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Agreement BIWPA-CNSF

As of season 2019/20, all the international athletes from the Academy will compete with the different age groups of CN Sant Feliu

The BIWPAcademy and Club Natació Sant Feliu (CNSF) have reached an agreement for all the Academy international athletes to compete and train with CN Sant Feliu. BIWPA’s Sports Director, Quim Colet, and the president of CNSF, Jorge del Ojo, have formalized the agreement a little less than a month to start the 2019/20 season in the Catalan water polo competition.

The Academy student athletes will continue training every morning with their own coaching staff and with all the international and local players, as usual, but their experience with a local club will be with CNSF, a club team located in the Barcelona area with more than 50 years of history.

The agreement represents a step forward in the sports growth of the Academy players, since it will make it easier to the coach to keep track of the individual improvement of each player with their club team. 

Quim Colet (BIWPA Sports Director) and Jorge del Ojo (CNSF President)

Quim Colet (BIWPA Sports Director) and Jorge del Ojo (CNSF President) | Photo credit: CNSF

Quim Colet think it’s a very positive agreement:

“We want to work together the youth categories with common objectives and with the beautiful combination between the local players of CNSF and the international ones that BIWPA can contribute. It is a personal as well as sports and technical enrichment for both parties and a way to internationalize the great work that is done with the clubs in Catalonia through CN Sant Feliu”.

Fran Torres, one of the new coaches of the Academy technical team, is also coaching different age groups at Sant Feliu and will be the perfect link between the morning training sessions at BIWPA and practices with the club in the afternoon.

The Academy players that will join CNSF will build up different age categories as the infantil (14u), cadet (16u), and juvenil B (18u). Additionally, as part of the agreement, BIWPA will sponsor the juvenil B (18u), which will be named BIWPA Academy/CN Sant Feliu B.

The relationship between BIWPA and CNSF is oriented mainly to work with the young athletes. Thus, BIWPA will encourage players from CN Sant Feliu to be part of combined teams to participate in international tournaments, such as the KAP7 Tournament in California, in which the BIWPAcademy has already participated once.


Cover photo: José Luis Fernández (CNSF Water polo chairperson), Jordi Blasco (CNSF Vice president) Quim Colet (BIWPA Sports Director), and Jorge del Ojo (CNSF President) | Photo credit: CNSF

Pau Vilar CAR

After two years at the BIWPA Academy, Pau Vilar enters the high performance center ‘CAR de Sant Cugat’ and will play both with the 18u team at Club Natació Barcelona and UE Horta senior team on the first national division. The goalkeeper won the Catalan and Spanish Championships in the 16u category this past season 18/19. Here are his thoughts after two years with the BIWPA sports program.


What were your goals when you entered the BIWPA program both academic and sports wise?

When I entered the BIWPA Academy, I wanted to improve a lot and get into the high performance center (CAR Sant Cugat). At the academic level I wanted to perform higher by getting better grades.


What memories do you have of the first classes and sessions, staff, classmates, teachers…?

I remember that the first day I was very nervous because I didn’t know anyone and I was afraid I didn’t get along with my classmates, but they are all very nice and we became friends quickly.

When I met the coaching staff the first day, I was surprised. There were many coaches and many people behind the program, all very nice and very friendly. And at school, from the beginning I was struck that the teachers were very flexible and knew our training schedules perfectly.


What are the hardest moments of the season and how did you overcome them?

This season I had a very hard time before starting 2019. I had a family problem and I did not feel like training, I did not want to go to class, I didn’t want to eat…

I got over it thanks to my colleagues who helped me a lot, took my mind off my problems and gave me a smile every day to move on. I love my coaches and all the BIWPA staff, they have been very helpful at all times during these two years and I liked that a lot.


What are your thoughts after your two-year experience at BIWPA?

At BIWPA I have been able to see the level of other countries as many foreign teams and players came to train. I have also been able to train two sessions per day and thanks to this I have greatly improved my sports performance. And the most important thing for me is that I have been able to make friends all over Spain and also outside of Spain.

The past summer I was also able to play the Junior Olympics in California the with Foothill. It was an unforgettable experience!

Do you think that being at BIWPA has also benefited you personally and academically, beyond sports?

