FINA Communication Department

In the penultimate session of Day 1, which included coaches Adam Krikorian, Yoji Omoto, Lance Rochester, Denes Kemeny and Ratko Rudic, many ideas to reform the sport from the inside were discussed. The needs of coaches and their skills were high on the agenda of the panel.

FINA spoke with the most successful coach of the recent years, USA Head Coach of the women’s team Adam Krikorian.

“It has been great to hear everyone’s different opinions. Communications is so important. In the beginning steps of trying to improve something, it is key to be able to open our ears and minds to understand the different ideas.”

“I really thought the presentation by Terrence Burns was spot on. I am a huge believer that we need to create a narrative and it is something we have really struggled to do as a sport. That insight really hit home for me.”

In the last session of the day, athletes showed great support to beach water polo, a new concept that was explored and discussed today. Krikorian also shares this positive support.

“I already did some research about beach water polo and the Beach Games in San Diego, U.S., in 2019. I actually wanted to form a team to go there. Maggie brought up a great point today about beach water polo - it is really fun. Beach water polo creates this fun, almost this party type atmosphere that not only can draw people in but also new players and new spectators. We need to try and create this type of atmosphere at our events. It is just a great entry point, especially with the younger generations. I mean who doesn’t love the beach? Everyone loves to be around the water, around a river, a lake, a pool. Why not take advantage of this a take our sport there?”

Krikorian insisted about the importance of creating a party-like environment around the game.

“Many people look at the USA for an example of success of sports like basketball and American football. People would be surprised to see that most people are not going to a basketball game to watch the match itself, they also come to enjoy the atmosphere, the dancing, the music. It is a cool place to be and to be seen. That is what we need to create for our sport.”

“It really has to do with the branding and the marketing of the event. The culture is something we need to create.”

Asked about the top priorities in terms of changes to be made in time for Tokyo 2020, Krikorian said it is important not to rush into anything.

“We have to be careful not to rush into making short-term decisions that won’t be sustainable for us and our future. I think we have to devise a plan and operate a plan that goes way past Tokyo. It is very difficult to change anything in two years. It takes time. We just need to show that we are putting in the efforts and I also mentioned the trust that needs to be built.”

“If we show that we are working towards progress I think that it is going to be enough.”

Reflecting on the evolution of water polo in the USA, the Head Coach said:

“The interest for water polo has definitely grown and I speak specifically about the women’s side. The girls from the team have become true heroes and role models because of the success we have had. I have a group of 20 women that have won a gold medal and are now role models all over our country. It has tremendously helped with the development of our sport.”

“We love to win. I won’t deny that. But what we treasure more than anything are the relationships that we have built, the trust that we have built within that group and the lessons we have learned along the way. We don’t talk about winning, we talk about just trying the best that we can and enjoy the process as much as possible.”

Double Olympic and World gold medallist Steffens of the USA enlightened us about a beach match in Croatia where she was not recognised and played against men, earning respect.

“After the Worlds in Budapest, I went on a little holiday in Dubrovnik, Croatia. I promised myself to stay away from water polo for the rest of the summer, I had achieved my goal. But it was there that I discovered beach water polo as I reached the beach. I felt like a kid discovering a new sport. I felt inspired as the sport was exposed in a new fun, entertaining way. It was a new way of presenting the sport.”

She added: “Beach water polo really catches the essence of being a kid and just loving the sport. It captures the idea of fun and I think beach tournaments are a great way to develop interest for the sport.”

The conference is being streamed live on FINA Youtube channel.

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