A few weeks ago, Washington State football players decided to take the leap and try their hands at a new sport -- water polo.
The Washington State athletic department uploaded a video to YouTube of the players getting after one another (in the shallow end) and it caught the eye of U.S. national men's water polo team captain and Stanford grad Tony Azevedo.
I love this! Imagine how much harder without a bottom? @WSUCougars @wsucougfb #respect #toughestsportinworld https://t.co/9orDrBA76s— Tony Azevedo (@WaterPoloTony) February 26, 2016
That's high praise from one of the greatest Americans to ever play the sport, so the Pac-12 Blog decided to catch up with Azevedo to get a more in-depth analysis from the four-time Olympian.
Unsurprisingly, Azevedo's first observation was that the guys would need to learn the rules of water polo.
Most of the players were doing overhead, two-handed soccer throw-ins, which is illegal in the sport (you can only use one hand when touching the ball). They also would need to work on their water-treading abilities, which makes the sport much tougher (the Cougars were in the 4-foot end of the pool). But, if they could go back 10 years, Azevedo explained, and put in the time working on their swimming and learning the rules, he thought they could all be pretty good water polo players.
"Our sport is extremely physical," Azevedo said. "You have to be OK with just being body-to-body, grabbing someone, hitting them underwater, kicking them, punching them, throwing them out of the way to get to the ball. It's first come, first serve, every man for themselves and they were very good at that. ... They had the fight, the attitude, the strength, the physicality for the sport."
Azevedo was thrilled to see some of his Pac-12 brethren getting in the water and trying out his sport. But, he wouldn't be sad to see his alma mater throw its hat in the ring, too. His read on Heisman finalist running back Christian McCaffrey as a possible water polo player?
"He has all the capabilities," Azevedo said. "I just don't know how he is in the water."
So if McCaffrey wants to see whether he'd sink or swim at a new sport, or the Cougars make their way down to California anytime soon, Azevedo said his door is open for a training or two (Note: He would definitely start them off in the shallow end).
"Anytime that those guys are in town, if they want to come stop by a training and get some personal lessons, I think they'll be impressed," Azevedo said.