Water polo's Rochester sees bright future for sport

Water polo's Rochester sees bright future for sport

Observer staff reporter

Sunday, January 10, 2021

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The novel coronavirus pandemic has no doubt caused some uncomfortable times for sports and sporting administrators, but vice-president of water polo Lance Rochester foresees hope on the horizon, as he takes steps to ensure there are better days ahead for his sport.

With water polo athletes, like others, left idle since last March due to Government restrictions to limit the spread of the virus, Rochester used the opportunity to review his draft of a few projects and initiatives which were once sidelined.

He pointed out they are doubling down on aspects of a long-term development plan to get more boys and girls across the island into swimming and to build water polo from the grass roots level.

“We're prioritising aspects of our development plan which were on the back burner because water polo and aquatics more broadly needs a better all-island learn-to-swim programme.

“Too much talent is being lost out in the rural areas, in particular, so we are going to work with various stakeholders to accelerate that dimension. We need to use the sea-pool concept and create pools in the sea...right around the country,” Rochester told the Jamaica Observer in a recent interview.

“From that, we can leverage beach polo, which is the latest sensation. Beach polo is now in the World Aquatics Championships, separate from the regular water polo. It's the sport's version of Twenty20 cricket, beach volleyball, beach soccer and rugby 7's, etcetera. Its fast-paced, a shorter field and more goals,” he added.

A former national player himself, Rochester is well acquainted with the challenges facing top athletes, especially when schedules go awry. As such, he understands the current frustration of some athletes who are without clubs in this hemisphere.

Water polo, which falls under the Aquatic Sports of Jamaica (ASAJ) umbrella, remains out of commission even though the association has been given clearance to conduct training sessions for national swimmers.

“Some have been swimming with their swim clubs [and] some are doing land training to maintain fitness and some are also probably not doing anything much to be honest. So it has been difficult.

“Pool regulations don't allow for use of ball and contact sport, of course, is impossible with social distancing and challenges with pool space given the earlier closure of facility in evenings. But we are hoping for a restart in first quarter of the year,” Rochester shared.

Though the Carifta Swimming Championships, which includes a water polo competition, is slated for late March to April in Barbados, but Rochester expressed no real interest in fielding a team for the event for various reasons.

“Besides not training, the cost is a huge factor, as parents foot the majority, if not the entirety of the bill which is usually around J$150,000 [per athlete]. Carifta is also not a qualifying event so there would be other events,” he explained.

That said, Rochester shared one of his ideas for a brighter future — if and when the health situation improves.

“The next area of focus is a vibrant domestic league, rather than the focus on overseas tournaments which are unsustainably costly for the vast majority of parents. We need to create more activity locally for players to learn, measure, improve, etc,” he ended.

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