In evolution, animals migrated from the water to land.
In team sports, the opposite appears to be happening. And
the fittest on land may not necessarily be the best player
in the water.
#147;We get all ages, shapes, sizes, genders,?
said David Sun, founder of the Beltway Bottom Feeders, a
Washington, D.C.-area underwater hockey group.
Hockey ? underwater? ?Heck,
yeah!? Sun exclaimed. He is even an adjunct
professor of the sport at George Mason University in
But more than hockey is turning people into aquatic
creatures again. Thanks to zero-gravity equalization and
the expansion of water-based activities, volleyball,
basketball and even rugby also have found their way into
the pool and are growing in popularity.
?It?s more comfortable being in the
water,? said John Spannuth, president/CEO of U.S.
Water Fitness in Boynton Beach, Fla. ?It feels
better in the water, and you don?t have the
exhaustion you do [on land].?
Enthusiasts agree. ?It?s very low-injury
and it?s a water activity, zero-gravity,?
said David Andrews, former president of the Palm Beach
Underwater Hockey Club in West Palm Beach, Fla. A skin
diver and longtime UWH player, Andrews plays even though he
has a pacemaker.
Underwater hockey, also called
?Octopush? in other nations, involves
moving a puck along the pool bottom into the
opponents? goal. Players don fins, diving masks and
snorkels, as well as a mouth guard, water polo-style cap
and a glove to avoid scrapes. They use a short stick to
push the puck.
In underwater rugby, a weighted ball must be sunk into
the opponents? goal on the pool bottom. In Boston,
there?s a loyal following a mass of men
and women in fins and diving masks push their way
throughout the three-dimensional underwater playing field.
There?s even a USA team in the men?s and
women?s divisions that plays in world
Underwater hockey and rugby are recognized sports by the
Underwater Society of America, which includes free diving,
fin swimming, underwater photography and scuba diving.
Water basketball and volleyball, on the other hand, are
played in the zones above the water. Valparaiso University
in Valparaiso, Ind., hosts a popular water basketball
program every winter. It works well in the school?s
aging pool, said Rin Seibert, the university?s
director of recreational sports. Participants play in deep
water, with substitutes filling in the five-person teams.
Spannuth said the game is an excellent way to draw in kids,
particularly on a hot summer day.
?A lot of pools are missing the boat by not
putting in water basketball [nets],? he said.
?It will help increase attendance and reduce the
trouble kids get into.?
Water volleyball, too, is gaining speed. ?If you
have more of a leisure type pool, the facilities are
lending themselves to [more] water play,? Seibert
said. At Texas Lutheran University in Seguin, Texas, all
students are invited to join a team except, ironically,
collegiate volleyball players.
Briley Bergen, coordinator of team sales at Adolph
Kiefer & Associates in Zion, Ill., said the trends
are spreading through the university scenes via intramural
and club sports. ?Once [my school] picked up
underwater hockey, and so many other schools signed up for
it, [the school] picked up a lot of other sports as
well,? said the recent graduate of Southern
Illinois University in Carbondale, Ill.
The school?s inner-tube water polo and water
basketball teams became popular alternatives to typical
intramural sports such as softball and flag football. It
all adds up to a big score for aquatics.