Dive into new campus experiences


By Luke Vest

If you’re from a small suburb in Illinois like many of my fellow freshmen, you likely understand how difficult it can be to find fun things to do while at home. Sure, you could watch some corn grow or ride a four wheeler, but that gets dull after a while.

In an effort to find something interesting to do at home, I joined the swim team. Try to imagine having fun by moving back and forth through a pool for two hours while staring at a black line on the floor — hey, it’s better than watching corn grow.

As a result of my interest in swimming, I quickly signed up on Quad Day for all water-related sports and numerous other clubs that interested me, because I like to try new things. I don’t go to every meeting, and I delete tons of emails, but through this process of choosing which meetings to attend, I discovered my new love: underwater hockey.

Underwater hockey is more difficult to visualize than it is to play. Initially, I pictured a member of the Chicago Blackhawks fully dressed in hockey gear jumping into a pool and frantically flailing his arms just to stay alive. Sounds like fun, I thought. 

My friend and I went to the first practice quite unsure of what we were diving into.

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We arrived at the ARC indoor pool one hour late for practice, yet the members of the underwater hockey team were extremely enthusiastic to help us prepare our gear and teach us the game. The gear includes a water polo cap, a mask and snorkel, fins, a foot-long hockey stick and a silicone glove to protect your hand from scraping the bottom of the pool.

Gameplay is relatively simple. Six players on a team take the positions of left, center, right forwards and backs. The forwards are always ahead of the puck while the backs are behind it. The three-pound puck is placed in the center of the pool. When the game starts, forwards rush to snag the puck and pass it to their teammates. A point is scored by shooting the puck into the opposing team’s goal.

Sounds simple, but it’s not. 

Right when you’re on a fast break to score the winning goal, you realize that you’re under eight feet of water and that neglecting to grab some oxygen will make the lifeguard earn his paycheck. 

You rush to the surface and gasp for air, but instead take in a huge gulp of water because you forgot to clear your snorkel. Then you struggle to float for five minutes as your teammates fight to regain the puck that you gracefully gave up for “more important things.” 

The game is a struggle, but I realize that as I play more and more, my five-minute breathers might shorten to four minutes. Despite the difficulty, I am drawn to return to practices because of the sport’s unique characteristics.

As you watch the game from above, players thrash to steal the puck only to be met by a fin to the face. Defenders collide with offenders, and tempers flare. Even though there is much chaos to be seen, there is no sound; only the soft whooshing of water can be heard. 

Players cannot express anger with one another, and violent sounds are extinct. I guess I appreciate this so much because I always used to get yelled at for daydreaming in the outfield. Either way, the singular facets of this game keep me coming back for more.

I never would have thought that I’d be playing hockey in a pool as I prepared to leave for college this summer. I never thought that I would be able to write for a paper available to over 40,000 students, along with countless alumni, faculty members, parents and community members, but I’ve accomplished all this in my first few weeks on campus.

As students, we have endless opportunities, and we should be taking full advantage of them.

I’m eager for what’s next, and other students should be eager too. 

Continue to nurture the talents that you have and discover new ones. We’re here to learn facts and skills, but I think it’s important that we learn about ourselves as well by trying new things. So join the debate team or maybe even the space society, because one thing’s for sure: It’s better than watching corn grow.

Luke is a freshman in Engineering. He can be reached at [email protected].