Everything in water polo, from passing the ball to shooting goals, is made more complicated simply because you have to keep yourself above the water. Treading water requires a different kind of stamina than that required for activity on land. Periodically, Stefan – the burly and Jason Momoa-look alike conducting the practice – would light-heartedly ask: “Dead?” What a Viking.

Image credit: Joshua Kruter

The practice started off with 15 minutes of sprints in the pool. I felt like a turtle with asthma amongst spry dolphins, unable to keep up with the rapid pace. As we moved on to passing drills, my legs cramped up and I had difficulty just to stay afloat to throw and catch.

As always, I really wanted to score a goal, but I could barely move up and down the length of the pool, let alone with any speed. Bart, a seasoned competitive player who was watching over me for the practice, explained that to shoot a goal, you had to propel your body out of the water, bring the ball behind your head and then chuck the ball into the goal. Miraculously, I managed to throw the ball in once during the shooting drills, mostly by pretending that I was holding a volleyball and whipping my arm like I would during a spike.

Image credit: Joshua Kruter

Team sports and the student factor

Swimming tends to be more of an individual sport, whereas water polo is all about communicating and playing well with your team. Ragnar members enjoy coming to practice not only to train hard, but also to socialise and have a good time together. The 50 members of the water polo team also love the social aspect of the student association. When I asked Jan, another member of the board, why he’s on the team, he said: “Hot guys, hotter girls.” I had to agree.

Informal drinks at a bar right next to the Van Maanenbad/Sportfondsenbad Noord, where training is held, occur frequently after practices. The club hosts and participates in larger events every month as well, including pub quizzes, a Ragnar camp weekend and student water polo competitions, which always include drinks for the students involved. A pool party in July is also being hosted by Ragnar for both club members and other swim associations.

To play easily is difficult

Around half of the water polo players also attend swimming practices and roughly 10 percent of the swimming team members also attend water polo practices. As I finished the last of my beer at the pub with members of the water polo team, Eric, who had also practised with Ragnar for the first time that night, had this to say about the sport: “Water polo seems easy, but to play water polo easily is difficult.”