By Steve Tawa
BRIDGEPORT, Pa. (CBS) — As the Summer Olympics features nearly 40 sports in more than two dozen categories, many niche sports are getting a rare burst of attention from spectators.
Every four years we get to see televised sports that otherwise are relegated to an occasional late-night appearance on an all-sports cable channel. Take water polo.
Dan Sharadin is the commissioner of the Collegiate Water Polo Association, based in Bridgeport, Pa. He is also a coach at Villanova University and involved in the Greater Philadelphia Water Polo Club.
Sharadin says the vigorous tactics they use in water polo would likely get you kicked out of the pool at your local Y.
“I think the Olympics voted it the most difficult sport behind triathlon,” he tells KYW Newsradio.
But now, with the Olympics in high gear, Sharadin says water polo is getting a bit more visibility.
“Because water polo doesn’t have a television network contract, you’re only going to see it typically through web streaming or a broadcast like the Olympics,” he says.
Sharadin, who describes water polo as a blend between hockey and basketball, says it’s a grueling sport because players are in deep water for over an hour.
“You can’t touch the bottom, so you’re either treading or swimming” for the duration of the game, he notes.
Now through mid-August, 12 teams will compete in the men’s tournament and eight teams in the women’s tournament. And television coverage is expected to give the sport a boost.
“That leads to more kids wanting to play it, including more interest in the age-group programs in high school, and filters up to college and into the masters programs,” says Sharadin.