Teamwork, commitment, goals, success

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(Courtesy photo/Linda Welz)

The start of my freshman year, at a new school and not knowing a single student, was terrifying. Going from a small, private, Christian elementary school and middle school to a public high school was going to be a life changer. I wasn’t a very social person and making friends was going to be a challenge for me. My mom told me the easiest way to make friends and feel like a part of something was to join a sport and get involved so, that is exactly what I did.

I was never the athletic type and did not want to be the laughing stock of a sports team. Regardless of my fears, I took the risk and joined water polo. I instantly fell in love with being in the water and working out as a team. I was not the best, but I had a positive attitude and learned quickly. I made amazing friends that always kept me laughing and excited to go to practice. As a freshman, water polo taught me how to manage my time and stay dedicated to things I had committed to doing. Having to wake up at 5:30 every morning before school to jump into the freezing depths of the school pool gave me discipline, and taught me to breathe and swim through the hard times. The most memorable thing for me as a freshman was seeing all the seniors play in league games. I idolized them as they swam through the pool with amazing speed, and shot the ball in the goal with an immense amount of power. They always seemed so in-sync with one another and so aware of their surroundings. I was inspired to play like them by the time I was a senior. Little did I know, I had just set one of the biggest, toughest goals of my high school career.

I worked hard on JV my freshman year, and by my sophomore year I was on the varsity team, practicing with the varsity coach. The season was long and difficult, and by the end I was glad it was over. I had not reached my goal of playing like one of “those seniors” but I was not stressed because I knew I still had one more year to improve. Then I found out our coach was quitting.

Going into my junior year without a coach was a horrible experience. My team was falling apart and playing like one of “those seniors” I had idolized so much seemed almost impossible. Before the season started, a new coach was hired and we managed, along with the help from our new coach, to pull our team back together. I earned most-improved my junior year thanks to our coach, and was on my way to being captain of the team my senior year. I was stoked and knew that with a little more work and help from my coach I could achieve my freshman goal of playing like one of “those seniors,” and be captain. Devastation hit when my team and I found out our coach was leaving to take a job at another school by the end of the summer. He had rallied us and brought the team together while he was with us. Sadly, once again my team and I were left wondering who would coach us and when for the second year in a row. I felt my goal sinking below the surface.

The 2014/15 season was my final year of high school, my senior year, the year I planned to achieve my goal. Not everything had gone as planned but going through constant, crashing waves of team drama, and new coaches, taught me to just keep swimming through the rough waters. I suddenly realized that I was one of “those seniors” that everyone looked up to. Sure, maybe I was not as good of a player as the ones I had idolized, but I still had younger girls looking up to me. Seeing this made me realize that I had indeed reached my goal. I was fast, strong, and good at water polo and I did not need to be one of “those seniors.” I was a senior in my own right who had younger girls looking up to me for advice and help.

I didn’t know what the future season held or what our new coach would be like but I did know that I reached my goal. I couldn’t wait for the new season, my senior season. I was still going to work hard and improve as much as I could but I knew that I didn’t need to compare myself to “those seniors” anymore.

This experience has helped me grow into a young, confident adult and become my own person. I am proud of the challenges I conquered, the friends I gained, and the person I have become. Water polo is a life journey I will never forget.

(NOTE: In spite of having a new coach each year, Welz and her teammates remained the undefeated, varsity girl’s water polo team in the Sunbelt League through her four years at TCHS, where she was co-captain of the team her senior year.)