5 water polo myth busters or How I learned to stop worrying and joined London Orca
If you are reading this, chances are you want to learn more about London Orca. You may have heard about the club from a friend, seen them play at an event or maybe you have googled the words “gay” and “water polo” on a lonely Friday night (we’ve all been there). By now you have probably checked the team’s website and discovered, among all the Photoshop-free eye candy, the 6-week beginners course they run. You might even be toying with the idea of trying it out but do not know what to expect. Fret not, for I survived the course and can provide you with a reassuring, semi-informed opinion of what it feels like and more importantly, dispel any excuses conjuring in your head that are preventing you from joining us in the pool:
EXCUSE No. 1 - I have never played any (team) sport in my life – yet here you are, with your finger hovering over the ‘Join’ button, mmm… There must be a part of the Orca water polo experience that has piqued your interest, and the beginners course will be the perfect environment to put it to the test regardless of your ability handling wet balls (the jokes truly write themselves with water polo). The beginners lessons start from humble basics such as treading water and week by week build up to more complex techniques like passing and protecting the ball. You will even get to play some short games after the third week and you will grow more and more comfortable with your position and disposition in the water as weeks go on. Take it from someone who had never played water polo in his life before and was scoring goals by week 5 (technically it was off-side but they will not take that away from me).
EXCUSE No. 2 - But I’m not fit enough to play it! There were people of all genders, ages, shapes and sizes in the course I attended. Yes, when you see polo on the telly all the guys have outrageously buff bodies and they always look on the verge of physical exhaustion after a match, but the Orcas let you take things at your own pace and choose whether you want to jump into the deep end (literally) or take smaller, gentler steps. You can rest at any time and no one is going to think less of you if you need to stop for a breather (I use the old loo excuse constantly…). What’s even better, by the end of the course you will notice your stamina levels improving and you will understand much better what you are doing in the water. Don’t get me wrong, you need to be able to swim confidently in order to play and yes, the game is taxing, but there is no peer pressure to perform, no recriminations when you fail a pass again and again and the Orcas have ridiculous levels of patience with us newbies (sorry for hitting you in the face, Matt. Twice. In the same game).
EXCUSE No. 3 - I’m shy and I don’t know anyone – It’s not the first day of school and you are not twelve. The beauty of joining a team as big as Orca is instantly becoming part of a slightly dysfunctional family with members of the most diverse nations, creeds and social backgrounds. I would be lying if I said I was not feeling a bit apprehensive when I turned up on my first day, but you should bear in mind you will meet other people there, including some Orcas themselves, who are just as shy as you are. Remember, everyone is there to have a good time. The team actually goes out of their way to organise social gatherings (monumental piss-ups) where newbies can get to know each other and the rest of the group in a fully clothed, relaxed environment. I promise you by the end of the first session you will have struck up conversation with at least a couple of people and next thing you know you will be sharing lurid personal details in a drunken stupor down the pub (ahem). I cannot stress this point enough, because a great team atmosphere will encourage you to challenge yourself and perform better, boosting your self-confidence as a result. Win-win!
EXCUSE No. 4 - Ok, I’m not particularly shy but I have body issues and everyone on your website looks so buff (I know) – I am pretty sure everyone has parts of their body they like more and parts they like less (yes, even ripped boys get the blues) and it is true fabric runs low in water polo costumes. But the good news is this is not a beauty pageant, Loretta: your skill in the game and more importantly your capacity to have fun is not intrinsically linked to the ripness of your abs but to your ability to let it go like a Disney princess and have a good time. The most common misconception about swimming pools is they are catwalks for the beautiful, but the truth is everyone is self-conscious to a degree and once you dive in the water all matters of the flesh are forgotten and the game is on. Have you ever heard of ‘gay abandon’? London Orca owns the copyright to that expression.
EXCUSE No. 5 - I am scared of commitment – ah, that all too common gay malaise… Admittedly, if you choose to sign up for the course, you will get more out of it the more you put in, little Padawan. However, coaches do their best to help by going over the exercises of the previous week and no one is going to deny you entry if you miss a session. The beginners course is only a month and a half long and should you decide to join the squad full time afterwards there are three different sessions a week if you can’t come/have a hot date on a particular day. If this does sound too much like the gym membership you have been flogged in the past (oh we’ve all been there too…) I can hand on heart tell you no one is after your money here: these guys are really invested in new joiners for they provide new blood to the group and they genuinely want everyone to enjoy themselves in the process. Orca membership also gives you access to all swimming pool activities of its parent organisation Out to Swim, so you can’t really blame them for not pulling their weight in this relationship.
BONUS ROUND: EXCUSE No. 6 - But I’m not gay! – What? Scandal! Fortunately for you, London Orca does not require any official Gay ID to join. What’s more, like the understanding homosexuals they are, the Orca boys and girls know all too well what it feels to be the odd one out in a group, so at no point you will be questioned, challenged or made to feel awkward because of who you are. In fact, cheerful captain Dan had some sweet words on the matter during our first prep talk that spoke volumes about the levels of acceptance in the team. I attended the course alongside a few heterosexual people and sexuality only came up in casual conversation in the pub afterwards. And in case your devious, straight mind is wondering, no, you do not have to kiss the captain to play (although I’m sure he won’t mind if you are cute :-) and no, no one really cares about your hetero butt in the changing rooms because, believe it or not, we all have been near naked men before and frankly we are too tired to even feign interest after a game!
So come on, do it. Try us out. You will never regret signing up for something as crazy fun as this but you will always wonder what it would have been like if you don’t try it.
Note: The beginners course runs a couple of times a year. To find out more about it and any other general enquiries you can contact us here
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