Is Water Polo Really a Sport for the Wealthy?

Is Water Polo Really a Sport for the Wealthy?

Are you curious about whether water polo is a sport only for the wealthy? It’s a common misconception that water polo is a rich people’s sport, but the reality is quite different.

While it’s true that some high-end private schools and country clubs offer water polo programs, the sport is accessible to a wide range of players and is growing in popularity across the United States.

According to a report by the National Federation of State High School Associations, water polo is one of the fastest-growing high school sports in the country.

From 2008-09 to 2018-2019, boys’ water polo participation increased by 8.8%, and girls’ water polo participation saw an 18% increase over the same period. This data doesn’t even include high schools that compete in water polo at the club level.

So, what makes water polo an accessible sport? For one, it requires less equipment than many other sports. All that is needed is a swimsuit, a water polo ball, and access to a pool.

Furthermore, numerous schools and community centers provide water polo programs, making it simpler for players of all ages and backgrounds to participate.

History of Water Polo

Water polo has a long and interesting history, dating back to the mid-19th century in England and Scotland. The game was initially played as a form of entertainment at county fairs and festivals, with little resemblance to the modern-day version of the sport.

The first rules of water polo were established in Scotland in 1877, with the suggestion of goalposts. The first national championships were held in Scotland in 1886 and in England in 1888. Water polo was initially an exclusively male competition, showcasing crude strength and swimming skills.

In 1890, the first international water polo match was conducted in London, with Scotland winning against the English team playing by British rules. These rules later became the foundation of international regulations.

Over time, water polo became more organized, with the establishment of national and international governing bodies. Today, it is a popular sport played around the world, with both men’s and women’s teams competing at the highest levels.

Current State of Water Polo

Participation Rates

Water polo has witnessed a consistent rise in participation rates in recent years, making it one of the fastest-growing sports in the United States.

As per the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), boys’ water polo participation has surged 8.8% from 2008-09 to 2018-2019, while girls’ water polo participation has experienced an 18% increase during the same time frame.

Furthermore, USA Water Polo (USAWP) reported a nationwide membership increase of 25 percent in the last five years, from 35,750 in 2011 to 44,773 in 2016. These numbers demonstrate that water polo is becoming more accessible and popular among people of all backgrounds.


Contrary to popular belief, water polo is not just a sport for the wealthy. While it may require access to a pool, which can be a barrier for some individuals, there are many programs and organizations that provide opportunities for people of all income levels to participate in the sport.

According to data from USAWP, nearly 28% of its members come from households with an annual income of less than $100,000. Additionally, the organization offers various programs and scholarships to help lower-income individuals participate in the sport.

Overall, water polo is a sport that is growing in popularity and accessibility. While access to a pool may be a barrier for some individuals, there are many programs and opportunities available for people of all backgrounds to participate in this exciting and challenging sport.

Costs of Playing Water Polo

Water polo is often perceived as a rich people’s sport due to its association with private schools and exclusive clubs. However, the reality is that water polo is an accessible sport that can be played by anyone, regardless of their financial status. While there are some costs associated with playing water polo, they are not necessarily prohibitive.

Equipment Costs

One of the main costs associated with playing water polo is the equipment. However, compared to other sports, the equipment costs for water polo are relatively low. A water polo ball and a pair of swim trunks are the only essential items required to play the game.

Other optional equipment includes a water polo cap, goggles, and a mouthguard. While some clubs may require players to purchase specific gear, most players can get by with basic equipment.

Club and Team Fees

Another cost associated with playing water polo is the club and team fees. These fees can vary depending on the club or team, but they are generally reasonable. Many clubs offer scholarships or financial aid to help offset the costs for players who cannot afford them.

Additionally, some clubs offer discounted rates for families with multiple players or for players who volunteer to help with the club’s operations.

Travel Expenses

If you are playing water polo at a competitive level, you may incur travel expenses. However, these expenses can be minimized by playing in local leagues or tournaments.

Many clubs also organize carpooling or shared accommodations to help cut down on costs. Additionally, some tournaments offer discounted rates for teams that travel from out of town.

In conclusion, while there are some costs associated with playing water polo, they are not necessarily prohibitive. With some basic equipment and reasonable club and team fees, anyone can participate in this exciting and growing sport.

Perception of Water Polo as a Rich People Sport

Water polo is often perceived as a sport for the wealthy. This perception is based on a few factors, but it is important to note that it is not entirely accurate.

Factors Contributing to Perception

One of the main factors contributing to the perception of water polo as a rich people sport is the cost of equipment. Water polo requires specific equipment, such as a water polo ball, caps, and swimsuits, which can be expensive. Additionally, access to a pool is necessary to play the sport, and not everyone has access to a pool.

Another factor contributing to the perception is the history of the sport. Water polo has a long history of being played at prestigious universities and private clubs, which may give the impression that it is only for the wealthy.

Arguments Against Perception

Despite these factors, it is important to note that water polo is accessible to people of all socioeconomic backgrounds. Many schools and community centers offer water polo programs, which can provide access to equipment and facilities at little or no cost.

Furthermore, the cost of playing water polo is often comparable to other sports. While the equipment may be more expensive, the cost of pool time and coaching is often similar to other sports.

Finally, water polo has a growing presence in diverse communities, which is helping to break down the perception that it is only for the wealthy. As more people are exposed to the sport, it is becoming clear that it is accessible to everyone who wants to play.


Water polo has a reputation for being a sport for the wealthy, but this is not necessarily the case. While it is true that some water polo clubs and teams may require high fees and expensive equipment, there are also many opportunities for players of all backgrounds to participate in the sport.

The expanding popularity of water polo in the United States is one reason for this trend. As noted in the search results, water polo is among the fastest-growing sports in America.

This means that more and more schools, community centers, and other organizations are offering water polo programs that are affordable and accessible to a wider range of players.

Another reason why water polo is not a rich people sport is that it does not require expensive equipment. While players do need a swimsuit, cap, and ball, these items are relatively inexpensive compared to the equipment required for other sports like hockey or football. Additionally, many water polo teams provide equipment for their players, further reducing the cost of participation.

Finally, water polo is a sport that values skill and strategy over physical attributes like strength or speed. This means that players of all sizes and shapes can excel at the sport, regardless of their socioeconomic status.

In fact, some of the world’s best water polo players have come from humble beginnings and have used the sport as a way to achieve success and recognition.

In conclusion, while water polo may have a reputation for being a sport for the wealthy, this is not an accurate portrayal of the sport. With growing popularity, accessible programs, and affordable equipment, water polo is a sport that anyone can participate in and enjoy.