New Great Britain U20 squads to start training in April

For details on the first training session for the new men’s U20 water polo squad, head to the bottom part of this article.

Great Britain are setting up both a men’s and women’s U20 water polo squad as the nation begins it preparations for the 2026 European U20 Water Polo Championships.

Starting their training in April, the new teams are being implemented to match the changes in age groups at European competitions from 2025.

From next year, European Aquatics will move from U17 and U19 events to U18 and U20 competitions, starting with the 2025 European U18 Water Polo Championships. The U20 squads are for players born in 2006 and younger but will not compete until 2026.

A number of the players eligible for these squads are currently training with the U19 teams in preparation for the European Championships later this year or with the U18 squads that have already begun training as they target the 2025 event.

The plan for the coming months is for the new GB U20s to become training partners with the U18 teams so that they can start their preparation and help with a smooth transition through the age groups.

Craig Figes, Swim England Water Polo Programme Lead explains: “2024 is a strange year for us as we are effectively running a hybrid programme incorporating the final squads that are participating under European Aquatics’ old age group systems and starting the squads that are training under the new system in preparation for 2025 and 2026.

“This means that we have U19 squads preparing for competitions now, the U18 squads that are already up and running and now we will be starting the U20s. Inevitably this means that some players could potentially be available for multiple squads.

‘A continuity between the teams’

“Therefore, in order to start the U20 programme without delay we have had to think outside of the box.

“The new U20 squad will only be for those eligible players who are not in either of the other squads so the idea is for this new team to become training partners with the current U18 teams.

“They’ll be training at the same locations, on the same dates and initially supported by the current U18 coaches. This will help facilitate a style of play and a continuity between the teams, which may eventually feature many of the same players.”

In order to support the start of the U20 squads, Figes will support on pool side whilst the eligible players who are currently in the U19 or U18 squads will remain in those teams for the time being.

This will allow them to continue their work towards their own events with head coaches Tim Dunsbee, Izzy Howe, Tom Wall and Nick Hume whilst still being in close contact with the new teams.

Figes believes that the opportunity of having the teams working closer to one another can benefit both the players and coaches.

He said: “I am excited to have a group of coaches working closely together over the next couple of years with this wider age range. I think it will enable the athletes to develop a GB style of play and move between the squads as an when the competition calendar demands it.

“Throughout 2024, we hope having multiple squads training in the same locations will provide the opportunity for the most promising talent centre coaches to attend national team camps, developing their coaching skills alongside the current national team coaches.”

First U20 men’s training opportunity

The new Great Britain U20 men’s squad will have their first training opportunity on the weekend of the 13-14 April at Walsall Gala Baths.

Initially, Swim England are inviting players born in 2006 who were part of the previous U17 and the recent U19 squads.

Swim England Water Polo Programme Lead Craig Figes will coach the session, supported by the current U18 coaches and team managers. Recruitment for U20 team staff will follow and there will be opportunities for other players to be seen later in the year.

Players who meet the criteria above should email EnglandTalentWaterPolo@swimming.org to register their interest by Thursday 4 April. Once registered further details will be available on the stack app.

Please make the subject of the email ‘U20 Register of Interest’ and within the email please state the athletes name and the month and year that they were last involved with the previous U17 or U19 squads.

If you have any questions please contact EnglandTalentWaterPolo@swimming.org.

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