British Columbia

Water polo practice was wiped out when pools closed. So, this team took to a lake instead

With pools in Greater Victoria closed this summer, the Saanich Water Polo School has shifted training outside.

Athletes ignore the weeds as Saanich Water Polo School makes the jump to Elk Lake

Head coach Ferenc Vindisch provides instruction to the Saanich Water Polo School at Elk Lake north of Victoria on Vancouver Island. (Kirean Oudshoorn/CBC)

With pools in Greater Victoria closed this summer, the Saanich Water Polo School has shifted lessons outside.

Three times a week for the past two weeks 25 students from southern Vancouver Island haul their swimsuits, nets and balls down to Elk Lake to train. 

And while the change in scenery, going from chlorinated pools with fluorescent lights to open water and a cloudless sky, is a big shift for the young athletes, they're making the most of it. 

"I've really been enjoying lake training," said 13-year-old Tessa Hunter-Siebert. "It's exciting when there are waves and obstacles that you have to swim around."

Members of the Saanich Water Polo School train at Elk Lake while maintaining a social distance. (Kieran Oudshoorn/CBC)

Hunter-Siebert has been swimming competitively since she was five years old, and says the pool, and now the lake, feels like her second home.

"Right now our training has been non-contact [due to COVID-19], so we have been doing a lot of shooting and drills." she said.

Challenges remain

But challenges remain, including having to contend with potential sunburns and blinding glare on sunny days, and cold and choppy water when the weather turns.

For 15-year-old Andrew Brennan, an eight-year veteran of the Saanich Water Polo School, the least favourite part of his outdoor training comes from below.

"I don't really like the weeds! I have seen enough shark and underwater movies to have a slight apprehension of that stuff," he said.

Ferenc Vindisch instructs members of the Saanich Water Polo School at Elk Lake. (Kieran Oudshoorn/CBC)

Ferenc Vindisch has been the technical director and head coach of the Saanich Water Polo School for 25 years. During the summer he and his family swim in local lakes every day, but this is the first time they've done extensive training in open water. 

This year's lake training was designed as a special three-week summer program and is meant to help kids get used to training while maintaining distance. 

And it's been an unreserved success according to Vindisch, who says families have been eager to get their kids back in the water, especially with so many staying close to home for their vacations.

"Families and the kids are pretty hungry for training, almost everyone who was in town was interested in coming out," he said.

Members of the Saanich Water Polo School pratising drills. (Kieran Oudshoorn/CBC)

Vindisch expects the school will return to training in indoor pools next month, but he says the success of their lake training has him thinking about how to incorporate it again next year.

For their part, the kids say they're just happy to be back in the water, no matter where it is.

"It's really nice to be able to connect with my teammates. I have been missing them a lot and it's just nice to be able to get back in the water with our community of water polo players." said Hunter-Siebert.
 

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