My Experience Playing in a Mixed Gender Water Polo League

Ever since I was  young I loved being in the water. I was put in swimming lessons before I could walk. I fell in love with swimming and became a pool rat for every summer there was to come. I was part of my local team from the age of 8 up until I was 17-years-old. However, when I was about 15, I decided I wanted to try out water polo. In my city, we have different teams that compete between cities in the West-Island of Montreal. There is diving, synchronized swimming, and water polo. I had tried diving and synchro before this, but I never really liked them. For this reason, I decided to try out for water polo.  

I didn’t have to go through any types of tryouts because the team needed kids to join as much as possible. It was also a summer league, so it is just for fun. It was not a professional league by any means. When I got to my first practice, I noticed I was one of the only girls. This didn’t bother me at first, but then I realized that I not only had to play on a team with boys, but I also had to play against them. I was scared that none of them would take me seriously or think I am too weak to play because after all, water polo is a very difficult sport. However, once the first practice was done, I knew I was going to have a good time.  

My first game was at one of my city pools. We were against a team that was mostly boys and there was only one other girl. Most of them would stare at me with confusion, but I had a good team who would tell me not to worry and tell me that I would be just fine. Once we started playing, I realized that this was going to be a lot more difficult than I was anticipating. The other team was not holding back, which I appreciate, but I was also shocked. I was going into this game expecting the other boys to treat me differently. I was surprisingly wrong. I walked away from that game with a lot of bruises, but also a lot of pride.  

Then came the time for our first home game. We played against a team from another city. This team had only boys, not even one girl. I was not too worried, expecting this would go as well as the first time, but I was wrong. The boys were making fun of me and my teammates. They said that I was just an extra player for numbers and that I was  useless. This made my team and I so mad that we asked my coach if I could be in the front line, which is when you stay in the front and try to score,  which I had never done before. The front line is the people who can score goals. I was always defence. Every time I had the ball, the boys on the other team would come after me thinking I would scream and run, but I scored the first goal within the first 30 seconds of the game. We went on to win the game.  

Playing for this team and  a mixed-gender league made me realize how women in sports are still not as respected as they should be. It leads to girls avoiding sports due to their gender or because they think they’re not strong enough. Playing for a mixed-gender league was  eye-opening and made me realize the importance of defending ourselves as women. It was discouraging to live through it at times, but it ended up being one of the best summers I have ever had. If you ever wanted to try out a new sport but hesitated because you thought it was for a different gender, ignore those stereotypes and just go for it. You will not regret it.