Five days a week, for two glorious hours each day, the diving well at the CU Rec Center is brimming with 48 able-bodied men, donned in speedos and water polo caps. Their fearless leader—clad in a retro Colorado Buffaloes baseball cap and handlebar mustache—sits on a white fold-out chair at the edge of the pool, elbows resting on his knees. He looks out at the expanse of the well, as one after another speedo-wearing athlete trickles onto the pool deck—jumping, diving, and shoving each other into the water; their shouts and laughs echoing across the pool. Adam Hurd, the owner of said handlebar mustache, and head coach of the CU Men’s Waterpolo team, quickly gets the players in the pool going on an intense, hour-long swim warm up before even thinking about giving them a ball to toss. As I watch from the deck, the entire routine is seemingly effortless—one can tell they practice hard and often.
With their second-to-last tournament approaching this weekend in Grand Junction, the team is using all their pool time to refine and strengthen their playing techniques. “We’re pretty confident about the tournament this weekend,” Hurd grins. “It’s mostly just out-of-state teams, and we usually demolish them.” His confidence seems infectious, as the players around him nod and chuckle in agreement. With their confidence needing no boost, the team focuses their energy instead on cleaning up their spacing during the half-pool offense, driving, and their general 6-5—or power play—work.
An issue the team is facing that’s not in technique, however, is regular practice attendance. “The hardest part right now is keeping the guys healthy,” Hurd notes. “And not injured!” Blake Martella, president, chimes in. It seems that with flu season upon us, along with players nursing recurring injuries, the practice participation is smaller than both Blake and Adam would like. Evidence of injury is apparent, as I watch one player climb out of the pool mid warm up to stretch his rotator cuff with a TheraBand, and several others nursing their throwing arms as well. As discouraging as all of this seems as a spectator, the team’s communication and cohesiveness with one another are something from a movie.
As I watch the last hour of practice, the team scrimmages against each other as if they were rivals. Shouts of elation can be heard hitting the ceiling of the Rec Center, as teammates on the sidelines cheer and offer advice to their fellow comrades in the water. As their two-and-a-half-hour practice comes to a close, the exhausted team climbs out of the water and heads their separate ways. It is clear the team as an entity is not worried for the tournament this weekend, self-assured they will bring home the top spot when they leave the pool at Colorado Mesa University Sunday evening.