The first Canoe Polo Academy was held one weekend in March 2015, with no resources other than help from volunteer coaches, over 20 young aspiring polo players went along to Collingwood Dock home to FOA polo club in Liverpool. The aim of the Academy then was to provide a pathway for those wanting to join the national squad to help develop their skills in the required fields at a younger age. To focus mainly on strengthening their core polo skills as young athletes to give them the right guidance to help improve their game.
The candidates ranged from basic polo ability to those who were already playing regularly at National Div2 level aged between 13-18. These were split into sizeable working ability based groups with planned sessions to give each individual the opportunity to progress. In the last 2 years the group of participants has grown to around 40+ with some leaving us to join the national squads in both the men and women U21 teams.
The Collingwood venue gives us access to changing rooms, toilets and showers as well as a kitchen to allow us to make hot drinks. With support from parent and coaches transport is provided to a scout hall for overnight accommodation where we supply an evening meal of pizza and chips. Sunday morning toast and cereal is supplied before the morning sessions begin.
So what do we do?
We meet once a month where the weekend is planned out into 3-4 daily sessions. The participants are put into groups and will work within this group for that day. They start with a land warm up run by each individual group in whatever way they feel is best for them. Once on the water they keep warm within their various groups doing different activities which may include ball to hand throwing while constantly moving, slalom or sprinting exercises.
Sessions are structured to give a combination of personal core/ ball/boat skills, set drills and game sets as well as various tests to ensure participants are keeping fit and show improvement in their ability. There is a constant need to revisit and continue practising and exercise set plays. The last session of the weekend is usually games where the players are expected to use the skills learnt that weekend.
Sessions are planned for the year progressing monthly. If a participant misses a few months this can hinder their progress and could also hold back others. So commitment and attendance are key to the structured sessions going forward. Candidate’s progress across all aspects will be subject to regular reviewing throughout the year and continued attendance will be subject to the coach’s discretion. Also part of the development progress is to have knowledge of the rules. So Refereeing courses are run to help provide the participants with assessments in theory and practical Grades. However, homework is required for this!
Over the winter months we have been able to budget for the use of a pool on the Saturday afternoon for four hours which allows the participants to learn boat and ball skills in a more hospitable environment. It also give us access to the gym where again structured sessions are available. To date there are nearly 50 members of the Academy who are receptive and enthusiastic to get on and improve providing a friendly and welcoming environment. They have formed great friendships within the polo community from this Academy which showed when we went to Belfast last summer with family members too. It was not only rewarding for our teams but a very memorable trip with the U14 team winning Gold in their age group. Other teams over the years have been entered into various tournaments in Charleroi, Duisburg and Essen as well as Liverpool International where our 3 teams obtained two 1 st places and one 2 nd place in their class.
There are 3 main coaches that have given up their free time to give the participants the benefit of their wisdom. Mike Moffitt, Ginny Coyles and Alan Neal have now been joined by Gareth Jones (KKC), Alistair Pipe (FOA) Ben Havercroft (KCC) Paul Manders Viking, Jack Winder FOA and more recently Dave Siegel from Croesyceiliog CC as well as Senior players from various clubs who are invaluable to the running of the Academy.
Entry to the Academy is usually in October when there is an introductory weekend. Prospective candidates need to email Mike Moffitt by September to be included. Candidates need to be between 13 and 18 and are required to roll or show they can exit their boat safely in open water. They need to know the basics of polo, be confident in their boat and be prepared to work hard. Notices will be posted next summer to this website with details of the next introductory weekend so watch this space for details.
For more information please contact Mike Moffit by email firstname.lastname@example.org
Content contributed by Su Morris.