A dozen swimmers in full team gear — Speedos, masks, bonnets, weighted fins, snorkel — are aligned along each side of a public pool. Suddenly the swimmers lurch toward a three-pound rubber puck tossed into the water by a game referee. Players dive toward the pool bottom. Each clutches a short, sturdy, plastic stick that they use to push the puck to teammates. Underwater battles to control puck movement ensue; physical scrums erupt. Lungs suddenly grow pained, demanding surface air. The overarching strategy? To nudge the puck into an underwater goal.
Welcome to the Eugene Underwater Hockey Club, and the team’s twice-weekly training sessions, hosted at Springfield’s Willamalane Park Swim Center. The sessions have found increasing support over nearly a decade now, so much so that the club now includes ranked members of the U.S Masters Team and multiple players who recently competed for Team Oregon Sunshine in the U.S. National Underwater Hockey Championships.
Eric Meyers, a founding member of the club, is a huge advocate for elevating the sport locally, nationally, and internationally. He is particularly invested in player recruitment and building training resources. For example, the club boasts one of the most active youth involvement profiles in the nation. Local youth participants range in age from 7 to 15. Regular training classes at Willamalane feature advanced players coaching kids and other novice swimmers. The sessions attract new participants every week. Meyers is also developing an 8-week underwater hockey training course in collaboration with Willamalane and Atlantis Sports, a prominent national underwater hockey association. The course is trendsetting.
Meyers’ credits also include membership on the U.S. Olympic Academy Underwater Hockey Committee, where he is a strong proponent of using his training course to expand underwater hockey in underdeveloped nations. “My goal,” Meyers says, “is to see this sport in the Olympics in the next five to 10 years.”
His excitement draws from the sport’s combined intricacies of swimming, sportsmanship, and athletic technique, he says. “My biggest fascination is how much I learn every time I play. I’ve been at this for seven years, and every time I play there’s an ’ah-ha!’ moment.”