3rd on the scoreboard – 1st in my book
Our KEPS POLO Tournament left me reflecting on lessons learnt from losing and winning matches as well as reflecting on just how far our squad has progressed. I need to be upfront and state that no Saints boy or Staff member stands opposite an opponent without the genuine desire to represent our team and our school within a spirit of fair play, sportsmanship and a testing of respective sporting skills both physically and mentally. Yes, we do play to win and winning is desirable but it is not the most important outcome.
Just after the St John’s game, I started preparing for our team talk- thinking what can I do or say to keep our boys “pumped up”. To keep the fight alive for our 3rd place match against The Ridge.
The boys gathered around our squad area perched overlooking the pool. I looked into 10 faces around me, water trickling from their faces, silent laboured breathing, (each of us knew we had faced a very structured and fit St Johns team), my boy’s eyes searching for some words of wisdom.
Instinct and experience guided my team talk- Be a Teacher...
This is perhaps the most important and most powerful concept I would wish for you to take from this reflection. Coaching is teaching. What is the priority and overriding concern of a teacher? It's the progress of the boy, not wins and losses.
During our talk, I encouraged each boy to reflect on just how far each one of them had come. Our initial opening fixture against St David’s was never indicative of the potential of our squad. We had weathered the storm of a young squad, positional rotation and the lack of swimming fitness. Furthermore, I encouraged the boys to reflect on their growth as a team. We had settled on captaincy and vice-captaincy; our squad has a blend of Grade 6 & &7 boys and that this should serve our polo well. I also shared with the boys my pride as to the way the “snr” players guide the squad. Yes we knew we had a challenging fixture ahead of us, as we again tackle The Ridge - what was most inspiring was the genuine desire by each boy to not give up. We would however, remain true to our Saints Honour and would lose as if we had won – and win as if we had lost.
We extended our mantra and agreed that we never loose, instead we either win or we are learning. Finishing 3rd out of 14 schools was a great reward for a squad who had worked with genuine passion. I can share with you three points I learnt from the KEPS tournament:
1. The value of taking risks: Changing our game strategy, and player positions encouraged taking risks, risk requires mental toughness. A risk-taker must be able to shrug off mistakes, bad breaks and lousy calls during a game. Dwelling on them is counterproductive. I loved the fact that our body language was always upbeat, sportsmanship and positive.
2. Failure a step before success: I felt our boys would learn from the fixtures we lost. If you're not allowed to fail, then how do you know when you're succeeding?
3. The gift of boys: I enjoyed my weekend with your sons, my boys. The squad left in high spirits, happy to have been in the company of friends, polo and living life.
What a beautiful weekend I ended up having, realizing that we had won more than a 3rd place finish.
This polo passion is growing in our prep and it is contagious…
It started with our coach Mr. Callum Ford - His passion for the success of our team and the improvement of each boy contributed to the team’s motivation and performance. Passionate coaches, like passionate teachers influence boys achieving. Observing his interaction with the boys it became apparent that there was a positive correlation between Mr. Ford’s passionate coaching style and our teams’ success.
The passion becomes infectious…
The parents who supported the team at KEPS and local fixture circuit cannot be thanked enough. You have supported the coach, manager and our school polo with passion, pride, enthusiasm and humour. I commend you on the positive role you have had in marketing our school and serving water polo.
The boys are not immune to this polo passion…
Never once (maybe to mom but never to me) did our boys complain about early morning training or early evening training – this momentum was maintained throughout the tournament. I’ve enjoyed standing close to the parents and hearing how parents and Grandparents became “infected’ by their sons’ commitment energy and love for this sporting code.
Part of the preparatory polo philosophy is that each boy thinks about his own personal goals, skill level and understanding of individual and team success. The success of this perspective can be measured when we reflect on each of the ten beautiful boys who represented our school at KEPS:
Ryan Sooku – Captain, fetcher, wing, hole man/marker.
“Oh captain, our captain” performed his leadership role with great aplomb. His cool, calm and collected style was enduring; a boy of few words. Never one to speak for the sake of speaking. Instead, his leadership was seen in his personal play and desire to play well. As a captain, he epitomizes servant leadership and never complains whether he must play in varied positions, sit bench, look after caps or simply gather the troops. Ryan is very humble and no task asked of him is above or below him. He is a rare gent in the pool and always plays within the spirit of sportsmanship. Ryan has some lovely subtle shots and no doubt will look to add the power shot to his arsenal.
Armand Carstens – Vice Captain, fetcher, hole man, hole man market and or wing.
Powerful and full of a high-energy work rate. A player who is comfourtable as a specialist in a position or easily adaptable to another position depending on the coaching strategy. A great retriever of the ball who successfully protects his position in a game as well as possession of the ball. Armand is capable of scoring goals and making goals. He is very reactive to the flow of a game. His defensive effort is equal to his attack. High team expectations and personal standards are the font of his polo passion. Armand is developing a powerful shot and at times has an impressive body position as he prepares to launch his shot. Quick to add his bit during team talks, always eager to play the next fixture.
Matthew Rahme – Hole man marker
Matthew is improving during each game. (I hope we will see more of him at the various training sessions, understandably he has had some injury issues) Often having had to defend some very large and physical boys in a position of the pool that calls for speed and physical stamina a calm head, quick reaction time and a calm disposition. His position is associated with kick-outs and yet he knows the value of avoiding this. Matthew will in time add al long accurate pass to his playing repertoire. Furthermore, he is astute as to when he needs to attack from his position upsetting the rhythm of our opponents and adding some extra bite to our attack. Matt is a true character in the team and his upbeat, energetic and humorous attitude makes him popular amongst the squad and opposition boys. He cleverly promotes our school without realising it.
