I have been playing water polo since I was in the seventh grade. I started playing when my CYO basketball team was cut because not enough girls signed up. I was looking for a sport to play during the fall season.
I had never heard about water polo until a family friend said, "You're a strong swimmer, you should try water polo."
I was excited, but nervous when agreeing to try water polo. This is something new to me, and I did not want to make a fool of myself. I had some classmates who were playing, as well. But for the most part, I had no friends on the team.
I show up to practice and hop in the water. I did a little “head up” swimming and some warm up laps. Afterward, I learned a sliding maneuver. This practice was the beginning of many of practices and the beginning of a love story — the love story of water polo and I.
While watching the women's USA team take the gold this Olympics, I started to think what lessons I learned from water polo over the years. Lessons learned:
1. It's mental just as much as physical.
I started playing in a field player position originally, before I switched to playing goalie. What makes or breaks an athlete is their mental ability to either remain calm or have the confidence to take a shot — the ability to bounce back after making a mistake on a play, missing that block or shot.
2. It takes time for tan lines to go away.
Water polo suits and caps leave the worst tan lines, especially around the hips. These tan lines take forever to go away. The cap tan can be minimized if a player moves the cap towards the top of their hairline, but trying to avoid a water polo cap tan is a lost cause.
3. A player has to put in the effort.
With any sport, the players who spend the extra 15 minutes after practice to do an extra set are the ones who are the most successful. They are putting in the effort to becoming the best player they can be. Also, this shows a teammate and coach that as a player they are willing to go the extra mile to become a better player. People take notice, even in practice, when a player isn't giving their best effort forward.
4. You will make friends that will last a lifetime.
All the friends that you make in sports are usually like-minded people with a common interest. Water polo brought people to me who are hard working, but don’t necessarily have the same interests. I learned a lot about people skills. Also, a person bonds over counting how many scratches or bruises one player gave or received from other players. A teammates bond is like nothing else, and meeting friends along the way in such a small community is always great.
5. Have confidence in your abilities.
The players that come knowing their abilities are usually some of the better players. Players who are over confident and showy tend to be players that are not well respected by their teammates.
6. Go to every water polo clinic.
Water polo clinics are hard to come by so whenever a player gets the chance to do one take the chance. It is great exposure and sometimes you may learn some new tricks of the trade.
7. Don't be afraid to ask questions.
My coaches started to get annoyed with how many questions I would ask because I wanted to know every detail on how to drill, because I truly believe in a player practices how they play. A player needs to know those details that sometimes coaches glaze over.
I got to learn things about different parts of the countries and see things while I traveled for water polo. I've been to different museums and
9. Have fun.
Sports are suppose to be a stress release so if a player is not having fun or being somewhat passionate about the sport they are playing.
10. The sport will change you.
Water polo is a different kind of sport that requires a different kind of skill set. It requires a person to do five things at once. I learned to mature while playing this sport because a person has to be level headed especially when being a goalie while doing all these things. I learned a lot about myself with my relationships with other people. I never knew I could love or care for something just as much as person. I learned to be selfless and when to be selfish. The sport makes a player control its temper and congratulate someone even when an athlete does not feel like doing so.