A Brief History of Water Polo by Cory Olcott

Water polo has its origins in 19th-century Scotland, where swimming coach and innovator William Wilson developed a game for the water that combined elements from rugby, soccer, and American football. The sport (originally called “aquatic football”) grew in popularity and gained official recognition from the Swimming Association of Great Britain in 1885.

Women did not begin playing water polo until the early 20th century. The first recorded game took place in Holland and sparked mild interest from women around the world. By 1926, however, many considered the game too rough for women to play, and national competitions in the United States were put on hold for decades.

In 1961, attitudes started to change. A women’s swim coach in Michigan revived interest in the sport and before long it rose again to prominence. Despite its rejuvenation in the 1960s, women’s water polo was not included as an Olympic event until 2000. In the 2012 summer Olympics, the American women’s team took the gold medal in water polo.

About Cory Olcott:

A coach and advocate of women’s water polo, Cory Olcott founded the women’s water polo program at Stanford University in 1995 and went on to coach the team to national recognition. Olcott has also coached water polo at the high school level. He recently completed a Master of Education at Harvard University.

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