Five Photos, Five Stories. Day 2: Water Polo

I was recently nominated by my fellow Stay At Home Dad and Dad Blogger friend R.C., who writes at Going Dad, to participate in a challenge called Five Photos, Five Stories, in which I post a photo and story (fiction or non-fiction) daily for five consecutive days. (Note: I had good intentions to do a post on five consecutive days but I chose time with my kids and sleep over blogging. And I’m okay with that.) It sounded like something that would be a fun to share with my loyal readers here on my blog. If you would like to be nominated please leave a comment below and I would be happy to oblige.

Day Two: Water Polo

Back in mid-March I wrote a post about how proud I was of my second daughter, E, for her hard work to improve her water polo skills from her freshman to her sophomore year. It was written right after her first game of the season in which she happened to also score her first-ever goal on a sweet shot from the left side. E went on to become a starter for the majority of the games on her JV team and I was fortunate enough to be in attendance for almost every game. I watched her grow in strength, speed and confidence into one of the key contributors on her team. She worked hard and listened to her coach and kept a positive attitude throughout the season. Her team won all but a couple of games and E ended up scoring about 10 goals but also made many assists and played physical defense, often frustrating opposing girls with her long arms (it doesn’t hurt that her daddy’s arm-span is over 7 feet long). I watched with a lot of pride and contentment seeing her take on some leadership within the team while keeping away from most of the drama. Water polo definitely dominated our family calendar for the months of March and April. The regular season came to an end in early May and all that remained on the schedule was the JV State Tournament on May 9th.

E reaching save

The long arm of the law minding the net at JV State.

As the regular season came to an end E’s coach announced that the JV goalie would be playing on the Varsity team so she would not be available for the JV Tournament. Since E had spelled the goalie a couple of times during the regular season her coach asked E to take over that spot at the upcoming tournament. E wasn’t particularly happy about that request as she was looking forward to continuing her strong play in the field. She and I talked about it quite a bit that week before state and I convinced her that playing in the goal would be a great help to her team even though that meant having to sacrifice her personal stats for the good of the team. She wasn’t 100% on board with that but, to her credit, she told the coach that she would play wherever she was told/asked to play. She did communicate that she would enjoy some time in the field, if at all possible. It made me really proud to see her embrace something that wasn’t exactly what she wanted because it was the right thing to do as a teammate.

E’s team played the first game of the tournament and she was in goal to start. She played well although, to be honest, the defense in front of her was stout, only allowing a handful of shots, none of which found the back of the net, thanks to E. Her coach switched her out of goal in the second half as her team cruised to a victory. The same thing happened in the second game, although E allowed one goal before switching out into the field for the second half. Interestingly enough, the girl who replaced E in goal in the first two games had never played as a goalie prior to that day. While she gave a great effort, she did allow a few goals. I commented to my wife after the second game how much better E’s team looked and played when E was in the goal. I bit my tongue and didn’t interfere or suggest to E that she should stay goalie for the whole game. Yet, that’s exactly what happened in the third and final game of the “pool” play. E stayed in goal the entire game. She made a few nice saves and ended up with a clean sheet, meaning a shutout! Are you kidding me? Shutouts are not that common in JV water polo (Until this one I had not seen one in the two seasons E had been on the team), but to do it at the State Tournament? Clutch.

The championship game went roughly the same as the others as E’s team jumped out to an early lead, played suffocating defense and the won the title 10-2 against one of their biggest rivals in the area.  As the final horn sounded I was able to see E’s face and it was pure joy. After the post-game handshakes between teams, E’s team received medals for their accomplishment and the smile on her face stretched from ear to ear. As I gave her a hug and congratulated her she told me that she had asked her coach to stay in goal for the second half of the last two games instead of switching out into the field. I was stunned, because I knew how much she had wanted to be in the field. Yet, it also made me even more proud of her for putting her team ahead of herself. It showed a maturity beyond her 15 years that will serve her well as she continues on in sports and life. I look forward to her final two seasons of high school water polo.

Note: A few days ago I took part in a “men’s masters” water polo at E’s high school pool after receiving an invite from the varsity coach. Holy cow! So much more respect for what the athletes go through to play water polo. I mean, I knew that they’re constantly swimming and that I’m NOT a swimmer (I know how, but I’m not one) and that I’ve never played the sport before. I think I made it up and down the pool three or four times before I needed to sub back out. In that short time during the first game I did, however, manage to take AND MAKE! a shot on goal. (Beginner’s luck!) I played most of the second game in goal before my knee cramped up and I was done for the night. I learned that I’m not a water polo player and gained a whole new level of respect for the strength, skill and conditioning of the athletes.

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