Two freshmen arrived at the UofA in August to find vibrant fall foliage, a “Woo pig sooie” and no water polo.
Texas natives Tate Reynolds and Sergei Vatinyan had never crossed paths, but they independently shared disappointment in the absence of water polo from university club sports, they said. Vatinyan emailed the University Recreation Center in early September to ask about the opportunity to play water polo at the UofA. He was shocked to find that someone had beat him to the punch, he said. The response he got from UREC was the phone number of Reynolds, Vatinyan said, the freshman who just a few weeks before had asked the same question, disliked the answer and took initiative to do something about it.
By the end of his first month in Fayetteville, Reynolds had started a new registered student organization, he said.
“I wanted to bring water polo to students here,” Reynolds said. “I had some experience starting a club, so I decided to try my best to make it happen.
Water polo is a team sport played in the water. Two teams play against each other and attempt to score by throwing the ball into the opposing team’s goal, Vatinyan said.
Vatinyan described the sport as “soccer in the water but – for obvious reasons – played with your hands instead of your feet.”
Tate Reynolds discovered water polo his sophomore year of high school. He originally got into the sport for the camaraderie but quickly fell in love with the game. Soon after, Reynolds created a water polo club team in San Antonio that went on to compete in the Junior Olympics, he said.
Similarly to Reynolds, Vatinyan played water polo competitively in high school, he said. He was excited to not only bring the sport to Fayetteville but also to help create new extracurricular activities for students, he said.
“I believe that helping my community is very important,” Vatinyan said. “As a freshman, I want to bring an opportunity to this university that will help give students a chance to relieve stress, stay active, and cultivate friendships while learning a new sport.”
Reynolds and Vatinyan are sifting through paperwork and hoping to advance water polo to a club sport by mid-February.
In order to become a club team at the UofA, the group must first become a registered student organization, said Nathan Lonngren, graduate assistant of club sports at UREC. The team then presents their request to become a club team to the UREC advisory board, which is made up of six different club leaders. The club team is approved based on their proposed budget, recruitment plans and constitution.
Lonngren applauds the pioneers of the water polo club for providing an opportunity for students to learn a unique sport, he said.
Reynolds, Vatinyan and other team leaders are focused on growing the club. The group has about 20 active members, but they are steadily recruiting students who are looking for a way to get involved while building strength, endurance and relationships, they said.
The first water polo practice will be Feb. 4 from 7-8 p.m. in the HPER pool and is open to all students