Hitchin Water Polo – Junior Tournament (2008 and younger)
Saturday 11 June 2022 Letchworth Outdoor Pool
report by Toni Fenton Team Manager), Jackie Spinks (head Coach) and Dan Cheney (Coach)
Toni Fenton (TM2); Jackie Spinks (Head Coach and Dan Cheney (Coach)
Hitchin Water Polo have been connected to Hitchin Swimming Club for many years and in the past have staged tournaments for senior players. Faced with dwindling player numbers nearly 10 years ago, Steve Cook, a coach with the club started the junior section (playing in the small deep-water area of Letchworth Indoor Pool). Across the years, the club have celebrated successes with several players training at National Academy level and one going on to represent England.
Like many clubs, COVID hit the club hard with numbers hitting an all time low, however a well-orchestrated recruitment programme in the summer of 2021 post covid lockdowns has seen the numbers rise from just a few to now nearly 60 junior members. The junior tournament was part of this programme to help develop emerging water polo talent in the North Hertfordshire area.
The aim was to provide a friendly, yet still competitive environment for younger players to experience matches within a tournament setting. Fundamentally, this was designed for developing players, many of whom had never even played a match.
Not wanting any team to be disadvantaged with low team numbers, “loaning” of players for games was allowed to ensure sufficient substitution opportunities were available.
The club had also organised a referees’ course on the same day prior to the event, which also provided a number of newly qualified referees with valuable experience to cover matches on the day.
Age group: year 2008 and under. Players had to be either Swim England members or covered under the ESSA school insurance.
The tournament was played in 2 halves as follows:
First half: Two groups of 4 teams each playing a round robin. The matches were played on smaller pitches widthways in the deep end area of the pool using inflatable junior goals.
Each match was for 2 quarters with each quarter being a 5-minute rolling clock. 2 points for a win, one for a draw, 0 for a loss and goals counted.
Second half: This was the play off matches for the final tournament rankings (4 matches in total). These were also played on a 5-minute rolling basis, but instead on a larger deep-water pitch with the senior floating goals. This allowed for the junior players to experience a larger pitch.
Eight teams entered the tournament based on £75 / team (or £10 / head). The club provided the opportunity for clubs to make up scratch teams, however this was not taken up for the day.
The shortfall for the funding was met with a large (licensed) raffle that the club held and the sale of refreshments on the day to spectators. A meal token was provided to all coaches and players for food as part of the overall entrance fee.
Ian Mackenzie of Swim England has supported the club, not only with immeasurable support by email and phone, but through the funding of a set of new inflatable junior goals (which enabled the club to hold 2 matches concurrently in the first half) as well as the provision of a “Junior Knockout” trophy and player medals for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd teams. The club are incredibly grateful for this support. The trophy will be used for approximately 5 – 6 years as the winner clubs can be engraved on the reverse.
1st: Watford A
2nd Hitchin A
A lovely water polo ball inspired glass trophy was provided by Ian Mackenzie to which Watford, the 2022 winners have added a plaque on the reverse that can be used for approx. 6 winner results to allow it to become an annual trophy for that period. Swim England medals were also provided by Ian Mackenzie for Gold, Silver and Bronze placings and Bryan Thompson, the President of Swim England Hertfordshire provided 4 balls that were used at the 2012 Olympics. Three were used for additional prizes for the placed teams.
All prizes were very gratefully received by the recipients at a ceremony post tournament. Presentation made by Jonathan Morley, the Chairman of Hitchin Swimming Club.
Hitchen team A – coach Jackie Spinks
Team A were strong from the beginning. They worked hard in defence and improved game on game. Support within the team improved across the games along with player communication with the more experienced players bringing on those less experienced. Niamh played exceptionally well and showed natural leadership qualities helping the rest of the team.
Special mention also to Gianluca, again showing great leadership in the pool, who let very few goals through and undoubtedly was a key factor in the team making it to silver position. In the end, the lack of stamina proved to be the team’s downfall as the progression to the larger pitch did not play to the team’s advantage. Overall, a tremendous result for Hitchin in their home tournament.
Hitchen team B – coach Dan Cheney
For the majority of Hitchin B, this was their first experience of competitive tournament waterpolo. Despite this daunting challenge, playing teams with far more experience, the team grew through the competition, learning in each game. They played together as a team throughout, supporting each other and showing great promise. Their tournament culminating in a determined performance in the playoff game. The whole team is already looking forwards to next year’s tournament.
The two players of the tournament were Yousef for his consistently excellent performances and James who gave a remarkable performance in the playoff game.
Awaiting other reports
Swim England Hertfordshire President, Bryan Thompson, at the tournament and was very encouraged with the participation and feedback from everyone on the day. The smiles and enjoyment have been echoed by some wonderful praise and thanks from the visiting teams post event.
Although it is hard to improve on an event that went so well on the day, The club will be looking at ways they could make it even better for 2023. One area for discussion might be the introduction of a handicap system for more experienced players.