“Consistency is key and working on technique in a boat is a worth while investment”

Interview with British canoe polo athlete Matthew Fletcher

By Tom Noble | outfitsport.co.uk

  • Name: Matthew Fletcher
  • Age: 26
  • Location: Dewsbury, West Yorkshire
  • Work: Rhenus Logistics Ltd
  • Education: Durham University
  • Club: Pennine CRC, previously Tees Tigers CC

Tell us a little bit about your Canoe Polo career

I first started water sports when I was around 12 years old, I remember it was a typical summer holiday where my brother and I complained about being too bored as all kids do.  The solution was to send us to the local water sports centre where I took up sailing and then kayaking. A few years later I started playing very basic polo with Tees Tigers CC and as the years passed we just ticked over not playing real polo as I would see it today, until around 2007 when we suddenly for many reason began to discover more of what polo really is and the club boomed as did my training and ability.

I would say I am an all round player having played in pretty much every role in a team to a high level, except goal keeping of course! That’s just not my thing by any means.

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I would say that speed is most potent strength on the pitch and I think if you were to ask people my style of play they would say high movement and fluidity. As for what really happens I am not so sure, I was referred to as the James Milner of Canoe Polo, but you’d have to tell me if you think that’s aa good thing or not.

Where do you usually play?

I train in Dewsbury, on the Calder or in the pool there ‘The Dewsbury Sauna of Canoe Polo’ as I am sure everyone who has trained or played there will agree.

Competition wise I compete across Europe in the summer season with the national team and my club team (Pennine A).  League wise we compete in national Div1 as well as Yorkshire Region Div1 and North West Region Div1.

Congrats on the ranking at the worlds! It looked like an amazing event from back here in the UK, how was it out there?

Sicily was such an amazing location for the championships the heat was somewhat challenging to play in, but the biggest reservation was the salt water but it wasn’t too bad and we got use to it quickly.

The atmosphere at the event was really good, the finals were something else though!  I am sure people have seen some pictures but it was the closest thing to a stadium I have ever seen.  Crowds on all sides, chants, songs the works and our U21 Men thrived on it in their final!

I have been to several championships and for finals day Sicily smashed expectation which had been set very high from Thury-Harcourt 2 years previous.

As the Mens team we finished the highest we have in the last 8 years or so which was a real achievement with such a young team. We were very unlucky to miss out on a World Games place which won’t come back round for another 3 years.

I think the biggest difficulty posed by the event being in Sicily was the cost and facility options, we ended up sending our boats in a van on a cruise to get there which was tough training with just left over kit leading up to the champs, but this is quite normal for championships which are further afield as anyone who has tried flying boats its pricey and there’s no hope of all the boats going on one flight!

The weather is starting to get a bit nicer which means that summer tournaments are almost here! Which ones are you going to be heading to this year and which one is your favourite?

Tournaments wise I am doing pretty much something each weekend, already done Pas De Calais with the GB team to shake of the winter cobwebs where we finished second.

I always focus on foreign tournaments due to the quality of the competitions and the opposition.  I remember always entering higher divisions as we thought better to be play against by better teams than to spark worse teams, which is a long term view that I still stand by.  Push yourself would be my advice it really brings on your game.

Favourite tournament is a tough one I like a lot of them but Essen 4s really was good fun I’ve only been once but loved it for the variety and pace of the game.

How do you stay in great shape all year round? What’s your training like?

I think consistency is key and working on technique in a boat is a worth while investment, off the water is easy, run a bit or other high heart rate (HR) sessions and a few heavy strength sessions a week, you need to be smashing those chin and pull ups for sure.

In a boat depends on your weaknesses but again HR is key, combined with good technique to develop speed. Also get the ball out and work on passing and catching without those fundamental skills being constantly improved strength and speed mean very little in our sport.

What’s your preferred kit?

Well I have tried some samples of your Outfitsport kit and the dry land stuff is really nice my crew neck gets some serious abuse.  Also have some Tog24 club kit in the form of outdoor jackets, which are unreal and not too expensive meaning no need to be precious with them when at canoeing weekends.

Boat wise Jem-Racing is my boat of choice, my advice would be try boats and try lots when you looking to buy, build up the courage and ask people most will let you try, if you would like to try a west polo boat or Jem-Racing one hit me up.

Blades G-Powers are my favourites and what I use currently, I use a CPS shaft though as I like it to be rock solid like a metal bar, although flex isn’t a bad thing, I just prefer none.

In terms of clothing I use a whole range of kit, my top picks are:

  • Adidas base-layers as a lycra
  • Shooting sleeves from amazon to protect my elbows
  • Helly Hansen Thermals
  • Galaport Spray-deck
  • Hiko Cag-deck, The Cag & deck combo is the way forward!
  • Peak UK strides for shorts
  • Triboard rubber shoes, I hate putting on wet neoprene shoes.

What’s next for you?

Goals are to qualify for the European Club Championships though finishing top 2 in the National League with Pennine.  National team wise focus is set on the European Championships in St-Omer this August, for those who want to see what a championships is like it’s never going to be closer only 30minutes from the ferry!

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