Swim England host successful inaugural Water Polo Talent Festival

Saturday’s inaugural Swim England Water Polo Talent Festival has been hailed as a success after some of the best young water polo players from across the nation got the opportunity to compete at a high level.

Liverpool’s Aquatics Centre hosted the event that featured U16 athletes from Swim England’s Water Polo Talent Centres programme – which begun it’s second year in September.

The Talent Centre Festival is a new initiative as part of the scheme for 2024 which will make up the first of three end of term events.

Ran by the Talent Centre coaches, the competition provided a platform for 116 athletes to come together and take part in a full day of matches.

They made up four open and four female teams that were created with players from each of the Talent Centres mixed together. Teams were mixed to give the athletes the experience of working with different players and coaches as well as allowing the players to form new bonds and friendships.

Each team was coached by one of our coaches with Daniel Bentham, Seb Long, Alice Bryne, Matt Birch, Katy Ross, Mike Yates, Joe Leveridge and Lou Bets all heading up a team on the day.

Matches throughout the day were all close and competitive which gave the players the opportunity to earn more high level match experience and prepare them for a future within the sport.

As well as a day of experience for the players it was a chance for some of the nation’s upcoming officials to gain more of an understanding of the role.

The fast paced matches allowed for more referees to get the chance to learn from their peers and feel more confident in the position.

Experienced referee John Maddock supported some of the new officials on Saturday and he was delighted to see them grow their confidence in Merseyside.

He said: “It was a pleasure to assist with the games on Saturday.

“Three newly qualified regional referees Pedro (Osorio), Chris (Murray) and Ben (Giles) took the opportunity to gain experience with myself, Lee Toone and Roger Boyle.

“I was delighted to see their confidence grow as the day went on. Well done to them all.”

Making friends and improving their game

The Talent Centre programme also supports the U14 age group who will compete at the English School Swimming Association’s Duke of Cambridge Cup on Saturday 27 January for the first of their end of term events.

They’ll head to Coventry’s Alan Higgs Centre for the event in just under two weeks time before both the U14 and U16s come together for the Swim England Water Polo Talent Games at the end of the Spring and Summer terms.

Speaking on the back of the first ever Talent Centre Festival, Swim England Talent and Inclusion Officer Andy McGinty said: “The inaugural Talent Centre Festival was a huge success.

“The entire Talent Centre initiative was designed to equip younger players with everything they need to thrive on the international stage and expanding the programme to include an event like this is another step towards that.

“Giving these athletes from across the country more opportunity to compete against each other is incredibly important for their development and each time we get them together we can see the improvement in their game.

“This was a unique event where the mixed team format worked really well and it was great to see players from around the nation making friends and memories which could last a lifetime.

“We’re really looking forward to our first Talent Games event of the year in the spring where we will be able to see just how much further these athletes have improved.

“Thank you to all the officials, volunteers, coaches and everyone who supported the event, none of this could happen without you.”

You can find out more about the Water Polo Talent Centre programme here.