My Victorian Junior team experience Written by Jayden Skinner

Underwater Hockey (UWH) as a fun activity at school sparked my fascination for this unusual game. Both my parents had previously played so they encouraged my interests. On the Peninsula there are no local teams hence it was not until two years ago that we decided as a family to start playing at Monash University. Here I played with a fabulous group of adults and they were all extremely helpful in teaching me the technical skills. I looked forward to Tuesdays and Fridays as I had a driving lesson then an hour of intense swimming, curling, flicking and other puck skills.

Everyone encouraged me to try out for the state team, they thought it would be good for me to play with people my own age. Try outs and training for the State teams were difficult to arrange as all the people interested were scattered over Victoria, N.S.W., and A.C.T. Callum Wishart was the lucky coach to be selected for the under 19 team, and you could not wipe the big smile off his face.

Two training days at Monash and two weekend training camps were arranged, one in Geelong (mid Dec) and the other in Inverloch (early Jan).They involved intensive swimming training in pools, a dam and the ocean. Breath hold training made our faces turn blue, skills were fine-tuned and bum flicks were punished severely.

It was great to meet the other people involved and we had a Facebook page to improve communication. We all had to document our training on Facebook. Kamila and I had an extra hour swimming and skills training prior our twice weekly games, as some of the other participants did a lot of UWH. It is much more fun having a training partner. I also did an Insanity aerobic programme that my sister made me endure. We were all very excited at the prospect of going to Hobart, Tasmania for the Nationals. We were all proud of our funky Trunks and Victorian T-shirts.

The Victorian Junior teams stayed at The Lea Scout Camp in Kingston which was perfect as it had a huge kitchen, “clean” big bunk rooms and cabins for the chaperones. The opening ceremony was very interesting as the Mayor described the history of octopush/U.W.H. This was the first time I heard of the World Games in Hungary.

The Hobart pool had been purpose built and the tiles made the game very fast with great flicking distances obtained. The organization of the Nationals was precise, games started on time and it all seemed to run very smoothly. The referees were very helpful explaining the rules and reasons for decisions. The camaraderie was spectacular as the senior teams gave us huge support and extra coaching. Eden from N.S.W. was an extra in water coach which boosted our morale.

There were four teams in our section Tas A, Tas B, W.A. and Vic. We were a bit overawed by Tas and W.A. as these teams had played a lot more games together. On the first day we were not able to get a goal against either Tas A or W.A. They were very experienced and taught us a lesson on team work. The next day we won our first game against Tas B.  Callum and Eden felt we played much better as a team. Our breath hold was improving and the adrenalin was pumping. When we played the teams again on second round our losses were by less, it was all very positive. It was amazing to see how we developed as a team over the days of competition. We came home with a Bronze Medal, all excited and proud.

Three of us nervously tried out for the National Team, Jacqui, Mungo, and myself. It was an intense try out and the other players were very skilled. I think the week of playing and watching each day improved our knowledge and skills. We are all in the team as long as we train and stay uninjured. We were told to have six weeks rest and then intense training starts.

Whilst in Tassie we did see a little including the Salamanca Market and The Docks. The Lea Scout Camp was a fantastic venue for the Junior celebrations. The weather was very kind, everyone dressed in black and white and the Vic team all wore thongs. We had a very tasty outdoor dinner, the chance to meet all the players from the different states and lots of dancing. Noise was not a problem. Sleep was little but sound. I have made some fantastic friends, and I am sure we will all stay in touch. U.W.H. is a great social sport; I am looking forward to training, and playing in Eger, Hungary, in August 2013.