My life and water polo
October 30, 2020
In accordance with the age-old traditions of American boyhood, I spent many of my youngest years participating in a variety of organized sports. Like so many others, my athletic life began on the little league diamond, and while I cherish several memories from my participation in America’s great pastime, my 8-year old self came to lose interest. In the few years that followed, in my search for a new athletic endeavor, I found myself on the basketball court, practicing my spiral in the backyard, and even on the soccer field for a single, regrettable day. Nothing seemed to fit. As all my friends and peers seemed to settle into sports and hobbies that they have since continued to pursue for years, I began to feel as though I was running out of options. On a whim, and at the recommendation of a family friend, I took my first plunge into the pool. I enjoyed the experience, but just purely swimming was far from exciting enough to captivate my young, minimal attention span. The same family friend then recommended that my parents allow me to try water polo. At that point in time, I had no understanding of what the sport was; I had never even heard of it before. But with a strong willingness to experiment, I attended my first practice with an open mind. I left that practice with bloodshot eyes crying from the chlorine. My arms hung lifelessly at my sides, far too sore to even eat my dinner without trembling. The trek up the stairs to my bedroom was made to feel like a marathon as I dragged my numb, lead-filled legs. I had never been so drained, taxed, utterly exhausted by a sport. From that moment on, I was addicted.
For several years, I continued to play for my local club team. I was content with the time that I spent practicing, competing, and enjoying a routine reprieve from my academic and home responsibilities. However, slowly but continually, I found this consistent plateau of difficulty and competition to be unfulfilling. Somewhere along the way, I had lost the drive, the fire lit beneath me that pushed me past boundaries that I had never thought I could cross. As more and more teammates of mine left the club to compete with higher level teams, the aspects of camaraderie and friendship forged in common struggle were lost as well. I was merely going through the motions. What was my purpose anymore? What motivated me to take the plunge night after night? I no longer knew, and thus I had to seek it out.
My final year at my local club was defined by the loss of some of my closest and most talented teammates as well as loss in competition. I grew reluctant and resentful. I was no longer ecstatic to put my school work away and excitedly rush to practice. Water polo had become an obligation instead of a motivating passion. Were it not for one of the greatest and most encouraging coaches that I have ever had, I likely would have quit the sport altogether. He recognized my potential and pushed me harder than ever before, even as my reluctance to strive replaced my previously intense motivation. At his advice and the will of my parents, I entered the Olympic Development Program for my first year. Filled with nervousness and a lack of surety in my ability to compete against some of the best players in the country, I timidly meandered through my first camp. After avoiding challenge by self-handicapping and limiting myself, I was wrought with disappointment in myself. I had entered the sport in search of adversity to overcome and challenging competition that would drive me to better myself. Where had I gone wrong? What had I become? From this disappointing epiphany, a newfound drive was born. I was determined to excel and improve beyond the means that I was given. This motivation began to snowball, reinforced by my success competing against the players that I had once believed to be beyond my realm of capabilities. That was the first year that I was a part of the national team for my age group. I had put myself through a series of rigorous challenges, plagued by doubt at every step along the way, and I had proven to myself that I was capable of more than I was settling for. The fire was reignited.
Entering high school I was more committed to my sport than ever. My first high school season was a unique experience. While I enjoyed training and playing with my teammates, the level of competition was different than that to which I was accustomed. Over my years on our school’s water polo team, we have had our share of struggles with injuries, players quitting the team, changes in coaching staff and more. Though so many components of our game, including our success, were uncertain, that which has always remained constant for me is my drive to extend my boundaries and my love of the team atmosphere. Now, having won several national championships, competed for the national team, won one of the only water polo league titles in school history, and parted ways with some of my greatest friends, I enter my final high school season filled with hope and drive in the face of even greater uncertainty. In times of immense struggle, when that which we may have taken for granted is no longer a certainty, I find it imperative to have that internal drive to rely upon.
With an opportunity to potentially win the first water polo California Interscholastic Federation championship in school history, our team is in a position to not only reinstate an integral and healthy part of our everyday lives that many of us have been missing as of late, but also to be a part of brotherhood, to be a part of school history. I owe a lot to water polo. I can say with absolute surety that without it, I would not be who I am today. From my experience, I have learned to brave new horizons without fear, to challenge myself to go beyond what I think myself capable of, and to commit myself to something greater than myself. I would implore anyone to seek out that which can offer them the same.