10 Things I Learned from Playing Water Polo

10 Things I Learned from Playing Water Polo

Last but not least, the game will change you.

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.

8. Traveling.

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.

Cover Image Credit: Catie Berry

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The Coach That Killed My Passion

An open letter to the coach that made me hate a sport I once loved.

I fell in love with the game in second grade. I lived for every practice and every game. I lived for the countless hours in the gym or my driveway perfecting every shot, every pass and every move I could think of. Every night after dinner, I would go shoot and would not allow myself to go inside until I hit a hundred shots. I had a desire to play, to get better and to be the best basketball player I could possibly be.

I had many coaches between church leagues, rec leagues, personal coaches, basketball camps, middle school and high school. Most of the coaches I had the opportunity to play for had a passion for the game like I did. They inspired me to never stop working. They would tell me I had a natural ability. I took pride in knowing that I worked hard and I took pride in the compliments that I got from my coaches and other parents. I always looked forward to the drills and, believe it or not, I even looked forward to the running. These coaches had a desire to teach, and I had a desire to learn through every good and bad thing that happened during many seasons. Thank you to the coaches that coached and supported me through the years.

SEE ALSO: My Regrets From My Time As A College Softball Player

Along with the good coaches, are a few bad coaches. These are the coaches that focused on favorites instead of the good of the entire team. I had coaches that no matter how hard I worked, it would never be good enough for them. I had coaches that would take insults too far on the court and in the classroom.

I had coaches that killed my passion and love for the game of basketball.

When a passion dies, it is quite possibly the most heartbreaking thing ever. A desire you once had to play every second of the day is gone; it turns into dreading every practice and game. It turns into leaving every game with earphones in so other parents don't talk to you about it. It meant dreading school the next day due to everyone talking about the previous game. My passion was destroyed when a coach looked at me in the eyes and said, "You could go to any other school and start varsity, but you just can't play for me."

SEE ALSO: Should College Athletes Be Limited To One Sport?

Looking back now at the amount of tears shed after practices and games, I just want to say to this coach: Making me feel bad about myself doesn't make me want to play and work hard for you, whether in the classroom or on the court. Telling me that, "Hard work always pays off" and not keeping that word doesn't make me want to work hard either. I spent every minute of the day focusing on making sure you didn't see the pain that I felt, and all of my energy was put towards that fake smile when I said I was OK with how you treated me. There are not words for the feeling I got when parents of teammates asked why I didn't play more or why I got pulled after one mistake; I simply didn't have an answer. The way you made me feel about myself and my ability to play ball made me hate myself; not only did you make me doubt my ability to play, you turned my teammates against me to where they didn't trust my abilities. I would not wish the pain you caused me on my greatest enemy. I pray that one day, eventually, when all of your players quit coming back that you realize that it isn't all about winning records. It’s about the players. You can have winning records without a good coach if you have a good team, but you won’t have a team if you can't treat players with the respect they deserve.

SEE ALSO: To The Little Girl Picking Up A Basketball For The First Time

Cover Image Credit: Equality Charter School

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