“What in the world is underwater hockey???” you’re probably wondering. Right? I don’t blame you – it’s right up there with cheese rolling and ferret legging as one of the world’s weirdest sporting events!
Underwater hockey is a game where two teams of six battle on the floor of a pool to knock a hockey puck into a goal. The hockey puck is weighted so it stays on the bottom – and it’s the goal of the players to spend as much time on the bottom – in play – as possible.
(Players train both to hold their breath longer and to quickly grab a breath while getting back down to the bottom quickly. They wear snorkels, diving masks, and fins – and teams are apparent by the colors of their sticks and caps.)
Still not picturing it? Take a look at the championship bout at last weekend's CanAm Midwestern Championships:
What’s fascinating to me about this sport – besides it being tons of fun to play – is how the game began as an innovative solution to a snorkeling club’s problem!
The whole story reminds me of “PO”, one of innovation guru Edward de Bono’s creativity techniques.
“PO” is a tactic where you take a statement that leads to a dead end, and then revise it to figure out ways to move forward.
Still unclear? Let me teach you about this technique through underwater hockey’s creation story.
Almost 60 30 years ago, a new snorkeling club in England found themselves facing a vexing situation. They had just spent all summer attracting new members to their club – and then it became too cold outside to actually go snorkeling!
Not surprisingly, interest in the club quickly waned. Plus, members who stuck with the club during the winter got out of shape and lost significant lung capacity because they weren’t motivated to work as hard in a boring pool as in the open (and much more interesting) water!
So, the snorkeling club's dead-end statement was “Our members don’t want to snorkel in a pool."
Is that statement true? Absolutely. But it leads right to a dead end. There's no point in coming up with ideas for snorkeling in the pool because everyone already knows their members won't like them.
In the creation story of underwater hockey though, several leaders of the snorkeling club decided that they wanted to push beyond that dead end. So they challenged themselves with the statement “PO: Our members look forward to snorkeling in a pool.”
(Let’s all imagine they added the word “PO”.)
As a result, this avenue of thought is no longer closed off and they have permission to think of ideas for snorkeling in a pool.
Then, the snorkeling club members could start coming up with ideas for fun things they could do in a pool to get their members excited about strapping on their snorkels and spending time holding their breath underwater in the winter.
And thus underwater hockey was born!
Today, underwater hockey is played all over the world. Local clubs scrimmage regularly, with teams in over 30 countries and dozens of clubs in the US alone. And every 2 years, the best players compete to represent their countries at the World competition.
All because a new snorkeling club in England said “[PO] Let’s figure out a way to make our members want to go snorkeling in a pool in the winter.”
Cool, huh? Lateral Thinking definitely leads to fun possibilities!