It began with a notice in Huntsville’s Leisure Guide and has, so far, resulted in the opportunity to represent Canada internationally.
Jeff Osler and his partner Annie saw the pool polo program run by Andy Parry of the Muskoka Kayak School listed in the Town of Huntsville Leisure Guide and said to each other, “we haven’t paddled in a while and this sounds interesting. Let’s try it and see how it goes,” recounts Osler. Since then, both Jeff and Annie have participated in every session available, as well as helped to start the Muskoka Canoe Polo Club with Jon Strickland.
“It’s been a real learning experience for me. A great challenge really,” says Osler. “Our whole team started around the same time through the Town of Huntsville pool polo program. We all had various paddling backgrounds. It doesn’t matter how much prior paddling experience you have as we are all learning the game together.”
Because the team was so new, the team members played all five positions as they learned. “We typically use a standard 1-3-1 formation. It’s kind of similar to soccer structure but with less players,” explains Osler. “There’s chase up front to look for loose balls, left side, centre and right side to hold structure in front of the goalie.”
The club has been working hard with their committed members to find a permanent pitch location before next summer so they can offer and encourage new canoe/kayak polo learners to come and play. They set up a pitch at Arrowhead Park and for a demonstration on September 29.
Osler is a quick study, and his dream of one day playing for Canada internationally came true when he was invited to compete on the Canadian men’s team in Argentina for the PanAm Games in November 2017 when some of the team members weren’t able to attend. “I played both hockey and baseball at pretty high levels into post-secondary school but was never good enough to be able to represent my country on that stage. So for me to start canoe polo and within a year be able to represent your country was an honour and a dream come true,” says Osler.
The team played against French Guyana, Brazil, Argentina and USA. He scored five goals in six games and hopes he’ll have the opportunity to compete—and score—for Canada again in the future.
Osler also wants to build awareness about the sport so it can grow in his home town. “Continuing to share and grow a love for paddling, the sport of Canoe Polo and potentially develop more international competitors would be great for our area.”
The Muskoka Canoe Polo Club welcomes new players. If you are interested in trying Canoe/Kayak Polo, contact Jeff Osler and Jon Strickland, co-presidents of the club, at [email protected]
Don’t miss out on Doppler! Sign up for our free newsletter here.