WATCHING from poolside, it strikes you how fast, furious, skilful and thrilling water polo can be.

That was the overriding verdict gained from observing a two-hour junior training night at Warrington Swimming and Water Polo Club.

Youngsters spent time honing their skills before splitting into teams for match play, completing each element of the session with equal enthusiasm.

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It is easy to see why, for some, using their swimming skills and athleticism in this breathless sport beats pounding up and down lanes for session after session in a bid to knock percentages of seconds off their best times.

Water polo training occurs a couple of times per week in Warrington leisure centres, unless a date is taken up for matches in the Manchester, Liverpool or Bolton district leagues, or for one of the local annual tournaments that take place.

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And then there are senior sessions too, for Warrington Water Polo Club has men’s and women’s adult teams as well as the four youth teams from under 14s to under 18s – three of which feature both boys and girls.

This is nothing new.

Water polo has been played in the town courtesy of this same club for 140 years.

Phil Jones’ 12-year-old son Christopher has been involved for the last couple of those.

“He absolutely loves it,” says Phil, 52.

“He was never the sort of kid who wanted to play football or rugby.

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Phil Jones, 52

“And since he’s joined the team here he absolutely adores it.

“It’s the team spirit, the discipline too, but it also improves his fitness.

“It’s introduced a whole new social side to his life as well, which is great.”

Finding a sport that suits can prove to be hugely influential in life.

Phil added: “Christopher has changed enormously since joining the club.

“It’s improved his confidence in and out of the pool, socially and at school.

“He’s had lots and lots of benefits in that respect.”

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Parents add a lot to Warrington Water Polo Club too.

“There’s a great deal of voluntary work from the parents,” said Phil.

“They can help poolside, I used to be a lifeguard for the club.

“We help with scoring and things like that.

“We all muck in and we all get to know each other.”

There are athletes at the club enjoying water polo for fun, while there are those who have set their sights high.

London 2012 water polo Olympian Hazel Musgrove, a product of Warrington Water Polo Club, is evidence of what can be achieved.

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Hazel Musgrove, gearing up for the Olympics back in 2012

“There’s great opportunities in water polo for good swimmers, sports minded kids who are committed and want to do something in the sport,” said coach Craig Stowell, 48.

“We currently have around 10 of our juniors who are participating in the regional talent programme, so they’re attending academies on a monthly basis.

“We also have two players who are attending national academy on a regular basis.

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Craig Stowell, 48, coach

“The regional pathway is all about developing players to play for the north west region in inter-regional tournaments.

“And the national pathway is the England talent programme.

“We’ve had a number of players who have played nationally and internationally over the years.”

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The club attracts interest from all ages, but from a coaching point of view Craig says working with young athletes is beneficial in terms of development.

“The sooner we can get members is best, from the age of about 10 is ideal once they’ve completed the Learn to Swim stages,” he said.

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“If they’re already swimming for a competitive club, that’s great.

“Most swimmers get fed up with lane swimming after a few years and the sport loses a lot of people just because they get tired of swimming up and down.

“If we can channel that energy into water polo, get them coming into a different aquatic discipline, that keeps them interested in swimming too.”

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One teenager who started playing the sport at the club and gone on to England trials is now helping out with coaching.

“I started in the under 12s team at Warrington and progressed my way through to the 16s,” said Emily Ireland, 16.

“From there, it goes out into other clubs so I play for Liverpool in the league as well.

“For me it then went on to north west, and then trialling for England.

“But it all starts at local league level.

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“Most of the people who play water polo will start off as swimmers.

“And then there’ll be a coach who goes to your swim session and introduces a bit of water polo, like passing and shooting.

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“Then everybody starts coming to the club and they love it.”

It was a couple of years ago that Emily, whose father’s business Paul Ireland Solicitors has just provided the club with new kit, turned her hand to coaching as well.

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She said: “At the start I was quite young and because those I was coaching were only a couple of years younger than me I think they were thinking ‘there’s no point, she’s only young’.

“But because I’ve been doing it for so long now I’ve gained a bit of confidence and their trust.

“I’ve been to tournaments and matches with them. Now I think they all listen to me and they realise that I’m only trying to make them better.”

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The sport has garnered a reputation for its friendliness, not only within a club but with rivals out of town too.

“We all start at local league and play against other clubs like Chester, Liverpool and Bridgefields,” said Emily.

“We all get to know each other and then what you find is we go to a north west trial and everyone knows each other.

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“We get on well with each other, and that’s why the north west team does so well in inter-regions events.

“There’s a social side too as we do the tournaments and matches, and sometimes we do fundraising and we’ll all get involved in that.”

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Warrington Water Polo Club, and in particular coach Craig, are playing a role in taking the sport to a wider audience regionally too.

“Last year myself and a coach colleague from another club started an outdoor water polo festival which we held at Media City, Salford Quays,” he explained.

“It was a great success. We attracted lots of passing spectators who were really interested to see the sport in action and were stopping to observe the games that we had playing throughout the day.

“This year we’re doing three events in Nantwich open air pool, Liverpool’s Albert Dock and Salford Quays again in August.

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“Nantwich will be a junior event, boys and girls from across the region and further afield, then we’ve got senior men’s and women’s events at Liverpool and Salford.

“Warrington teams are entered into all of those events, which is fantastic.

“I will be very busy over the summer looking after those.”

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For anyone interested in joining the club, make contact via or the club’s Facebook page.

“Just search for Warrington Swimming and Water Polo Club,” said Craig.

“We can then tell you the best time to come down for a trial.”

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Craig concluded: “A typical session, if there’s not a home match being played, is starting off with a swim set, then we’ll move into some water polo drills, movement techniques, passing and shooting, and we always try to end the session with a match.”

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Current training nights:

Monday: Lymm Leisure Centre, 6.40pm to 8.20pm

Saturday: Orford Jubilee Hub, 6pm to 8pm

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