Tubers turn into polo players
“I want to see defense, I want you staying on your man – that’s the only way we’re gonna do this,” says a stern-faced Geoff Dew to his teammates. “Play hard.”Upon conclusion, Dew grabbed a neon inner tube, sidled up to the edge of the pool, and slid in.Conventional? No. An evening of side-splitting fun? You’d better believe it.The four-team inner tube water polo league hosts matches each Tuesday at the Avon Recreation Center. The league has been around for a number of years, but has been on hiatus for the past three. One team, Legion of Doom, is a relic from the old days. And, according to the players, they’re the ones to beat.”They’re the team that’s really dominating the league,” said Dew, goalie for the Barracudas, casting a sidelong glance at his opponents warming up in the water.”Our first game was against the Legion of Doom,” said Kerry Conner, another Barracuda. “We stopped counting once they were up by 10. I think they beat us by about 20.”But for the Barracudas, the season has been a learning process. Conner said the season opener was the first game ever for most of the Barracuda players.”Yeah, it was kind of a disaster,” Conner said. “Everyone was running everywhere at once. We’re more man-to-man play now.”The rules were also unfamiliar, as the team learned a new lesson with each whistle.”We found out, for example, that you can’t just splash water in your opponent’s face,” Conner said with a sheepish grin. “And you can’t take a player out if he doesn’t have the ball.”For those not versed in inner tube water polo lingo, to “take a player out’ is to flip that player out of his tube and steal the ball in the splashy confusion that follows. Referee Scott Graves said that many fouls center around flipping.”People get frustrated when they can’t tip the person, a lot of times is gets a little scrappy,” he said.”Everyone’s pretty much out to have fun,” Conner added, “but it can get a little serious if the game’s close.”Other rules include a five-second limit on placing the ball in your lap while you paddle down-pool, which means the players have become adept at paddling with one arm at a time.”It’s a really fun way to get great exercise,” Dew said.”Oh yeah, your arms are burning by the end,” added Conner.It was when the opening whistle blew on the first match that things really started to heat up. Experience gave the Legion of Doom a leg up. The players moved with a level of speed and agility unusual – even seemingly impossible – for a person tucked inside a floating device.But the Barracudas, true to their name, exhibited fierce effort and put forth an impressive defense. Dew stopped countless shots, often with his bare chest, leaving welts across his torso. One scramble for possession ended with a whistle and a Barracuda player shooting a venomous look at her opponent and saying, “It’s MY ball.”Yet fate was on the favorite’s side and the Legion of Doom won the game by a substantial margin.By the end of the first match, members of the other two teams were raring to go. The Waterlilies and B&B Excavation were pacing about the sidelines, anxious for their turn in the water.As the defeated Barracudas toweled off and headed to the hot tub, a chorus of back slaps and encouraging words could be heard. “Next time, next time.”And “next time” you can play, too. A new season of inner tube water polo begins in the fall. Bring your suit and your enthusiasm. Tubes are provided. Call the Avon Recreation Center for more details.