The Dawning of the Age of Champions

Joan Gould
Water Polo Planet

Over the past 3 weeks, we were introduced to the dynamics of teamwork as our women’s team continued their Olympian successes and our men’s team obliterated our fond but modest expectations.  Each morning, we dashed to our computers to check the overnight scores and results as our men’s and women’s teams drove home Terry Schroeder’s belief in the importance of teamwork.  

Hopefully, each and every one of us will take a lesson from this group of outstanding individuals who, against all odds and with little financial support, coalesced into a team and brought pride to our sport and our community. Let’s confess… each one of us screamed, yelled, gave high fives to the dog and colorfully cursed the referees with our noses glued to the computer screen in the MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT as we drew inspiration and self respect from this group of unforeseen heroes.  

Teamwork: The success of one is the success of all… The failure of one leads to failure for all.

My 12th grade history teacher, Mr. Pratt, first introduced me to the vicissitudes of teamwork. "I've divided you into groups of four," he announced. "Research the Marshall Plan and make a presentation. Everyone on your team will get the same grade."

Everyone gets the same grade? Oh MAN…Even Fingers Richter, football star and academic idiot, whose only contribution was appointing himself captain of my team? Yes. Even Pamela Smith, whose reading habits begin and end with the instruction label on her shampoo bottle? Yes. Even ME, who would now be faced with the choice between carrying these morons or sinking to their level? Yes.

Like Terry Schroeder, faced with a dysfunctional team less than 1 year before the Olympics, I'll bet each of you have had to make the same choice yourself at one time or another.

As we come down from our Olympic highs, I challenge each one of you to take a minute to look at the benefits of us all working as a team…not only for selfish reasons, but to further the popularity of and participation in, our sport…and along the way, each of us becoming a reflection of our National Teams…WINNERS. This is a look that each one of us needs to take as we enter a new era…The USA Water Polo Age of Champions.

We are a small sport…most of us personally know a member of the Olympic team(s), a member of the USAWP office or our own zone chair. Most of us have, at one time or another, volunteered to work a table, do a scoresheet or help our club run an event. These activities put each one of us in direct contact with USAWP which carries both positive and negative consequences; it makes each one of us a self proclaimed “Expert” and requires USAWP to treat each one of us as personal contributors. This sword cuts both ways…it provides a large volunteer base but requires more effective communication from the top down.

Let’s take a minute to look at the successes USA Water Polo has made over the past 3 years:

I am the first one to admit that there have been some bumps in the road. The radical changes made in 2006 have caused all of us some angst along the way…but overall, our NGB has made positive strides.  Speak to any professional manager and they will tell you that more positive and forward steps are possible if we each consider the value of teamwork and work together to help our sport grow and membership expand.  As Andrew Carnegie remarked “Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” In a recent conversation with USA Water Polo’s CEO, Chris remarked “None of our successes would have happened without the passion and commitment of the water polo community, which is unparalleled.

So can we work together? Sure. Are we WILLING to is another story. As we enter the Dawn of the Age of Champions together, I am challenging each one of you to take ownership for performing just ONE MORE act of support for the greater good. One more act of support in return for the excitement and pride that our National Teams gave us a short week ago.

Most of us are involved in USAWP to promote our sport for our kids, spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend or relative. Helping USA Water Polo will help make the sport and the organization strong and along the way, make your own member part of a larger, more vibrant organization.

To USAWP, I issue a challenge: Over the past few days, I have had conversations with many people within the organization and have asked them to name ONE thing that USA Water Polo can do better. The overwhelming response was “communication” ie: Pick up the phone, return my calls or emails.

As the membership gives, we challenge the organization to reciprocate in this small way to foster trust and reconciliation.

For our part…as part of our Free DVD program, Water Polo Planet will send out Free DVD’s of the 2008 Olympics to anyone who asks…all we ask in return is for each recipient to send a check for whatever they can afford to the Mens or Womens National Team program of their choice…

Remember -- sometimes the best way to look out for yourself is to take one for the team…and I am sure you all agree that this team of ours makes any giving a worthwhile effort.