Heads up when visiting SERF

first_imgIf you want your head knocked off, simply show up at 9 p.m. at the SERF, and the men’s water polo team will give its best effort to help you out.”You’re fine,” player Kevin Zakrzewski said after I ducked from a loose ball during our interview behind the goal. “If it goes over the high pipes and the [goalie] starts falling on his back, then move!”Thirty minutes later, I was moving. I ended up getting three balls thrown in my direction — mostly at my head.I loved it!I knew the night would be filled with entertainment as soon as the team’s best player, John Wickes, dove into the pool and head-butted a ball into the air.The whole experience reminded me of a sick and twisted dodgeball tournament.This all occurred last Tuesday, when I showed up at the SERF and watched these guys — and one girl — play. It was a blast. It was intense, exciting and very entertaining.Starting at 9 p.m., polo players descend upon the SERF and immediately begin treading water for two hours while roughly scrimmaging each other. Balls fly in all directions. It’s crazy.It’s a well-organized practice, but you never know what is going to happen next.”Here is what water polo is about,” says Zakrzewski. “It’s swimming, soccer, basketball on water with the goals, wrestling and football without the pads. All while trying not to be drowned.”Speaking of drowning, what does happen under the water?”Everything happens underwater that that you would expect,” water polo coach Mike Clay said. “But the majority of guys aren’t trying to go after your junk. … You can get kicked, beat, scratched, elbows thrown, everything. I’ve had eyes busted open, lips busted open, anything you could imagine, happens.””Just let your imagination ride,” Zakrzewski added. “Anything can be grabbed, scratched, kicked and pulled. Just use your imagination. Anything that you think could happen has happened to me.”So with this intense club sport, one would think you would need some experience to play.”You just need to be able to swim,” Clay said. “We will take care of the rest.”Added Zakrzewski: “Most of the guys on the team had little experience when they first joined. They have really come together and improved this year.”Practices run three days a week (Monday, Tuesday and Thursday), and most of the team usually swims an hour before workout begins. On the weekend, the team travels to tournaments. In the past, the team has traveled to Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Tennessee and Auburn.Since water polo is only a club sport, the road trips are just about as fun as one could imagine. Twenty or so boys on the road — anything goes!”We party, we have a good time,” Clay said. “A lot of the schools we visit, the host team usually has a party for us after the tournament. We have a good time. If we didn’t, the guys wouldn’t come. It is all about the experience.””It is just a big group of friends going on a road trip,” Zakrzewski explained. “The bonus is that we get to play water polo.”Just last weekend the team hosted a tournament with an impressive turnout at the SERF.After battling Iowa, Minnesota and Illinois, the polo team walked away with the crown.”It was a great tournament,” Clay said. “For our game against Minnesota, we had a lot of people turn out. We could have had more, but there wasn’t any room.”A hot and crowded atmosphere to watch these guys play is a small sacrifice compared to the sacrifices these club athletes make to win tournaments.Before the start of the fall semester, the SERF was closed and the team needed a place to play. With a shortage of deep pools in Madison, the team chose the next-best option — Lake Mendota.”It was miserable,” Clay joked. “All the people at the Terrace were staring at us, probably wondering, ‘What are those guys doing in Speedos on the pier?’ At least we got extra time to practice.”The team enjoys each practice. It is just another chance for the players to hang out with one another.”We are friends more than anything,” Clay said. “[Water polo] is great and it is fun. I wish more people would join us. … It’s a great sport and it gets you in shape.”Added player Chris Anderson: “We are just a bunch of highly competitive people that hate losing.”Comments can be e-mailed to Shannon at svancuren@badgerherald.com.last_img