As many of you will know I recently accepted a contract at the Canadian Sports Centre in Calgary. As part of that contact I became the strength coach/ physiologist for Water Polo Canada. There is limited availability to play games in Canada. Tough to play the US as they are a rival and training with them helps them to get better and vice versa. The college system with their rules limits the games they can play outside NCAA and from what I have been told, we would dismantle them. So with no games since the Olympic Qualifiers in July 2012 the team organized a training camp in Hungary. And, well… that meant I am talking a trip to Hungary with the team.
I write this as I watch ZF Eger play on the TV. ZF Eger is the local professional team where one of our national members plays full time. The city has billboards of the players, the matches etc. There is no doubt that Water Polo is the national sport of this beautiful country. The country emerges itself in pool culture. Where in Canada we build ice rinks the Hungarians build Pools. However the pools are works of art. The pool in Eger for example is one of the most impressive structures I have seen as the roof is meant to represent the body of an overturned wooden war ship and the entire building is adorned in wood.
The pool is perpetually busy with the likes of young and old frequenting the pool for daily laps. We see this in Canada but the feel around the pool is less of that of training for competition, it is about the culture. It is something that if I did not experience it, I would not believe it. I guess the easiest way to explain it is the culture around Water Polo is that to Hungarians as Hockey is to Canada.
My role on the trip is to monitor training, recovery and to research/experience Water Polo. It was evident on my first day why this country is so dominant in the sport. One, the system of talent identification is present, as the shear number of kids playing Water Polo is mirror to that of kids playing hockey back home. Secondly, the Eastern European culture produces massively imposing men. Hanging around the pool for 6 hours a day I have come to realize that Hungarian men are what I would call “Thick”. Big barrel chested men. The average height of the local pro team is 6’4”, weight 235 lbs and age 28 yrs.
And after 5 days of eating here I can see why everyone can be built like brick shit houses. For the past 5 days we have not had anything less than a three-course meal… at any meal. The food I have been told is 80 – 90% locally grown with 80 – 90% of that being organically grown. I think one would be hard pressed to find a vegetarian here, as meat appears to be the staple at any meal. And the flavors are just amazing. And Erős Pista (“EH-ROOSH PISH-TA”), which means “Strong Stevie,” is a popular brand of csípős (spicy) paprika paste produced by the Univer company. It is salty, and somewhere in the middle on the global “spiciness” scale, and often found on restaurant tables in Hungary. That little lady from Franks has nothing on this stuff. They really do put that s**t on everything. I am off to the market this afternoon to pick up 5 jars.
To be continued…