doing pretty well especially the Under-19 Boys.
Forde noted that once all goes well, Barbados had a young crop of male water polo players that offered hope for the future. “Coming to the end of next year, some of those older boys would take part in the senior tournaments and it is good preparation because it would be their first national senior tournaments. So they would then gain that experience to prepare them for CAC qualifiers and after CAC it is PanAm seniors and then worlds and Olympics. It is all geared towards 2024 and it is a good progression,” he said.
With no national curfew now in place and COVID-19 restrictions eased, Forde is hoping that by mid-July members of the water polo team would be able to get back into the pool. This is providing that Barbados Aquatic Sports Association (BASA) reopens the National Aquatic Center for use after a lengthy lockdown.
The Barbados Under-19 male water polo team were expected to leave the island next month for Canada to compete at the Junior Pan American Games. But that has since been postponed until next year and even that Forde noted was still tentative considering that 2021 is when the Olympics will be held in Tokyo, Japan.
The head coach explained that members of the water polo team managed well while at home during the quarantine. They did workout sessions via Zoom and Google meet and also focused a lot on endurance and strength training.
He expressed that COVID-19 was a blessing in disguise because it has given players an opportunity to train longer and harder. This is in preparation for major competitions such as the CARIFTA Games which Barbados is expected to host in March or April of 2021.
Last year Barbados’ Under-19 water polo team captured silver in home waters at the CARIFTA Games and Forde gave his take on what it would require for Barbados to ensure a first-place podium finish.
“Definitely before CARIFTA next year if God allows it we would have to get some tournament experience in order for the younger and newer kids to gain game experience. Because you can individually be skillful like the other player or be better skillfully but if the team – I don’t mean the starting seven or the first two off the bench – I am talking about the other five or six players in total, they all need to be punching at the same level for us to win that gold medal,” he explained.
Read our ePaper. Fast. Factual. Free.
Sign up and stay up to date with Barbados' FREE latest news.