Photo courtesy of Georgia Tech’s Women’s Water Polo team

Water polo has arguably grown in popularity since the Summer Olympics in Rio; and luckily, the Tech women’s club water polo team is here to give women the opportunity to play.

Prior to last spring semester, the team did not exist. Only a co-ed club water polo team played on campus. Ana de Give — a former member of the co-ed team and now the president of the women’s club water polo team — spoke of the difficulties in initially recruiting women.

“A lot of girls were scared to join because it’s scary to play with guys if you’re not used to it,” de Give said. “So we had a hard time getting … girls [to join], but over time we started to get some [girls] going. It got to the point where it made sense to make a new team.”

The new team was chartered in the spring of 2016, making it one of the youngest competitive club teams at Georgia Tech. Starting with around 10 people, the team grew to include 25 members, adding 15 women to its ranks since the start of the fall semester.

“Right now, we have more people coming in who actually know water polo because the sport is [growing] across the country,” de Give explained.

The team attracts women who have had some experience in competitive swimming or rowing, but some tend to not have extensive competitive experience in the water whatsoever.

“If they don’t really invest themselves, it’s not the sport for them. It’s a lot of swimming. In a tournament … your muscles get sore from multiple intense games.”

The club team competed at a tournament hosted by the University of Florida earlier this week; the team has also competed in tournaments at FSU and UNC. Currently, the women’s club water polo team is seeking to join the Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) in order to provide itself with more competition.

Anna Janoff, the original president of the team, said that the group will “probably get invited in and see if we can make it and hold our own as a new team.

“They have really strict rules about attendance and being able to come to tournaments. … If [a team] misses a tournament, you’re kicked out for two years. … Right now, we’re working on getting that commitment level up.”

CWPA membership would allow the team to participate in more tournaments and interact with more teams in the area. Janoff asserts it would help with networking outside of the pool.

“It’s really fun to know people from other schools and get connected to the water polo community, which is good for lots of things. Even job networking,” Janoff said

Janoff also gives credit to the Emory polo team for its assistance in forming connections with local teams and growing as a unit. “Emory has been amazing. They’ve really helped us grow, and it’s really helpful that they’re in our backyard.”

Another helpful resource in the Atlanta area is the CRC. McAuley Aquatic Center at the Campus Recreational Center is home to arguably one of the best swimming facilities in the nation thanks to the 1996 Summer Olympic Games.

“The pool is a hot commodity,” de Give said. It provides the team with an excellent training ground to hone its skills and become more dominant in the sport.

Connections within the team are equally strong. Through competitions, members bond with one another beyond their basic responsibilities as teammates. De Give was particularly effusive in her assessment of the experience she has had through water polo.

“[Water polo] is a really great sport. We’ve worked to create a really close-knit community that’s really supportive,” De Give said of the group she competes with.

“I’ve made some of my best friends [here]. Phoebe [Edalatpour] — the current captain — she’s one of my best friends. I don’t think we would’ve had that relationship without water polo. … It’s one of the coolest things I’ve done in college.”