2024 Sunshine State Games Events

One Hand Catches Are Good in SSG Water Polo

Water Polo athletes must endure many challenges in their game.

Players constantly swim back and forth the length of the pool, treading water when not swimming and opponents playing in-your-face, aggressive defense, while waiving their arms for a grueling 24 mintues.

If that wasn’t enough, only one hand can be used in passing and catching the wet ball. That’s the first and foremost rule of Water Polo. Only one hand.

Players use their non-passing and throwing hand to balance themselves in the water. Balance makes for a good throw.

“That’s the first thing we teach them,” said Paige Baker, head coach of Team Orlando. “By the time they reach the 12 and under team level, they’ve got it down.”

The competition balls have a rough surface and are different sizes according to gender and age groups. The Boys 14 and under divisions, up to Men’s Open, use a size 5 ball. All female teams use a size 4 ball and the 12 and under coed teams use a size 3 ball. It’s also coated with hydrophobic solution during manufacturing, according to Breach Aquatics coach, Tanner Franklin.

“Yes, it’s hard to catch the ball like that with one hand,” said Franklin. “It takes about a year of training to get it down.”

M.J. Hanchi, a player for Orlando United is an exception to the rule. She began playing in February and is now on the 16 and 18 and under United teams. She scored a goal today against the Orlando Thunder.

“In the beginning of the season there were a few times I caught the ball with two hands,” Hanchi said. “But I got out of that habit quick. I went into survival mode and have been good since.”

Even with endless amounts of practice, it’s a drill players can be seen doing in the water and out of the water. Players gather in a circle before entering the pool and have a catch using only one hand.

In the pool, it’s the same thing. More back and forth, using one hand.

“It becomes second nature,” said 16-year old Bailey Chambers, who has been playing for for Orlando United the last four years, as well as Lake Nona High School. “We do a lot of passing drills and with the ball being like sandpaper that makes it easier.”

During play, the ball gets passed around the perimeter while players look for the open shot. It’s basketball strategy in the water, rather than the court.

Like in basketball and any other sport where an object needs to be placed in a certain space, the offense works best when it outsmarts the defense. Even if it’s only using one hand.

Game of the Day
Orlando Thunder 17, Miami Whitecaps 16 (Overtime)

The bleachers were packed for this 16 and under showdown. When Austin Alicea scored the winning goal in overtime, the fans made the most noise of the day. Why not? This was the most hotly contested game of the day.

Even though Orlando jumped out to a 5-1 lead after the first period, the Whitecaps came to life in the second quarter to tie the game at halftime 7-7. After three quarters, it was 11-11. At the end of regulation, it was 16-16. It took less than a minute to end the game with Alicea’s game winning goal.

Besides being a member of the Orlando Thunder, Alicea also plays for the Dr. Phillips High School Water Polo team. Dr. Phillips was the 2024 FHSAA State Championship Runner-up, losing to Gulliver Prep, 9-8, in the state final.

The 45th Annual Sunshine State Games is a program of the Florida Sports Foundation, the official sports promotion and development organization of the State of Florida. The Water Polo Championships is presented in conjunction with Visit Lauderdale. Since 1980, the Games provide amateur sports opportunities for athletes of all ages in an Olympic-style Sports Festival. The Sunshine State Games are the longest continually-running State Games in the U.S.