Every trainer knows that you can not give training without ‘pool builders’. A fresh dive might still be there, but the chaos soon takes on grotesque forms. Without lines, swimmers see all corners of the pool and the most spectacular collisions occur. Water polo players lack, literally and figuratively, their goal. Passing and catching is fun, but as a poloer you only want one thing: to score. In order to manage all that enthusiasm, it is necessary for someone to take the initiative to build the pool. A good example must be set. In the history of Aquamania, Jeroen van Bergen is the pool builder.
A study in Industrial Design in Delft did not bring him the happiness he was looking for, and in 1990 he swapped the city of bicycle mechanics for Leiden. In that year between the Dufterikken, he got a taste of student swimming at Wave. Once firmly rooted in Leiden, he felt a great void. The former water polo player lacked the feeling of stiff balls, tight caps and chlorine eyes. His roommate Mike felt the same loss. Together they went looking for like-minded people. They filled the university buildings with notes and, within a short amount of time, they were able to bring together around twenty enthusiasts. It was a colorful mix of water polo fans, but with a considerable number of former main class players.
A maniacal group, Jeroen recalls: ‘We were really a bunch of idiots. In the summer we trained at the De Vliet outdoor pool at 7 o’clock in the morning’. Not really student-times, of course. One of the water polo players, Willem Veerman, offered to help Jeroen seting up a more serious water polo training. ‘In the summer of 1991 we submitted a project proposal to Hans van Rooijen, the head of the University Sports Center. He called a friend at the municipality to arrange a pool for us. That, of course, made much more of an impression than if you were trying to achieve that as a 20-year-old student’. The first student water polo training hour was soon a fact. Every Wednesday, the student polo players could indulge at Vijf Meibad from 21:30 to 22:30. A training hour that still exists to this day.
Jeroen still typifies 1991 as a ‘cautious approach’, but after that ‘test’ year, the water polo players also wanted to tackle it seriously in terms of organisation. ‘The Sermon of the Week’ became a recurring element at every training. The polocollective wanted to form its own association and the Sermon had to keep everyone informed of the progress. As a work name they initially thought ‘De Waterspetters’ (The water splashes), but that association turned out to be already stablished. ‘Aquamania’ was then considered and, on 17 June 1992, the association officially saw the light of day. ‘Establishing an association is not that difficult. You make up something and you go to a notary. The tricky thing is to keep people motivated ‘, as Jeroen knows.
The water polo trainer was largely responsible for this. Ben Olde Olthof took care of the training in those first years. In season ’92 -’93 it immediately paid off, because the lords of Aquamania finished their first NCS-competition as champions. Aquamania promoted to the 2nd class. In addition to a second men’s team, Aquamania also formed a successful women’s team. Almost fifteen years later there is also a shiver about Jeroen’s back when he thinks about it. ‘Hard water poles …’ In the water polo field, they were glory days, as witnessed by the many shiny cups in the administration cabinet.
The association did not only grow on a sport level. The number of members increased steadily and various committees saw the light. The Aquactie threw itself into the cosiness outside the pool and creative minds pounded a club magazine, the Maniakaal. Aquamania flourished, both inside and outside the walls of the Vijf Meibad. In 1996, the water polo players decided to make room for people who like to swim between two lines. As a result, the club also gained momentum in sporting terms. The number of swimmers grew weekly and one lane was not enough to contain all this enthusiasm. Also a second and a third lanes were filled quickly and the swimmers got more and more rights with respect to the polo brutes. From now on, polo balls were no longer allowed in the water during the swim hour. Aquamania was a swimming and water polo association, but swimming became more and more prevalent. Carefully, the swimmers ventured outside the boundaries of Leiden, for example for the NSK Swimming NSK Swimming.
In the meantime, water polo was slowly but surely emptying. The old-fashioned water polo players quietly put one point behind their student existence, seeking salvation in civil society. The influx of new polo fanatics, however, lagged far behind the polo-exodus that took place during these years. The swimmers took over the association and with the departure of the last polo trainer in 2000 the water polo association Aquamania was no longer a fact. ‘The stop is out of the pool and the water has run away’, said the then chairman, Jacco Kiemel. Swimming was now the main activity and the only thing that reminded us of the polo time was a closet full of second-hand balls and a few ‘old men’.
In the meantime, Aquamania focused on the swimming competitions. Participating in two races in the 2000-2001 season, did not provide the club more than last place (13th), but it did increase the hunger for more. During the following season, the swimmers from Leiden drew in much larger numbers to the various competition around the Netherlands and this resulted in a great profit. The association also grew closer together with the matches. Not only were there more and more activities but they could also count on an enthusiastic attendance. Aquamania showed to be more than just a sports club. Participation in competitions (and the subsequent parties) was no longer the exception for many, but rather the rule. In addition to individual successes at the NSKs of 2001 and 2002, the association also climbed to a fifth place in the standings. Aquamania permanently shook off its image as an underdog with the organization of the final NSZK competition in season 2003-2004. The Aquamaniacs were unable to break the years of hegemony of De Golfbreker from Groningen for just a few seconds. For the first time Aquamania achieved the honorary place on the classification. After this, the Aquamaniacs never had to explain that they also swim (hard) in Leiden. That third place was not yet the end point, because since then, the association have always participated in the top of Dutch Student Swimming.
After the swimming successes, water polo made a new start in the new millennium. A new generation of water polo players wanted to throw more than one ball at the Student Water Polo Tournaments. Unfortunately, competition at the KNZB did not seem feasible so the association sought for other possibilities. There was the NCS competition, with six games a year, it was a good challenge for the water polo diehards. But due to the eternal rivalry between the KNZB and the NCS, one could not play under the name of Aquamania. Thanks to the efforts and preparations of papa Wietse and daddy Robert, Aquamania had a sister on August 25, 2005:
It was a long and sometimes difficult pregnancy. In spite of this, after a quick delivery, this morning was set up at 10.20 am:
The Second Leiden Student Water Polo Association Aqualliance
We call her
Founders and association are in good health and hold visiting hours on Monday 22.15-23.15 hrs in De Zijl and Wednesday 21.30-22.30 hrs in the Vijf Meibad. From September onwards, the association will swim all its first strokes!
With this birth announcement, Aqualliance was officially introduced as the sister association of Aquamania. Represented in two competitions, Aquamania and Aqualliance provide a flowering association.