Millfield’s Water Polo team have won a national competition after being formed by a Ukrainian student just six months ago.
Lower Sixth student Vitalii Klymenko started the team in September when he joined the school on a Ukrainian refugee place and has now led them to win the ESSA (English Schools Swimming Association) Water Polo Bowl competition.
The 13-strong team travelled to Northampton School for Boys to compete in the finals and came out on top despite this being their first time competing in the event.
Vitalii, a regular water polo player in his homeland, quickly settled into Millfield after fleeing Ukraine’s capital Kyiv. Missing his sporting passion, he asked Millfield’s Director of Swimming Euan Dale, if he could set up a water polo team, which Vitalii now trains with the team three times a week in the school’s 50m pool. His mum, dad and younger sister remain in Kyiv. Vitalii is studying maths, computer science and physics A levels at Millfield.
As well as being the catalyst for the return of Water Polo to Millfield after a long hiatus, Vitalii has been utilising his experience in the sport to coach and inspire his peers and is delighted with the win.
Vitalii said: “When we won the national ESSA Water Polo competition I was very proud of the team because, even though we had only started playing water polo four months earlier, we were able to beat a few teams that had been practicing for years. I am grateful to everyone who participated, and it makes me so happy to see that my team has made such remarkable progress.”
Vitalii has brought his experience, knowledge and passion to the school. He said “I prepare training schedules for each session, where I try to combine all crucial drills and game skills, and then go through and explain them all to the team each time. I have tried to make the team’s practices as efficient as possible by doing theory sessions and filming our training before going through the mistakes after. My team and I were able to get a lot out of those workouts because I pooled all my water polo knowledge together and did a lot of research. I received a lot of assistance from our coach Mr Dale, who I have been assisting in training. I’ve always dreamt of being coach and despite the fact that it is quite challenging, I have found my coaching experience to be really interesting and I’ve enjoyed developing water polo at Millfield so far.”
Euan said “Seeing Vitalii’s passion for water polo, I knew straight away we had to make something work. This is a fantastic example of student voice making a difference and adding value to the Millfield community and I am so pleased they have been successful.”
Vitalii is hoping to expand the sport within the school and give more year groups the chance to participate. He is aiming for the team to compete and be successful in the highest ESSA Water Polo division next year, which he believes is possible if the team continues to train and learn the sport at its current rate.