Of course, thanks to the BIWPA program I have been able to see what water polo is and how it is the life of water polo players, coaches and the people surrounding this sport. I also had to become more disciplinate in order to go to practice every day and be ready at the pool at 7:45.

At the academic level I have improved and my level of English has risen thanks to the international players that come to Barcelona with the BIWPA program.


How has the work with BIWPA influenced your club?

Thanks to the work done with BIWPA I have been able to perform better with my club team, which has also made my teammates better. It has also made a difference during the competition games. I am now a better goalkeeper.


What is your balance both sports and academic in BIWPA, have you met your goals?

My time at BIWPA has been amazing. I have been able to achieve the objectives that I set for myself two years ago when I started the program: improve my level as a water polo player, enjoy more playing this sport, contribute to win the championships and tournaments with my club, and get into CAR. And any of this would have been possible without the work and sacrifice of all my colleagues and coaches, who have trusted me every day to get better.


Now you start at CAR next season. How do you face the challenge?

Entering the CAR is very difficult and very few people can achieve it. So I will try to enjoy it by giving the maximum at the practices and at school to continue growing both as an individual and as an athlete.


What are your future plans, academically and water polo?

At the academic level I want to get into to the university. Next year I will begin my last two years of high school studies with this objective. And next season is full of challenges: I will train at CAR Sant Cugat and play with the 18u team at CN Barcelona, ​​and also in the 1st National Division with the UE Horta. There’s a lot more to come!

Barcelona (Spain) and water polo form a successful pairing. The Spanish city is undoubtedly one of the great spots for water polo worldwide, where the commitment to a minority sport such as water polo is greater, there are more clubs and more facilities to train and compete at the highest level.

Since the Olympic Games of Barcelona ’92, the city has hosted the World Championships in 2003 and 2013, the European Championships in 2018 and the Champions League finals in 2014 and 2015. Six major events in less than three decades.

In the last two years, 31 teams from 14 different countries participated in BIWPA’s training camps, with the United States as the country with more representation. BIWPA offers the best of Barcelona to all teams: clubs of a wide variety of levels for scrimmages, some of the best swimming pools and facilities to train at (Club Natació Barcelona, Olympic Montjuic pool, etc.), masterclasses with the best coaches, Watlicam sessions, restaurant recommendations, city’s must-sees, etc. Our team training camps are tailored to every team’s needs.

Players and coaches that have lived the water polo Barcelona experience shared their thoughts with us. Here’s what they think:

UC Davis in Barcelona


Gavin Arroyo, Head Coach LBSU and former player Atlètic-Barceloneta and CN Barcelona

My experience in Barcelona was unequivocal both in terms of water polo and life experiences. Playing with and some of the legends of the sport on a daily basis was challenging and educational. I was able to wander the streets of the Barri Gotic and plaza born on my way to Spanish class at the escola official de idiomas. There I met people from all over the world who introduced me to their culture and customs. Art, food, music, architecture, history, diverse people, Catalan hospitality with the best water polo coaches and players; That is what Barcelona means to me”.


Maggie Steffens, USA Women’s National Team captain and CN Sabadell player

“I feel very fortunate to be playing and competing in Barcelona, Spain. There is an energy here around sport that is inspiring to be surrounded by on a daily basis. In terms of water polo, you are playing against and with some of the most intelligent players in the game. I have learned so much from just watching players in practice and trying to imitate the way they might do something or try to prevent it from happening. I have learned a new style of play, a new vision of the game, a new methodology to training; all of which are tools to add to my tool box”.

“I have absolutely loved playing and learning here and I have been able to do it while living in easily one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Barcelona is absolutely incredible and has a new gift to offer every day. I have immersed myself in the culture; speaking the language, eating the (unbelievable) food, going to family homes for a Sunday Paella, exploring the streets of the city, & adventuring to the many wonders Spain has to offer. This truly is not just a place to visit, but a place to live. And for me personally, a place to learn and develop as I desire to grow as a player”.


Daniel Leyson, Head Coach UC Davis

Barcelona offers the best of both worlds when it comes to travel and water polo. All of the best teams in Spain are in the Barcelona area which enables any visiting team to train with a wide variety of high level clubs. And Barcelona is one of the best cities in the world with great tourist attractions, food, and night life!”


