There aren't many people who would choose to open a new sports club in the midst of a global pandemic, but that's exactly what motivated Kelowna local Ben Halsall.
Halsall has started up the first water polo club in the Okanagan, and says he's pleased to be able to offer a different kind of aquatic sport to Kelowna locals despite having to adhere to COVID-19 restrictions.
"It's a different sport for kids who aren’t all about being fast in the water but want to play a team sport in the water. Swimming laps is not for everyone. I love it, but some people get a lot more from that team sport environment. When you win together, you win together and when you lose together, you lose together.
"It’s definitely been interesting starting a new club in a pandemic, and also building the trust of parents that you’re following the rules and doing everything right."
Water polo is more about strength in the water rather than agility, says Halsall, who likens the sport to rugby.
"It provides a nice balance with other aquatic sports where if you’re not a fast swimmer but you’re a strong swimmer then you can really make a name for yourself in the game. Like rugby, it’s a sport where the fast person is as useful as the strong person, whereas those speed swimming sports are definitely about going as fast as you can."
The Kelowna Water Polo Club is under the official umbrella of Water Polo West, the regional governing body of Water Polo Canada.
Halsall says the idea first came to him when he was playing a casual game of water polo at the lake with friends this past summer.
The adult water polo program previously operating at H2O on a Wednesday evening had been discontinued as a result of the pandemic, but Water Polo West had created their own COVID-19 return-to-sport plan.
"It’s almost because of the pandemic that we started ... we could see that without having a club in place, we wouldn’t be able to get back into the pool or operate any programs at all really for the winter coming up.
Halsall, who moved from Saskatchewan to Kelowna in June this year, was previously involved with a water polo club in Regina.
Disappointed to find there was no such club in Kelowna, he got to work making the right connections and asking his previous head coaches from Regina for advice on how to set up a club here.
Now he's got coaches Kristin Smart and Adam Frank on board for the Kelowna club, and although provincial guidelines still restrict their ability to play games or compete, the team is currently making the most of the training time.
Halsall hopes they'll be able to take part in competitions by winter, and even host a game or two outdoors in the lake next summer.
If you're interested in joining the team for winter or for more information, visit the website.