For me, I have a special group of girls that lift my spirits even when I am indeed sinking in woes. I have my water polo team, or what I would like to call, my family. It's a typical white girl athlete thing to say, but these girls are actually family to me. Let me expand and show you all the love that I am surrounded by.
My team is not as skilled as most of the other teams in Division I water polo. Southern California is where Olympic water polo players are bred. Like no joke, I have played against girls who are currently on the national team. (I made one of them look like a fool with a garbage goal that I managed to score ☺️). So basically, we are in a very competitive area. It makes it difficult to rebuild a team and keep spirits up when you are constantly losing. But the worst is when other teams are laughing at how horrible you are. Or when the announcer(not naming names) is literally hashtagging out loud your opponents awesomeness and broadcasting that you and your team are practically laughing stocks. Honestly, those are the breaking moments, especially for me.
What on earth could make me even continue playing when things like this happen? Well, my team is the only reason I still play. This years group of girls is the best team I have ever played with. We aren't very good and I have played with better teams, but this team is my all-time favorite. And I love them with all of my heart.
We are the Frankenstein's monsters of Division I water polo. We lie on the outskirts of success, but right on the target for a perfect team. A perfect team does not have a perfect record; they have companionate love for one another and are all striving to improve in ways that they had never even thought possible. At a sports conference, I heard a quote that really struck home with me (a former UCLA softball player presented it to us). She said, "It's easy to play on a winning team, but to be a true athlete is to play on a losing team and accept that you played your absolute hardest and lost." My team is experienced in losing, but you will never see us able to walk properly after a game. We play our hardest the entire game through, and I am sure of it. We are a team of athletes according to this quote. Not many other teams are, nor are they as close as us.
Our team bond is probably the weirdest thing out there. Very rarely do we quarrel. We stick up for each other when needed and we support each other with love, compassion, and dedication. And we are the weirdest people around! I am proud to call these girls my teammates and my sisters. No matter what, I can count on them to help me in anyway that I need. I hope that for all of them, they see me as their crazy big sister. I hope I am giving them everything that they need to improve and thrive in this world. Because they are providing me with so much more than they know. They give me an outlet. They give me a safe place. They give me love. They give me the hiccups because they make me laugh hysterically. I love these girls and would do anything for them.
I don't think very many athletes can say that about their teams. Within most teams, there is competition to be the best and I think that increases tensions and decreases closeness. On some teams, people are much too concerned with their own play that they forget that in order to be better, the rest of their team has to improve as well. And it is an easier task to improve a team when everyone is helping each other. Some people see their teams as temporary and don't desire to even become a part of their team, which I do not get. If you're gonna be a part of something, you must give it your all. Competition between teams might make teams too focused on the game and forget that they need to be a team, not just a group of athletes with a common goal. This is my opinion on other teams being not as great and close as mine and my opinion might not be valid and that's ok.
So my team is my family. I actually just led a team meeting where we discussed what our family means to us and how we can improve. I think it was a successful meeting, if I do say so myself. I believe our chat brought us even closer than we were before.
My coach tells us before each game that what the scoreboard says doesn't matter, and that she only wants us to improve and implement what we have been working on. That's the only mind set we can have when we play nationally ranked teams each week. The only way I can come out of these games and feel good is by looking at my team and at how far they have come. Each one of them have improved immensely from the beginning of season and I couldn't be prouder. They can frustrate the hell out of me in a game, but I know they are doing their best and learning from their mistakes as I learn from mine own. I rarely see them look discouraged before, during, or after a game. They are all so positive and life affirming that they could make the sun shine in the dead of night. I can't believe how lucky I am to have a team that I can consider my family. I wish I was a better, more eloquent writer so that I could properly glorify them. They make me so happy and I am going to miss them so much next year.