By Nathaniel Muir Anderson (He/Him)
When Denver Squid started its new LGBTQ+ water polo team in late 2018/early 2019, the biggest struggle was getting new players. A typical practice might only see 3 or 4 folks passing the ball around. It’s hard to scrimmage without two full 7-player teams, it’s hard to shoot without a goal! How can you find a world-class pool in a semi-arid climate? How do you find water-polo players in the middle of the country? But the team persevered and grew to the vibrant & inclusive team it is today with the help of the existing Squid leadership, expertise from other cities, and a passion for the sport!
Denver Squid (Swimming Queers United In Denver) is Colorado’s premier LGBTQ+ aquatics club, founded in 1990. I swam with the Squid on moving to Denver around 2012. I re-joined Denver Squid in mid-2020 at the height of the COVID pandemic. I returned to the Squid when I heard about their growing water polo team. Squid water polo practices were a welcome break from social isolation, even though practices were modified with COVID precautions. I was excited to return to a sport I played in high school, but with the supportive & inclusive environment that an LGBTQ+ sports club can provide. It seems like I wasn’t the only one; many folks in Denver wanted to return to water polo or pick it up as a new sport. By this point our practices might see 10-12 water polo players and we used loaner goals on both ends of the pool.
We kept Squid practices COVID-safe, but we hit the Colorado gay sports scene hard. Squid resumed fundraising & advertising through its “Beer Busts” (where Squid volunteers serve beverages at local LGBTQ+ venues for a portion of the sales). Fundraisers were a great way to increase visibility into an often unseen sport (LGBTQ+ aquatics), and our team uniforms were a great endorsement. All our commitment paid off – membership doubled over the next couple years as Squid stockpiled equipment, including its own goals, caps, and water polo balls. Meanwhile practice attendance grew steadily and Squid braced itself to start attending tournaments.
In Summer 2021 Squid started attending tournaments together. It began with Atlanta’s Trout Scramble. We were happy to be part of a local LGBTQ+ water polo tournament, but as a scramble, we were placed on different teams. We learned and grew from our experience in Atlanta – enough to host our own tournament in the Fall of 2021 – the Rocky Mountain Oyster Festival. Now Squid was ready to engage with the domestic & international water polo scene!
By early 2022, Squid was ready to attend IGLA (International Gay & Lesbian Aquatics) water polo tournament in Palm Springs. We competed against water polo powerhouses like San Francisco Tsunami and West Hollywood Aquatics. We learned a lot about playing as a team and had a blast competing with players from around the US & around the world. Our next opportunity to compete was at Toronto Triggerfish’s Polopalooza in the summer of 2022. Together with players from the Toronto Triggerfish, San Francisco Tsunami, and London Orca/Montreal ACC, Squid won first-place, and came back to Denver excited to host the Squid Rocky Mountain Oyster Fest water polo & inner-tube polo tournaments in the fall of 2022.
Photo Credit: SQUID LGBTQ+ Aquatics Team