The fight that is water polo

Water Polo is one of the sports we hear less about in the media or in every day discussions, but it’s the biggest part of some peoples’ lives.

Such is the case with CaptainU athlete Grace Reego, who recently committed to a Division 1 university in southern California, and has a wonderful story to tell about her successes and her difficulties, the fight, with her recruiting experience and her passion: water polo.

Even if you play a different sport, you’ll want to hear what she has to say about taking your game to the next level and getting yourself out there for college coaches to see.

Grace Reego Water Polo, Attacker

When did you start playing your sport? How did you decide to play your sport as opposed to another?

I started playing water polo in 6th grade, with three of my friends from school. My friend Megan and I were the only ones out of the four of us to continue water polo all the way through high school. I began the sport because my dad played in high school and in college, which led to my brother playing in high school and in college also. I watched my brother throughout his high school career and decided at age 12, in 6th grade, to try it myself, because I have been a swimmer since age 4, and it’s an easy transition from swim to polo. Ever since that fun clinic in 6th grade, I have played competitive water polo.

What do you like most about your sport?

The best part of water polo is the fight. Not necessarily the literal fighting amongst players, but the strength of heart and fortitude of mind that is required of a player when the pressure is on and shots need to be put away.

What are the biggest obstacles in your sport that you’ve overcome? How did you overcome it?

The biggest obstacle I’ve faced is the political side of water polo (and with most sports). If the people high up on the national team selection don’t know who you are, it is extremely difficult to get noticed or for your talents to shine through in the presence of so many other players. I’m in the process of overcoming this obstacle as I am in my third year with the Olympic Development Program, the USA National Team feeder program. The more I go to big tournaments and learn from great coaches, the more my name and my talents get out there.

What are the biggest obstacles in the recruitment process that you’ve encountered and/or overcome? How did you overcome it (if you did yet?)

Recruiting obstacles include capturing a coach’s attention, getting the guts to talk to those coaches in person, and knowing where you stand with a coach who you might want to play for. I have overcome these obstacles with my mom’s help, mainly. Truly she has been my rock, my “right-hand [wo]man”, helping upload pictures and videos onto my CaptainU profile page, and giving input and advice as to how I should structure important emails to coaches.

How do you balance being a good athlete with being a good student?

Being a good athlete and student is extremely hard, but I don’t regret missing social events like parties and hangouts to study or to go to practice. Where I want to go and what I want to do with my life involves academics and water polo, so stretching myself to the limits will be worth it. A lot of times I study with friends, which brings a social aspect to academics, and I love all my friends at water polo and at swim, so I don’t feel like I’ve been missing out!

When did you realize you wanted to play college sports?

I decided I wanted to play college sports when I saw my brother receive a water polo scholarship from the a D1 University in California. It made me realize I could do the same. And I have! ☺

Where did you first turn for recruitment tools, platforms, strategies, etc.?

My parents hired a college counselor who understood athletic recruiting for my brother, so once I reached the point where I was looking at colleges, my parents knew the process and helped me through it. For NCAA rules and regulations of recruiting, a coach who is focused on you as a recruit usually guides you, the athlete, step by step, telling you what is allowed and what is illegal along the way.

What things have worked and what things haven’t/didn’t work when trying to get in touch with coaches?

Talking yourself up to a coach, in an email or a phone call, is smart, but using connections and references works the very best. For example, a coach from an eastern university only contacted me after a family friend of mine, a former player at said university, emailed him with kind words to say about my water polo ability and my interest in their program.

How was your family involved & how was this helpful?

My family has been with me every step of the way. My brother is my inspiration and one of my coaches; my mother is my organizer, planner, and advisor; and my father is the one who always would get up early to drive me to practices and support my athletic endeavors.

What tools, platforms, strategies did you use throughout the whole process?

My strategy was simply to keep all doors open with as many coaches as possible, and to show great interest in all the schools I contacted.

What worked best for you on CaptainU / what was your favorite CaptainU tool?

I loved CaptainU most because of the notifications I would get telling me that a certain coach watched a video of mine, or sent me an email. CaptainU really kept me “in the loop” with where I stood with coaches, and how I was progressing in the recruiting process.

What would be three recommendations you have to athletes trying to play in college?

Three recommendations for aspiring athletes are to:

1) Make sure that what you are doing is for yourself, and not for other people who may be putting pressure on you, because at the end of the day, you are the one who will be reaping the rewards or bearing the consequences of your choice.

2) Believe in yourself; there will be disappointments, losses, times where you didn’t “make the cut”, but persevering with confidence is what you must do to find success.

3) Keep your options varied and with an open mind. Contact coaches from many different colleges, because like me, the place you end up going to may be very different from what you initially had in mind!

Finally, what are your goals for the coming year in your sport? How are you currently doing in your sport? Have you been recruited yet?

My goals for this year are to make the Youth National Travel team which will play in a tournament in Spain this summer and to make a splash (I know, cheesy) at the university I will be attending in the fall by exceeding the expectations my coach may have for me currently. I am officially committed to a D1 school in California and I signed my National Letter of Intent. I am very proud of this, and I cannot wait to win some national championships with this amazing team I can now say I am a part of!