The sport of water polo is growing in popularity in Slovakia. The first mention of this game in Slovak history dates back to 1840, when players reportedly balanced themselves astride empty barrels in a body of water (as if riding a horse) and, armed with paddles, attempted to hit a ball into goals on either side of the playing area. The game’s similarity to the land-based version earned it the name “water polo.” Slovakia’s men’s water-polo team has been competing internationally since the 1990s and made its first Olympic Games appearance in 2000.
Fourteen-year-old Simon Kolar, a student at the Lutheran Academy, is a fast-rising star in the sport. We spoke with Simon and his parents about his achievements.
Simon, when did you start swimming and how did you choose to play water polo?
Simon: My parents introduced me to swimming when I was five years old. At first, I swam for the health benefits.
I liked swimming so much that when I turned six, I joined the water polo club and am still a member of this team.
What do you enjoy most about the sport?
Most of our meets take place during the summer, and that’s when I enjoy swimming the most. We travel to tournaments and I get to meet a lot of boys and girls from all over Slovakia.
What do you consider your greatest successes in water polo?
At the Slovak Championship and Cup tournaments last year, my team won third place in our category (up to age 13). And in a tournament in 2012, I was named top scorer.
As much as you like the sport, have you ever thought about quitting? If so, why?
Yes, sometimes I think about it—especially in the winter! That time of year, the conditions aren’t so good for training at the indoor pool in Martin.
What traits do you think are important for a successful athlete and what is your greatest motivation?
I think a successful athlete should be purposeful, tough, and tenacious. The biggest motivation for me is helping my club achieve the best results.
What do your family and friends think about your participation in water polo? How do they support you?
My family supports me a lot. My parents go to each of my tournaments and encourage me and my team. Most of my friends are also athletes.
Has sports had an impact on your school performance?
So far, water polo hasn’t affected my school work. I’m glad that the school has supported me by permitting me to attend out-of-town tournaments and matches. It has helped my concentration.
Simon’s parents, Marcel Kolar and Anežka Kolarova, are naturally proud of Simon’s achievements.
Many children today prefer to spend their free time passively watching TV, playing video games, or surfing the Internet. Are you happy that Simon has chosen active sports over these activities? How can parents encourage their children to play sports?
Mr. and Mrs. Kolar: Yes, we are certainly pleased with Simon’s interest in water polo and therefore we support him in his sporting activities.
Parents can encourage their children’s interest in sports by being good examples to them. But sometimes parents also have to show “tough love” and enforce what they know is best for their children.
Water polo occupies a lot of Simon’s time and, thus, a lot of the family’s time. Do you find his involvement in the sport to be an enrichment or a burden for your family?
We’re dedicated to water polo and the organization, and we often go to Simon’s matches and tournaments. Of course, sports sometimes does consume a lot of time, especially when you have a home and a garden to take care of.