BYU water polo has shed the flotation devices and started treading water.
The competitive club team has returned after a 15-year absence. It was officially chartered last semester and plays in a competitive co-ed league. The team competes against other university club teams, including University of Utah and Utah State.
Junior Josh Hjelmstad created the BYU Water Polo Club to show BYU what real water polo is about — an exciting, physical sport that takes a ridiculous amount of endurance.
“I was forearmed in the face and had all my front teeth knocked out,” said club member Conner Ruggio. “A piece of my tooth was lodged in the guy’s arm.”
While most water polo players don’t actually lose teeth, physicality in practices is something that most club members are accustomed to.
“It’s kind of a mix of all sports,” Hjelmstad said. “You have to be really physical like in hockey. It’s fast-paced like basketball, but the way you play the game is like soccer. Anyone who loves sports will love water polo.”
BYU hasn’t had a formal water polo team since the extramural team was dropped more than 15 years ago.
“When the team was disbanded, I recognized that there were many students at BYU who had grown up competing and playing water polo who still wanted to play,” faculty adviser Conrad Todd said. “The dean of our college supported the idea of keeping the equipment and allowing students to use it.”
Even without an official team, there was still a group of students who wanted to play and would organize pick-up games a couple times a month. That group continued for more than 15 years before Hjelmstad took steps to make it official.
Hjelstad was a freshman when his friend introduced him to the group on campus. It took a few years, but as a junior he took the initiative to work through BYUSA to turn the group into a full-fledged club.
“I formed the club so everyone could say they belonged to something,” Hjelmstad said.
The Water Polo Club isn’t just for those familiar with the sport.
“I don’t think people really understand what water polo is,” club member Anastazia Virginn said. “They should come and watch or even play just so they can know what we do and why we love it so much.”
After 15 years, it’s time to ditch the inner tubes and experience real water polo — the kind with fast-paced action and inadvertent punches.
Game schedule and further information about the Water Polo Club can be found on the group’s Facebook page.