For those who haven't met me before, my name is Scott and I am the General Manager for KAP7 Australia. I've been involved in water polo as a player, coach and in the business of water polo for 22 years. I've been very fortunate in my water polo journey to go to a number of incredible places, but my recent trip to Zimbabwe really has taken the cake as one of the most exciting and rewarding trips I have ever done. Given the experience, I thought it was worth sharing what is happening in African water polo, how it operates and what the Federation there is doing to grow the sport.

Firstly, I have to start by talking about how it came to be. Over 20 years of water polo, you come to meet a lot of interesting people, and I was contacted by a former team mate of my wife's, Sarah Harris, who is originally from South Africa, who has over a number of years been assisting the Zimbabwean Federation run an incredible camp with international coaches. There is quite an extensive list of players who have also been granted this opportunity prior to me from Australia who I won't name all now, but essentially to be put in the same category as these previous coaches is a huge honour, most of whom are Olympians. Once asked, I jumped at the opportunity, as playing/coaching water polo in Africa would round out my sporting CV as the last continent I haven't travelled to play sport. 

After numerous whatsapp messages trying to understand the itinerary, I was locked in and off to Zimbabwe to meet my fellow coaches. Just to put in perspective the quality of coaches I was fortunate enough to work with:

Luke Manthe: Former South African Junior Coach and New Zealand Women's Assistant Coach

Krystina Alogbo: One of the most accomplished women's players of the last 20 years, with an international career spanning nearly two decades

Nicolas Bicari: Professional centre forward having played the last five years for some of the worlds biggest and most prolific clubs in Champions League

Maddy Steere: Current Aussie Stinger and World Championship bronze Medallist

Jeremy Davie: 4 x NCAA Winner at USC as a player and former professional player

Facundo Policarpo: Former professional player and Argentinian National Team coach

Asante Sefa-Boakye: Former professional player who has started water polo from scratch in his homeland of Ghana (see more about Sante and his awesome work here)

Plus many more - Devina (Italy), Hayden (South Africa), Sekou (South Africa) and Sarah (USA), as well as myself. It really was a United Nations of coaches, with a ton of different perspectives and experiences that everyone was bringing to the table. 

We began our trip with a week of sight seeing in the world famous Victoria Falls, seeing some of Africa's most outrageous sights. Seeing elephants, baboons, giraffes, zebras and buffalo almost became routine for us, along with hanging over water falls, white water rafting with crocodiles and soaking up the local culture. This week allowed the coaches to come together as a team and really get to know each other better. Some were coming to the end of their playing careers and transitioning to becoming full time coaches, others were still playing but searching for a deeper connection to their sport, while others (mainly me) were just stoked to be invited! At night, we would reflect on the day that had been and came to the realisation that our sporting journeys had let us to this opportunity, which for all of us was very special. 

After our week in Victoria Falls living it up, it was time to get to work with 300+ excited Zimbaweans, ready to devour the collective knowledge of the coaching group. For the first 5 days, each age group would get two sessions per day, with different coaches, before being allocated a team and playing in a two day tournament. Covid had been particularly harmful to water polo in Zimbabwe, with effectively no water polo being played in the country for two years. This camp was all about relaunching the love of the game for the athletes participating, with an eye on the future - more on that later.

Each day required coaches to coach for 6 or more hours, swapping from pool to pool, age group to age group and to different skill levels. I found it to be really enjoyable to get an opportunity to coach with new people who always had new perceptions on how to explain certain concepts and seeing who worked better with different age groups or genders and trying to learn off them. After five days, most of us coaches were just as cooked as the kids were!

Moving into the tournament, it was here that we saw how strong the water polo community is in Zimbabwe. Through the school network, parents were able to organise sponsors to supply a giant marquee bar, a coffee truck, food truck, run the canteen and a merchandise stall. It was amazing to see parents not only excited to watch their kids, but also thoroughly enjoying themselves. I had three teams to coach each day, which essentially meant 10 games a day. So it was back and forth all day from team talk, to coaching and then back to team talks. 

On the final day, with most of the coaches, including me, really unable to speak anymore, we were challenged to a final game by the outgoing senior class players. With nearly 600 people watching, after two exhausting and exhilarating weeks, the coaches mopped the floor with the players, asserting our dominance and brilliance. In all honesty, it was a really special moment to get an opportunity to play again not only in front of a full house (which is pretty rare for water polo anywhere in the world) but also with some pretty amazing people I had previously respected from afar, but that I could now call close friends. 

Zimbabwe Water Polo is looking to be a driver of water polo in Africa and not only elevate the game in their own country, but all over the continent. They have a goal of competing in the Olympics for the Africa spot, and I believe with the community they have created and the vision they share, that they will be giving that a red hot crack by 2028. 

Thank you again to everyone in Zimbabwe and the awesome host families we all had look after us as if we were part of their families. 

Written by Scott Nicholson

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