US National Men's Team Coach
US Team Won the Silver Medal in the 2008 Olympics
This month, I have decided to write about why people play this game. I think it is a very good exercise for all of us to step back once in awhile and ask ourselves that question. Why am I doing this? The answer can help to keep you focused on why you are working so hard (or perhaps why you need to work a bit harder). Water Polo is an amazing team sport and as I have searched for my why on many occasions, I find the same answers keep coming to me. Let me begin with my “why” or my purpose for playing or now for coaching.
First and foremost, I love this game! It is a fun team sport and I have enjoyed being a part of it for so many years. Whether it has been in the pool or on the pool deck – I have had over three decades of fun in this sport. It has brought me great joy and fulfilled me on many levels. No doubt there are times when it has been very challenging and hard to even get through a workout. And these days it is a big strain to try to keep everything in balance as I coach, see my patients at my chiropractic office and spend as many hours as I can with my wife and daughters. Some how there is a balance to be found in the imbalance. Being out on the pool deck with these guys to me is like spending time with my extending family. We work super hard and there are days when I go home very frustrated after a difficult workout or a confrontation with one of my players but the bottom line is that I enjoy the team and the sport itself. There is no way that I would be spending so much time and energy for all these years if I did not enjoy it.
The next reason for me is that it is challenging. Water polo has provided me the opportunity to challenge myself to reach new heights in my life as an athlete and a coach. Everyday is an opportunity to learn and grow and become better. This should be the case whether you are an Olympic hopeful or a novice player. Work hard to learn and improve not only as an athlete but as a human being. The sport is filled with valuable life lessons. In my opinion, as you learn to be a better team mate – you learn to function better in the world. This happens by learning what it takes to be successful as a team. All great achievements in life are the result of a team working together to accomplish something. I have learned about setting goals, being self disciplined, playing a role on a team, using my time wisely, how to deal with winning and losing and how to be a leader to name just a few of the valuable life lessons that water polo has taught me over the years. I believe that each of us - deep within as the desire to become the best we can become. Sometimes with the day to day jobs we lose track of that desire and we just work for a paycheck but sport is different. Each season provides a clean slate and an opportunity for growth and improvement. The Olympic Games to me are the ultimate challenge. To become the best that you can become on the biggest stage in the world is an incredible opportunity. Sure there is pressure and many crack under that weight. However, keeping it all in perspective and realizing that in the end what is most important is being able to look ourselves in the mirror and honestly say to ourselves that we did our best is all we can do. That was an important lesson I learned from my dad - when you have done your best you should be happy. We are not going to win every game (although we can try to) but we should attempt to prepare and perform at our best each and every day. This becomes a habit and caries over to everything that you do in life. Giving your best should become part of your daily routine. Water polo has blessed me with this important lesson. I have learned much about myself through water polo and I am thanking for that.
Finally, I have played and coached for all these years because I absolutely crave being a part of a team. This is a sport that requires great team work to be successful. I have learned much through the years about working with others. There is great joy in helping your team be successful. In fact, as Team USA prepares for the Olympic Games - one of the key factors in our success will be how well we learn to sacrifice for each other. If we can get to the point, where each one of our guys wants that gold medal for his team mate as much or even more than for themselves than we will have a chance. We will have no chance if we are a bunch of individuals. We learn to love, trust and respect each other for who they are. We are all different and unique but we need each other and one persons strength will often overcome another’s weakness. So we cover for one another and together we become strong and powerful. Most of all, I have enjoyed the friendships and the relationships with my team mates and with my athletes. There are not too many opportunities like this in life where you get to dedicate and spend hours on end with a group of team mates that are fully committed to reaching a goal together. The opportunity is there to build powerful relationships that last a lifetime. A few years back we had a reunion for our 1984 Olympic team. After 25 years that connection that each of us still felt with one another was powerful. During our reunion, each one of the guys commented that being a part of the Olympic team was so special because of the friendships that they had made with each other. We (human beings) all crave close connections with others and water polo certainly provides each of us with that opportunity. In my opinion, everything we do in life revolves around a team. Family is team and each of us can help our team to function in a healthy way and become more successful. When we get out into the workplace – we will be part of a team and we will have to play our role to help the team. Water polo has taught me much about being a good team mate. I hope that I will always use those lessons to help my team mates be more successful. For I know that when I help others become more successful, I will usually benefit greatly too.
Team USA is training very hard right now. We have just completed our tenth week of full-time training. All of our guys are home from Europe and we are enjoying the process of getting ready. We are working hard but there are smiles and even some laughter. We are having fun doing what we love. There are challenges - we are pushing these guys to the max and we have had some illness and injury. We are finding out how far we can push them. We (the coaches) want them in the best shape of their lives come July. It will not be easy but I believe that each one of these guys sees the value in that challenge and knows that great things in life do not come easy. No one here is afraid of hard work. As an athlete and a coach, we need that challenge to be content. And although there may be confrontation and conflict with team mates - this process of coming together as a team is powerful. In the end, that will be the measure of our success.
I hope that you have enjoyed this month’s article. As always feel free to email me if you have any questions or comments at email@example.com.
See you at the pool.
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