Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Random Childhood Memories #8 - Water Polo

--Age 14. I was one of only three incoming freshman to make the Ross S. Sterling High School Marching Band (tenor saxophone). With a profound fear of being forever stigmatized as a "band queer," I scheduled a meeting with the water polo coach. After only a brief discussion, he accepted me onto the team in spite of never having played before. "You're huge for a freshman and I need you," he said. "I'll teach you the rest." The next day I quit the band and went to buy my first speedo.

--Age 15. My summer water polo club, Baker Road Aquatic Team (BRAT), took a trip to Washington University in St. Louis, MO for a National Jr. Olympic tournament. The chlorine in the pool was so bad, we were told to pour milk into our goggles and flush out our eyes to counteract the effects (I have no idea who came up with that). In spite of the effort, my vision was so distorted that I couldn't see the end of the pool. That night as we hung up our suits to dry, we realized how bad it was--our red swim suits were bleached to a faint pinkish hue.

--Age 17. BRAT played another National Jr. Olympic tournament at Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo, CA and took home the gold in a hard-fought, sudden-death final. After the game, I learned I was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player. A local TV station was running a spot on the tournament and asked me to do an interview. My first (and only) time on TV (seen here in all my glory). Already a ham at 17!

--Age 16. In the championship game of the Texas Boys State Water Polo tournament, I was having a very physical game with an opposing player. In a retaliatory strike, he threw an elbow mid-stroke directly into my mouth. Maybe 45 seconds later, the referee stopped play and called me over to the side of the pool. "Dave," he says. "I think maybe you need to get out." As I hopped out of the pool, the entire front side of my body was instantly covered in blood as it gushed from my face. The crowd gasped. I had bitten a hole clean through my lip. [Note: We butterflied the cut and I finished the game. The offending player was never able to have children after that game.]

--Age 17. The Jr. National Water Polo Team held a grueling two-week training camp at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO. It was here that I was first introduced to a scrawny little 13 year-old named "Wolf," who was billed as the East Coast's most promising young player. In an effort to give Wolf a little experience with the big boys, the coach asked him to guard me for an entire practice. Since I was nearly twice his size, I proceeded to toss him around like a rag doll at every turn. Though it's certainly not true, I'd like to think I had a little something to do with this.


At 1:10 AM, Blogger The Untraveled Travel Guy said...

Well at least you're not afraid of the deep end like me. I took swim lessons for some 6 summers in my youth and still never really learned to trust myself in the water. Bottom line, I was terrified of drowning and while I like being in the water now I still don't swim nor go near the deep end. If you've ever seen the episode of Mr Bean at the pool, that would be me :) Looking forward to checking out more of your blog :)


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