Quim Colet, Head Coach CN Sabadell

“Barcelona is the city with the most water polo teams in the world (8) and, in addition, there are more than a dozen water polo clubs in its area, all of which of a very high level. Besides, 80% of the players currently at Spain’s national teams train at the High Performance Center (CAR Sant Cugat), located very close to Barcelona. The Catalan competition is clearly the most important in the world in training categories. On the other hand, Barcelona is also one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, for me one of the most wonderful cities in the world. What more can you ask for?”


From left to right: Daniel Leyson (UCLA), Quim Colet and Gavin Arroyo (LBSU)

Thacher Scannell
Keeping up with our athletes – is a new segment we have started in order to see how our athletes go on to succeed after they have experienced their time with BIWPA. We have had the privilege to stay in touch with most of our athletes and we want others to see how they reflect back on their experience as well as apply it to their current careers. Athletes discuss how BIWPA has helped shape them into the athletes they are today and as individuals both inside and out of the water. Here is Thacher Scannell’s story!


Hey Thacher, how’s it going?

Pretty good and you?


I’m good thanks! Thank you for taking the time again to have a chat with us regarding your BIWPA experience and how you are doing. I’ll first start off by asking you basic questions just so the readers know a little bit more about you. Is that fine?

Yes, that’s fine.


First things first, tell me where you live and what team you currently play for?

I currently live in Stanford, Connecticut which is in the northern-eastern part of the United States. The club I currently play for is Greenwich Aquatics which is just on the next town over. My high school team is called the, “Brunswick Bruins”, which is a private school that I go to. I am currently finishing my senior year at Brunswick.


Thacher Scannell Team

Brunswick Bruins team


Taking it a step back, when did you start to play water polo? Give us a little bit of your background with water polo.

I started playing water polo around the age of 9 or 10 and I got involved with it because of my previous club that had a swim team. I had been swimming for a while when I decided to try water polo for the first time and I really enjoyed it and I went from that.


What position do you play?

I pretty much play anywhere around the perimeter, but I don’t play the centre forward position or the goalie of course. I am also a right-handed player. I’m a lefty in terms of writing things down, but with sports and water polo, I use my right hand. Being able to use both hands for different things, I have been able to develop my lefty game too, so I am a little bit of both to be honest.


What are you taking in high school or is there anything in particular that you know you want to do in college?

We don’t really have any majors in high school, at least in my private school, I know some schools do, so we take general courses. I am pretty interested in the sciences and working with money and stuff. I may want to be a banker or go into the banking industry one day. I am still unsure.


Have you started to apply to some colleges yet?

We are looking various schools that have water polo programs, but also with swimming, so my parents and I are looking at those. However, the deadline isn’t until a couple of weeks so we haven’t applied quite yet.


Do you have some specific in mind for water polo?

Although I might be going to college for swimming, for water polo, I have been talking to Pomona College in Claremont, California. It is part of their five-school system there. They also have one of the USA men’s national team coaches there as their head coach, Alex Rodriguez, so that would be a great learning experience for me.


Do you also swim at the same time that you play water polo?

Yeah, it depends on the season that I focus on mainly. In the fall, I usually focus on water polo and in the winter time, it is swimming. In the spring time, it is a mix of both, but summer it really depends on what is happening. The polo season only runs in the fall so it ends up working out.


For swimming, do you specialize in certain strokes?

Primarily long-distance freestyle and butterfly.


That is very cool that you are following water polo or potentially swimming all the way through your college years. You will have a great time Thacher!

Going back now to BIWPA, how did you come about finding it?

It was kind of my mom who found the program in Barcelona. She wanted me to go to Spain to play water polo, apart from learning Spanish, so we just decided to go. It was really easy to find all the necessary info that we needed and you guys were really helpful in making the process simple.


When was the first time you found out about this?

First time I went to BIWPA was when I had finished 8th grade. It was the summer of 2014.


How many times did you come to BIWPA and what program did you do exactly?

I came to Barcelona twice consecutively. The first time was for a summer camp I did in 2014 right in the summer of me heading into high school and the summer I also did a national training camp back in the US. The second summer was also a camp in 2015 and I got the chance to play with Club Natació Rubi. It was great to get some playing experience with them and I learned a lot.


