Local youth heading to underwater hockey world championships

Underwater hockey is an unconventional sport that will be taking 16-year-old Kolby Bargholz to Spain to compete on Canada’s behalf.

WATER WORLDS - Competitive swimmer and underwater hockey player Kolby Bargholz is one of 10 girls who will play on Team Canada during the Underwater Hockey World Championship in Spain next year.

WATER WORLDS - Competitive swimmer and underwater hockey player Kolby Bargholz is one of 10 girls who will play on Team Canada during the Underwater Hockey World Championship in Spain next year.

Underwater hockey is an unconventional sport that will be taking 16-year-old Kolby Bargholz to Spain to compete on Canada’s behalf.

Originally known as octopush, underwater hockey (UWH) is gaining popularity worldwide. It is played with a weighted puck that is moved across the bottom of a pool and shot into metal troughs for points. The sport is relatively new to Canada but is popular in places like New Zealand and Australia.

Bargholz travelled to Ottawa earlier this year to try out for the national underwater hockey team and much to her excitement, was accepted.

“I’ve been playing for three years and it’s taken a big step from just playing for fun to all of a sudden being on a worlds team,” Bargholz said.

“I’m nervous and excited but I don’t think I’ve really processed the whole idea yet.”

Bargholz is a competitive summer swimmer and plays underwater hockey through the winter months to stay fit. In preparation for the world championships, she trains with a worlds coach, Pierre LaRose, out of Calgary once a week, and continues with her Lacombe team practices weekly as well.

Next year will be the first year in the history of underwater hockey that a Junior U-19 (under 19) girls’ team will represent Canada at the UWH World Championship. The team consists of 10 girls from across the country that will travel as a team to Castellon de la Plana, Spain next August.

“Underwater hockey is just really fun, but it’s kind of hard to explain to people. The most difficult part is just being able to stay down and hold your breath. Personally, I love shooting and when you get at the puck and score a goal, it’s as exciting as any other sport,” said Bargholz.

Bargholz travels to Calgary each Thursday to train with her national team and to get used to building chemistry with the other players. As an underwater sport, verbal communication isn’t possible during game play so a lot of work goes into strategies.

“I usually like playing as a forward but for the worlds team I was put as defence. As a defensive player, you have to worry a lot more about little rules. When you’re just playing for fun, defence isn’t that bad but when it comes to the worlds team there are a lot of strategies you have to remember. You have to be able to read plays, and I’m still working on that,” she said.

She is still working on adjusting to a new position on her team and is eager to develop her skills.

According to Kathy Bargholz, Sharks president and mother to Kolby, her daughter is a fast swimmer and the coaches are working to use that skill to their advantage for worlds.

“When I was playing a forward centre, I’d get to the puck first and end up leaving the two wings (offense players) behind. They need to be ahead of you so you can pass forward, but no one could keep up with me. I wouldn’t be able to pass and the other team would get me. I’m now on defence because with a faster defence, there will be people to pass to,” said Kolby.

The Lacombe Sharks team has grown significantly from eight to 17 players since the team started a few years ago. They are always looking for players. Swim experience would benefit a player but is not necessary.

“If you can already swim, you’re basically set. That is the hardest part for people who don’t swim much – just getting used to being on the bottom of the pool. Once you learn to do that, it’s easy. The competitive swimming kids can stay down for a long time. After that, it’s just about stick handling, which you get better at eventually,” said Kolby.

“People don’t have to be great at swimming to play. Really, a big part is getting over the idea that it’s too hard because once you get into it, it’s not bad at all. Once you get the right equipment and your mask and snorkel and everything fit right, it’s really fun. You just have to get over the mental barrier of the equipment – as soon as you get the gear on and set, the game is way fun.”

The Lacombe Sharks team has players from ages eight to 18. A wide variety of age is common on underwater hockey teams. Kolby said she hopes some more kids closer to her age would join the Sharks, because it would add a little more challenge.

There are two Lacombe coaches who divide the Sharks team based on swimming skill and comfort with the sport. For people who are new to the sport, they have the option to play less competitively and to spend a little bit more time on water skill development. For others like Kolby, there are more challenging games and practices set up to keep them engaged.

Kolby said she is excited and still somewhat surprised at the notion of being part of a national team.

“Going to the world championships just makes this sport so much more special to me. It’s almost as if it was handed to me – I know I worked hard for it, I just don’t know how I got onto a worlds team already.”



Just Posted

Member Terry Parsons’ custom built track vehicle.
Forestburg’s Area 53 Racetrack gears up for action-packed season

Site will also host a portion of the ‘Miles of Mayhem’ event in July

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw reported five additional deaths Wednesday due to COVID-19. (File photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Red Deer at 169 active cases of COVID-19

Province set to move into Stage 2 of reopening Thursday

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced it had located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he feels a connection with the former students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
2 sides of the same coin: Ex-foster kids identify with residential school survivors

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip says the child welfare system also takes Indigenous children from their families, communities and nations

Airport ground crew offload a plane carrying just under 300,000 doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine which is developed by the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies at Pearson International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
1st batch of Johnson & Johnson vaccines won’t be released in Canada over quality concerns

The vaccines were quarantined in April before they were distributed to provinces

Grade 12 students at Wetaskiwin Composite High School took place in the annual water fight off school property on June 11, 2021. Shaela Dansereau/ Pipestone Flyer.
Graduating students in Wetaskiwin throw water fight after being told it could result in suspension

Students were told their participation could result in them being barred from graduation ceremonies.

The arrest south of Winnipeg occurred before Bernier was to arrive at a protest in the city. (Twitter/Maxime Bernier)
Maxime Bernier arrested following anti-rules rallies in Manitoba: RCMP

He’s been charged with exceeding public gathering limits and violating Manitoba’s requirement to self-isolate

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives for the G7 Summit, at the airport in Newquay, United Kingdom, Thursday, June 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Details on Canada’s vaccine sharing plan coming Sunday, up to 100 million doses

Canada’s high commissioner to the UK says details will come after the G7 summit

Conservative MP Tom Kmiec waves to the crowd during the Calgary Stampede parade in Calgary, Friday, July 8, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Newborn daughter’s death inspires MP’s bill on bereavement leave for parents

Conservative MP Tom Kmiec says a day or two off not enough for some grieving parents

Victoria’s 2020 Canada Day celebration will not happen this year. (Black Press Media file photo)
Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations backs cancelling Canada Day celebration

Statement made after Victoria cancels Canada Day event as a statement of reconciliation

United Nurses of Alberta is slamming Health Minister Tyler Shandro for suggesting staff vacations are causing emergency room problems. (Black Press Media files)
Physicians were suffering burnout and then the pandemic made it worse, UBC study finds

Burnout prevalent among 68 per cent of doctors – likely a reflection of issue globally, says researcher

Most Read