I had the enormous privilege to be invited along to watch the very first ‘Girls into Polo’ event which was held in honour of Internatioanal Women’s Day at Windlesham House School on Saturday 16th March 2024.

I caught up with Founder and Head Coach of Drenched Matthew White afterwards, to get a little more insight into the club, their mission and their values.

 

Tell me, what it was it that got you interested in Mini Water Polo Matt?
I have played Water Polo since I was about 11 years old, but the traditional route into Water Polo was through a swimming club. So by the time I started playing, I was already a competitive swimming training several times a week.
I realised this was limiting to the growth of the sport when I was doing work experience with a local school and the children played Water Polo in shallow water with an armband as a ball and cones for goal posts. I saw how much the children loved playing and it was at that point I realised the solution for Water Polo at grassroots level – Mini Water Polo.
My belief was that even if children playing Mini Polo did not go on to play “proper” Water Polo – they would still have an awareness of the sport and we would begin to develop a culture of the game.

For those of us that may not know, what is the difference between Mini Water Polo and the regular kind?
Mini Water Polo is in shallow water and is part of the “learn to swim” journey that we are redefining here at Drenched. Children can learn to be very strong swimmers through playing Water Polo, as well as structured lessons. The shallow water is the main difference, as well as less rules and much less physical contact.
Altogether it’s a fantastic sport to learn and develop swimming skills and play as part of a team.

What are the main benefits of Mini Water Polo for the kids?
The feedback we have from parents is confidence, in the pool and out of it. The children love the gameplay aspect, which keeps them in engaged with sessions and parents love the progression.
Many of our Water Polo players are incredible swimmers and very strong in the water which leads to a lifetime of options for other water-based activities.

What made you choose Windlesham House School as your club base?
Since their new pool opened Windelsham House School have been incredibly supportive of everything we’re trying to do for swimming and Water Polo. Not just with allowing us to use the pool but they often give us free pool time to run our various community projects, be it Free Polo, which we ran in 2022 for children eligible for free schools meals, or the recent Girls Into Polo event and of course with our collaborator, Russell’s Swim School, Windlesham also give us the pool to run Top Up Swimming, they have shown us no end of support over the years.

What are the benefits of using this gorgeous pool for your club families?
The pool at Windlesham is the same size as Splashpoint, so we’re very lucky. It’s not as far from Worthing as people think, it’s about 3 minutes in the car past the Findon roundabout. We have free parking and plenty of spectator space – we’re very lucky to be based here.

Can you share an overview of lessons per week, age suitability, cost to families etc.?
We run sessions for children learning to swim, children who want to try mini polo that can already swim and children that may have finished their learn to swim journey and would like to play in the deep end. The ages we work with are generally 5 – 12.
We do also have a competition squad who train several times a week and this year are going to Budapest to play with local teams there – Budapest is one of the world’s Water Polo capitals and the children are really excited to be going. Next season we’ll either go to Spain or Italy to play in HaBaWaBa which is described as the World Cup for children.
In terms of costs 1 hour Water Polo, or 50-minute swimming lessons, a week term time is £47.50 a month. We do run longer sessions than most Swim Schools which pushes the price up a bit but pro-rata we’re actually cheaper. We wanted to run longer sessions to increases the speed of progression and based on the last 8 years, this is the case.
For more competitive children doing more sessions, the price gets less and less per session – for example the second hour with us is half price.

Tell us a bit about your Team of coaches.
Are there opportunities for young people to move up to a coaching level within your club?
We’re incredibly proud that several of our former players are now teachers with us. This is one of the most rewarding things because it shows we’re developing a culture of the sport.
For Drenched for be truly successfully it cannot be all about the founders. The young people we’re working with now are the future custodians of the sport and the more of them we can inspire, the more chance they will go on to run projects of their own when they are older.
We also have amazing team of experienced coaches and teachers who are united behind our mission to grow the sport.

What about competing at a national level, team GB level?
Since Drenched launched in 2016, our approach to Water Polo has reversed the existing culture. Where for more competitive swimmers the path used to be swimming then Water Polo, we now do Water Polo and Swimming together.
This has meant we have produced a huge amount of players who go on to play with Worthing or Mid-Sussex Marlins in national competitions and have represented Sussex and the South East.