Oliver Dickson jumped in the deep end after graduating with a Bachelor of Sport Management from Bond University in 2022.
Appointed head coach of the university’s water polo program, he had barely enough players to field teams.
Dickson’s solution was to take the focus off results and performance in favour of fun and community.
A year later, the Bond University Water Polo Program is thriving and eyeing expansion.
“When I first started the role I wanted to take the program in a bit of a different direction,” Dickson said.
“Placing a greater focus on culture and connections has seen a great response from the students, and as a club we’ve been able to collectively grow into a really strong side.”
Heading into the 2023 UniNationals next week, Bond Water Polo will field two strong women’s and men’s teams.
“Given we’re a small sport in a relatively small university, it’s really great that we’ve been able to fill our teams so well this year,” Dickson said.
“In last year’s UniNationals we couldn’t even get the numbers for a men’s team and we barely mustered up enough to send a women’s side.”
The change in club philosophy has not only increased student participation but fostered the club’s new 16s Elite Academy.
“Developing the junior program has been great because it encourages the players to compete for us in the junior titles and other events,” Dickson said.
“It also provides a pathway for the athletes to play for us at a university level should they decide to study here.”
Five players from Bond’s senior program are now competing in the Premier League – Queensland's top competition.
“We’ve been able to grow participation not only at a social level but now at an elite level as well,” Dickson said.
The Gold Coast faces a scarcity of affordable water polo facilities, making Bond's program even more valuable.
“There’s a few facilities around the place but they’re all quite expensive,” Dickson said.
“That’s also why we’ve seen elite teams come to train here like the Australian team and the Stanford University team.”
Dickson has his sights set on more intervarsity competition.
“Currently we do a few rival nights with Griffith about once a semester,” he said.
“While this is great training for us, I’d love to create a more regular meets with other unis whilst also incorporating our junior pathways into that.
“For example, UQ also have a junior program, so having the two teams play off would be a great opportunity for us to get some more regular competition experience.”
Dickson also has plans to enter junior teams in the upcoming Brisbane league competition.
“We’re hoping to enter Under 16s, 15s and 14s sides and they’ll get to play against all the best junior teams in Queensland,” he said.
“Again, we’re not super focussed on results at the moment, we just want to create more regular competition opportunities for our players so they can continue to better themselves.”