Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Deeply shallow

As Stuart Browlee stood arms stretched in goal for the Atascadero High boys water polo team — his belly button above the water level — there was no way he was giving up a goal to visiting Nipomo High.

"Stop standing up!" one mustachioed Titans fan yelled.

See, your feet aren't supposed to touch the bottom of the pool in water polo. But here was Brownlee, standing straight up with nearly half his body out of the water. But most pools are deep enough where standing up isn't really a problem.

I wasn't too surprised to find out Brownlee wasn't 14-feet tall when he crawled out of the pool after the game. The real shocker was that one end of Atascadero's pool is only 3 1/2-feet deep. That's like one half of a football field being 20-yards wide.

Because of the shallow end, the rules get bent a little when it comes to goaltending. Contrary to spectators' gripes, the goalie is allowed to stand.

And that's not the only tweak to the rulebook and strategy guide. The goals are super huge, and the teams switch sides every period as opposed to only at halftime. Plus, most goals are scored by whichever offensive team is currently attacking the deep end.

Players other than the goalkeeper still aren't allowed to touch bottom, which can get a little ridiculous when guys like Atascadero's 6-foot-3 hole set Karl Weit can nearly sit down in the shallow end and keep their heads above water.

Fans knock the pool. Opposing coaches say it somewhat disables their team's offense. Even Atascadero coach Mitch Stafford denies it's an advantage for his team, saying it's just less of a disadvantage for the Greyhounds. And when Atascadero goes on the road, it makes other pools seem twice as wide and even more cavernous.

It certainly is a different brand of water polo. That is, if you're accustomed to water polo. Football fans are probably thinking, "As long as it's deep enough to submerge all the Speedos, it's cool."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My husband and I have attended water polo matches for 4 years now. I beleive the comment "stop standing on the bottom" yelled by a 'mustachioed' Titan fan was my husband. As many different pools as we have played in, we are aware that standing on the bottom in a shallow pool for a goalie is, say "rule bending". Let's set the record straight, my husband was referring to the players who practice in a shallow pool who know how to use the bottom to their advantage and actually shoot and make a goal by using the bottom. (I've seen it a million times.) I also filmed the game yesterday and watched it. There were 3 goals clearly made by the Greyhounds that were off the bottom. So actually, we would have been tied at the end of the game. So be it, if the officials choose not to make the call. Some of these schools (who have no choice) need to learn to play in a real pool. It would certainly give everyone an even playing field.