The RM of Estevan Aquatic Centre was swimming with Sharks Thursday evening, as the Estevan Sharks water polo club held a cohort showdown.
The Sharks athletes faced each other in a series of games before the latest round of COVID-19 restrictions came into effect Friday. The in-house tournament was expected to occur on the weekend, but was held two days earlier than expected.
The Sharks have been battling through the provincial COVID restrictions since their season started nearly two months ago. At the beginning of the season, only 15 athletes were allowed on deck at a time. This is a reduction from their usual 20-25 in an age group.
It took some creativity and pool time management, but the club managed to get everyone in the water for the regular Oct. 1 start to the season. The athletes were required to keep socially distant, therefore they were unable to do any defensive or contact training. Coaches focused on endurance and passing skills.
In November, restrictions loosened slightly, and clubs were able to identify a closed cohort of 50 athletes who could train together in larger groups on the deck and have some in-water contact. This restriction meant that the players would not be able to train or compete outside of their group of 50.
The board and coaches worked hard to give Thursday’s tournament a “real” feel, with referees, scorekeepers, a photographer, organizing rosters, creating a round robin and playoff format for the day, and securing prizes for the winners in each age category.
For the first hour, three atom teams competed in a round robin. Coached by Lucinda Milford and Kaylah Turner, the teams worked hard and showed off the skills they have been learning over the past two months. The teams were very evenly matched and all had success at both ends of the pool.
Lucas Dzeryk and Logan Dalziel, senior members in the club, officiated the six atom games.
The final 90 minutes of the evening were then turned over to the bantam and open players. In this division, four teams faced off. These athletes are used to training and competing at least twice a month in Regina and have really been missing the high level of competition. In Regina they train and play exclusively in a deep tank pool, so the shallow end of Estevan’s pool added a different feel to the games.
Coached by Chad Knoll and Akshay Sangar the bantam/open players had close games and showed strong skill and teamwork. Dzeryk and Dalziel officiated the games that they were not playing in, with Tristan Therinen and David Dzeryk stepping in to ref when necessary.
“The kids had fun,” said board president Heather Tober, “and that’s what really matters. They have sacrificed a lot this season and we really wanted to give them this opportunity to compete at some level.”
With the new eight-person restrictions now in place, the Sharks have booked additional pool time and are working to schedule everyone in to continue training during December. Tober said, “We are the only club in Saskatchewan that will be training in December. The cost versus numbers in the water was just too high in the other cities. We are lucky to have great support from our leisure centre staff and our Sharks families.”
The board hopes to offer more in-house tournaments in the new year, whenever restrictions loosen up again.