Thacher Scannell

Thacher, during one of the Summer Camps in Barcelona


What would you say was the best thing you liked about BIWPA?

Well water polo wise, the most favourite thing I did was being able to hang out with kids from everywhere. It was cool because you didn’t know them at first, so you’d be shooting randomly with these other kids not knowing who they were, but as practices progressed and you started to know them, you would become close friends with them. You guys did a great job in the pool with team chemistry because you could see how each of us would improve and acclimated to each other’s type of play pretty quick. For the non-water polo part, I like that I still talk to people from BIWPA, and this is 3 years ago that I first met them. It was with other players that I went to the beach with, played volleyball with, and had beach soccer matches. It was the whole experience (water polo and non-water polo) parts that really made us make those connections.


Did you feel that some skills or other things you learned from BIWPA, you were able to apply it to your game play in the US?

Oh yes definitely! So, a couple of things that I learned was moving around the defender to steal the ball. The way I learned to steal the ball at BIWPA’s camps, the US didn’t have to teach me, they just told me to do it. I felt great knowing that I already knew how to do it from learning it at BIWPA and especially that it was something that the US told me after 3 years I had been in Barcelona. Basically, they were kind of behind the ball vs. BIWPA and a lot of the other skills I learnt from BIWPA I was also able to teach some of the other kids from around here, which they really appreciated as well.


Do you remember who your BIWPA coaches were and do you recall something important they said that really stuck with you?

Yes, Enric Carnella was the coach for my first year, and then my Rubi coach was Ferran. Cristina although wasn’t a coach, was very helpful with things we did around there. Yuri was also my coach at that time as well! Something that stuck with me that a coach said wasn’t necessarily a quote or anything, but more rather criticism. At Rubi, there was a coach that thought I was fooling around when I didn’t think I was. He did yell at me and having this experience really made me take the game more seriously. It bothered me in a constructive way because I knew I wasn’t fooling around even though he thought I was and It really made me work harder and pay attention more at a younger age which would help my progress as an athlete later down the road.


You recently played in the Junior Olympics in the US, how was that and how was your experience?

It was good, it was my down year, meaning next year I will be older for the 18U category. My Greenwich Aquatics team didn’t do so well but we have gotten bronze and gold in previous years.


Thacher Scannell JOs

Thacher Scannell, with his team at the 2017 Junior Olympics


What would you say is the main difference between Spanish water polo and American water polo?

I would say physicality. Just comparing it to scrimmaging, in Spain, the physicality is more graceful, whereas in the US, physicality is used with brute force. In Spain, it is more about fines punching people, where we go above the water in America. This also happens a fair amount.


Are there any water polo players that you look up to?

In the States, there are two guys that I look up to. The first played in Greenwich Aquatics when I was 10, and since I didn’t have a team, I played with the 12 and under team. His name was Thomas Dunstan whom later went on to play in the Rio Olympics and it was a pretty big deal as it was the first guy to ever do that from our club. The second guy was Charlie Allens. He was always nice to me growing up and taught me a lot of things about water polo and he now plays at Harvard.


What does Thacher miss the most about BIWPA?

There are a couple of things I miss. First, the place where we played was really cool. It had a beautiful pool and their installations were amazing. I miss the coaches a lot too because they were really helpful and really nice. Even if you didn’t speak Spanish, they would try their best to speak English. It was also great to learn from a wide range of people that you aren’t used to before, so learning water polo was fun!


Would you recommend BIWPA to other people?

I have actually recommended BIWPA to other people and two of my friends actually came. People ask me all the time about my experience with Spain and how it was and I tell them that it was really fun and I tell them to go. It will be a great learning life and water polo experience for everyone.


Lastly, do you see yourself coming back to Spain any time soon or after college?

Yeah, I might be coming back by Christmas time to play for Rubi again and then depending on how college search goes, I might be going for a longer period of time. I might also try and do a gap year in between my freshman year and after I graduate from high school and play in Spain.


Well Thacher, I wish you all the very best and I hope your search for colleges goes well. Thank you for taking the time to talk to us.

Thank you. It was my pleasure.