WOLO Is No Longer Solo

Austin Water Polo Joins UIL

graphics by Annabel Andre and Amelia Coleman, Photo by Kayla Le.

graphics by Annabel Andre and Amelia Coleman, Photo by Kayla Le.

Annabel Andre and Sanwi Sarode

Water polo, also known as “wolo” by players, has long been a club sport, but this year it is making the transition to being an Austin Independent School District (AISD) funded varsity sport. As water polo players in Austin are making the change from being a club to being a University Interscholastic League (UIL) sport, new opportunities may present itself to the team.

Water polo is a fall sport, with the season lasting from August to October, and is a melting pot of components from many different sports. Senior Helen Randle, goalie and one of the captains of the girls water polo team, said that water polo follows a similar format to two sports specifically: basketball and soccer.

“I like to describe it as a mix of soccer and basketball but in the water,” Randle said. “It is like soccer because you have a goal, and you’re trying to move back and forth across the field trying to shoot. But a lot of the defense looks like basketball in that you have to pair up with one person in order to guard them to try to prevent them from shooting.”

Players have gained several benefits as a result of water polo becoming an official UIL sport, such as being able to get a physical education (PE) credit from the sport as well as compete in official tournaments all the way up to the state level. According to junior Max Vale, a captain of the boys water polo team, these added benefits will hopefully attract more players. 

“When the club heard that water polo was becoming a UIL sport, we were all very excited,” Vale said. “We knew it meant not only would official tournaments take place, but that it would also attract many new players. It also helps with convenience. Many of our players had to go through the process of getting credit for off-campus PE., which provided a great deal of stress. It’s always nice to get credit for something you love.”

Another benefit is that water polo will be funded by the district, according to senior captain Manu Singhal. Funding can be allocated towards renting a pool for practice, transportation to tournaments, and meals on game related trips. Before becoming a UIL sport, the club had to find ways to pay for amenities and team requirements themselves, without support from AISD.

“The way LASA water polo worked was everyone had to have the Longhorn membership and that was expensive especially if you weren’t playing year round,” Singhal said. “We had Longhorn dues and club dues, so we could get t-shirts and sign up for tournaments and everything, but now this year UIL has made it a lot more cheaper.”

Despite all the many benefits of officially becoming a UIL sport, the water polo team is still facing challenges. Currently, very few schools in Texas have developed water polo teams because the sport is relatively new to high schools, and there are even less teams in AISD. UIL standards have further narrowed the pool of competitors as schools are required to play against other schools with similar student populations. According to Randle, with so few teams in the area, the LASA teams will have very little exposure to a competitive water polo environment before regionals later this year. 

“I play for the girls team, and this year only Anderson and LASA have a girls water polo team which means we only have two games this season, and they’re both against Anderson until we get to regionals,” Randle said. “That’s frustrating because last year we were able to play a lot of different schools or club teams within the Austin area that we can’t play this year because they’re not within our same UIL district.”

Due to water polo’s recent transition to a UIL sport, players are encouraging students to join regardless of experience to create a sustainable team for years to come. According to Randle, UIL approval of the sport will help it grow across Texas, and she hopes people will realize how special the sport is. 

“I think Water Polo is just a really special sport,” Randle said. “Definitely your first few games you’ll feel like you have no idea what’s going on, but once you pick up the base level stuff it’s a really engaging game to watch. The whole game is really exciting because it’s so unpredictable.”