Kim Simon, a sophomore at Gulliver Preparatory School in Pinecrest, discovered water polo last year when movies, music and pizza no longer kept her entertained after school.
The 15-year-old wanted to get fit, and to meet like-minded people.
“I’ve always loved water and wanted to be part of a team,” she said. “I decided to give it a shot.”
From the beginning, Simon found herself committed to vigorous two-hour practices, six days a week. Barbecues, days on the beach and other group activities also became part of her routine.
“The work was demanding, but helped me mentally, physically,” Simon said. “I’m stronger now, more attentive to people.”
Last week, Alain Guillen, one of Simon’s instructors at Gulliver, held orientations for children and adults interested in the new water polo program at the City of Miramar and Water Fitness Academy in Miramar Regional Park.
Guillen, who has been teaching in Miami for the past four years, said beginners won’t be intimidated. The only requirement to enroll is to be able to swim “free style” at its most basic level.
Practice, which takes place three days a week, is meant to prepare students for the demands of the game: swimming, water polo games, cardiovascular, strength and flexibility training that emphasize continuous action and eye-hand coordination.
“In swimming, you go back and forth,” said the native Cuban. “But water polo involves more than that: camaraderie, agility, self-control and much strength.”
An example of growth through athleticism, Guillen, 35, got to travel the world as a player for the Cuban Junior National Water Polo team and the Cuban National Team in the ‘90s. One of the goals of the program, he said, is to prepare students for college and professional careers.
“Besides having fun, we want to develop the students to become the best water polo players they can be,” he said.
Carlos Alonso, captain and driver for the Gulliver boys water polo team, said the benefits of the sport are many, including fewer chances of injury than in other sports.
“The physical stamina it requires gets you in your physical peek,” the 18-year-old said. “And you learn to transmit your confidence through intensity.”
An Olympic game since 1900, water polo combines many aspects of soccer and football. A playing team consists of six field players and one goal keeper: the only player who can touch the ball with both hands at any time.
The water provides an extra fun element: It allows participants to exercise and stay cool at the same time. The speed of the game, divided into four, 7-minute quarters, helps develop self-confidence and quick thinking: You basically have to stay above the water while everybody is trying to put you under it.
Simon said that learning how to be in sync with others, to her, is one of the sport’s best rewards.
“That’s how I made my best friends,” she said.
PHOTO BY Khary Bruyning. Alain Guillen
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: Water polo lessons
WHERE: Miramar Aquatic Complex in the Miramar Regional Park, 16801 Miramar Parkway
WHEN: Lessons, which began May 18, take place on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., and on Saturday mornings, time to be announced.
COST: $75 a month or $200 for three months. 305-441-8200.
CONTACT: Alain Guillen at 305-790-8440 or email email@example.com.