Croydon Amphibians are one of London’s premiere aquatics clubs, boasting an array of talent across their swimming and water polo teams.
Last year, they were one of the top teams in the country in the boys’ events at the National Age Group Water Polo Champs, winning the U17 title and finishing fourth in the U19 competition.
With the addition of four of last year’s top U17 players, Croydon are targeting another challenge for the title in the oldest age group and assistant coach Cliff Brooks fills us in on the team’s preparation ahead of this weekend’s Prelims in Watford.
How is the team shaping up for the U19 Prelims?
We are looking good. We recently had a good training session at Crystal Palace with a full match against the London Regional U17 team. We also compete in the London League U19 winter tournament which finished last weekend with two wins against strong opposition. Having finished fourth in last year NAGs, the lads are very keen to ‘medal’ this year.
How many of the squad were in the U17 title winning team from 12 months ago?
Four of them are in the squad and we have two new younger players who will feature later on in the competition due the clash with the ESSA tournament on 7 March. The lads from last year have progressed to U19 level for the club and some senior mens’ games and Ashley Castle was selected to represent GB at U19 level last year which was a fantastic achievement for such a 16-year old.
Do you prepare slightly differently when the prelim matches are two halves of seven minutes compared to the full four quarters in the finals weekend?
Yes, it is important to prepare the team to get off to a flying start because they are shorter games. We will warm-up well, then make sure the players are prepared tactically and play flat out from the swim-off.
How have the squad performed in tournaments so far this season?
We won the U19 London League top division last year and are currently joint top in the winter champs. Several of the U19s play in the London League premier men’s division and the Surrey & National League competitons. The Croydon U19s finished fourth in last years NAGs. Also, many of the squad played in the inter-regional event for London in July last year at Ponds Forge and finished runners-up on goal difference.
How often do you train?
Virtually all of the 20-man squad are Beacon/RTC players who can train Mon/Tues/Wed and Friday. Thursday is the club training night with home matches on Mondays for those selected for senior games.
Croydon also run a scheme where a polo player can train with the swimming section twice a week for extra swim fitness. There is additional training available through the London Region initiative at other participating South London clubs including Croydon & Sutton/Cheam where training is provided by Italian professional coach Claudio Palumbo and assisted by Hungarian ex- professional player Csaba Rekasi.
Are many of this weekend’s squad involved with England Talent age group squads?
Of the 13 selected, all of them are involved with England Talent squads! I think that speaks for itself in how much the Beacon/RTC and ET is valued by the clubs, coaches and parents.
As a coach it is fantastic to able to tell players to perform a certain defence or attack strategy as tactics require in a game and know that they have been drilled so well that it almost becomes automatic.
How and why did you get involved with coaching water polo?
I played polo until a couple of years ago and have been involved with the game since my early 20s. I first started coaching 16 years ago when my oldest son Harry took up the sport at the age of 13. Later, my youngest son Matt started playing at 11 and is currently in the GB boys 97 squad.
I have been fortunate throughout my coaching career to coach the Surrey County and London Regional teams for several years. I enjoy putting something back into the game that has been my life for 40 odd years and seeing the youngsters progress into the senior teams and playing representative matches.