By Daniel Soares

Intramural inner tube water polo season is rapidly approaching, so it is important to read up on how to play the game to make sure you and your team are properly prepared to play. 

Photo Courtesy of the Catalyst archives

Inner tube water polo mirrors regular water polo with a key difference: players can float in inflatable inner tubes, which opens the sport to even the most casual of athletes. Inner tube water polo has many strengths, even though the tubes significantly slow the pace of play from regular water polo. Since players do not have to tread water, they are able to maintain high levels of effort throughout the entire game, which creates consistently exciting matches. Goalies are also required to sit in mobility hindering tubes, allowing for goals to be scored with greater ease.  

The games are played throughout Block 7 in the Schlessman Natatorium in the form of a double-elimination tournament. Here are the steps to take to ensure your team has the best chance at winning.

First, find at least five of your closest friends and fill out a roster by Friday, March 6. Be sure to spend time brainstorming a witty team name, as it has been shown that the better the name, the better the team. Then clear your calendar during Block 7 to ensure your evenings are free.

It is important to learn how to play inner tube water polo. Hours of intensive studying are recommended, but the basic rules are that each team has six players in the pool at a time with at least two male and two female students. During the two 20-minute halves, teams must battle their way up and down the pool while remaining in their tubes for a chance to win the sweet, sweet glory of an IM t-shirt. Note that male players are only allowed to use one hand at a time. 

I also recommend practicing swimming in the tube. Most people lay on their backs atop their inner tube and swim backward, as it allows them to move faster. Each half begins with a swim off, in which teams line up along their side of the pool and must sprint to the middle of the pool to grab the ball. This means perfecting your in-tube swimming is vital.

Next, learn how to hold and throw the ball. Most players attempt to pick up the ball straight on, but it is best to scoop the ball from underneath so that you can maintain better control of the ball. Once the ball is in your hand, hold the ball up in the air so that your elbow is at the same height as your ear and point your wrist forward. When throwing, sit on the edge of your tube and snap your wrist down to give it some backspin. Backspin on the ball will allow you to perform trick shots like skipping the ball across the water, so that even if you miss, at least you get points for style. 

I would advise running drills. Set meeting times with your team and have them train by swimming laps, passing the ball, and practicing their shots. It is advised that you use drill time to determine which members of the team should be cut.

Another important consideration is to shave. Any swimmer will tell you that to swim as quickly as possible, you should shave your legs. Be sure to shave before each game to prevent any unwanted hairs or stubble that may create drag. In addition to, or in replacement of, shaving you should lubricate. To maximize the efficacy of shaving, proper lubrication is necessary. Applying lotion immediately after shaving and then using Vaseline before entering the pool is generally considered to be proper form. Lubrication not only increases speed in the pool, but it aids in preventing opponents from being able to grab on to your legs, now similar to the slippery skin of a baby seal.

Lastly, you will need to suit up. Male players are encouraged to wear their best Speedo — I personally wear a black one with a flower imprinted on one butt cheek. Keep in mind that the rules require that every player wears a water cap for protection, so coordinating your suit with your cap is encouraged.

 Technically, players are not allowed to jump out of their tubes, and contact between players is also frowned upon. In order to bend these rules, hook opponents’ tube with your foot for leverage, since the referees cannot see clearly what happens under the water. If you are falling out of your tube, “accidentally” fall on the tube of your nearby opponent to knock them out as well. 

Players of all skill levels are encouraged to sign up and play in the tournament. Inner tube water polo is purposely designed with a low barrier to entry in order to attract as many players as possible. Make a team today so that you can have fun, make friends, and most importantly, dominate your opponents. 

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