Kyle Dawson – Fetch or wing.
An all-round Mr. Nice guy. A true gentleman who never has a negative comment about our team or any opponent. A boy who can reflect a disposition of: “winning as if we have lost and loose as if we have won” a truly humble sportsman who maturely concedes better skill on a day. Kyle reflects 100% commitment and will never question the coaching or strategy of a game. When he must be substituted his body language never reflects his disapproval but instead he will come sit on the bench and encourage his team eagerly waiting to re-enter the game. A player when shooting has found the cross bar or keeper more often than the rest of the team. True to his unselfish manner, Kyle sets up many goal scoring opportunities for others in the team. His swimming speed and stamina is his main weapon, his work rate unmatched. A boy who will keep swimming and swimming and swimming – I love his innocent, unassuming tenacity. Kyle is working hard at swimming with the ball and has made tremendous improvement as a polo convert.
Ben Scher - Goalie
A young boy who is a great encourager, never harsh on performance but quick to offer a team mate a vote of confidence in a play or moment in the game. He can see the positive in everyone and most situations. A thinker on the ball who looks for open spaces. He feeds off the energy of the team. Ben plays swims with heart and sets high expectations from himself. Out the pool he is a genuine nice boy who opponents easily engage with. A true shot stopper in the making. His leg strength is developing and his water treading to enlarge his size in front of goals is greatly improved. Ben is a vocal “bird in the cage” goalie who uses his position in the pool to direct the boys into attack or to return on a player to defend. He continually motivates and encourages each boy.
Roald Carstens – fetch, hole- man
Roald has a no-nonsense approach to his position. His feisty play can at times yield some surprising ball retrieval. At times when it appeared he was dominated by his opponent, his grit and never give up attitude served him well and he could surface ball in hand or be placed strategically between the opponent’s goalie, hole man marker and our attackers. A boy who is serious by nature and does not sweat the small stuff but totally enjoys the moment. Roald is verbally silent in the pool but speaks volumes in his actions. Roald believes hard work will trump talent when talent is not hard working. I admire his grit and drive.
Tanner Kleynhans – hole man
Tanner a boy with the proverbial heart of gold. A young boy who loves his team and the game. He will be the first to sacrifice his own play for another boy. He is indeed a #goodboy Great Saint. Tanner always has a smile on his face. His authentic bubbly personality and excellent manners is very rewarding to observe. A positive and upbeat player who was never down for long. Tanner is extremely willing and as one of the youngsters in the team has a bright polo future ahead of him. His working at his leg strength and body positioning, I am confident as he grows older his strong shoulders and upper body strength will serve him well.
Luke Hopewell – Wing or fetch.
Luke conducted himself with patience and calmness. His reserved out of pool manner is equal to his bench attitude. He would never complain as to when he will play. Instead selected the time given to play to share his improved playing ability. I respected his contributions as often he would be called upon to play in a fast-flowing game and he would be expected to match this tempo instantaneously. On attack, he was unselfish with his shooting position and would be perceptive enough to pass to a player who has a greater chance of scoring. His wing or fetch play served the team well. His left arm is an asset to our team and often in tandem with our other lefty Nic, they would penetrate the right side of the pool. Luke is getting stronger as each game passes. A boy who puts action to our values speak at school as he “walks the talk “we expect of our boys.
Nicholas Dobson Wing, hole man or fetch.
Nic would swim his heart out, always working, never giving up on defence. A boy with a large heart. His determination is commendable and his performance consistent. With Nic, what you see is what you get. His manners and appearance is impeccable. Neat, no fuss and no nonsense is a hallmark of his character. Nicholas is starting to improve power to his shooting accuracy. I have valued his ability to take advice as I am fully aware of the goals he sets for himself. As mentioned with Luke, Nicholas as a lefty adds this dimension positively towards the strategy of our game plan.
Polite, unassuming, constantly smiling, a happy disposition. A boy who loves his sport, his school, his team. I was impressed with our discussions and his ability to reflect on his strengths and his areas where he needs to improve. His honest reflections left me feeling that if a boy can do this then our polo philosophy and our values program is working. Rhys has a lovely long arm reach and at times his action is a swim stroke with a mixture of a ‘nuisance” to his opponents. He often frustrates opponents as he manages to get in the way and stop their progress. Keep working on your swimming and I am confident your progress will be consistent.
This magic band of water polo brothers has come a long way and their final placing (3rd out of 14 schools) in the KEPS Tournament was a just reward for their hard work and improved playing structure.
To our wonderful Polo Parents:
You the parents, are a vital component of our squad and have supported the boys and the coach Mr. Ford with equal dedication. Thank you parents for the many car trips to training and fixtures. It is your positive support of each boy that has made me admire your input into Prep polo. I was so proud as to the little touches: From Mrs. Sooku providing each boy with a motivational note on their chocolate, to the various Crispy Cremes, photo updates from Mrs Carstens, Kev not only looking after the boys but making time to look after his “dolly”, the delicious chocolate cake from Mrs. Scher and the many affirmations from the Dawsons, Rahme and Kleynhans family to name but a few. Folks you are the real foundation towards your son’s success and the success of our polo. I am blessed to work with parents who support us as we aim to best serve you (our) sons.
I remind boys and parents of my outlook towards developing polo from jnr to snr levels at the prep.
My approach to our Prep First Team Polo has been to guide our boys towards embracing the concept of changing the yardstick of success. Winning is important, but it must become secondary to striving to achieve personal goals. This is the fundamental principle for each boy to accept as we develop our passion for polo. The focus has been that boys must see success in terms of achieving their own goals and contributing towards goals set by the team.
By focusing on achieving personal goals, I hope boys will be guided towards control over an important part of their sport participation—their own success.
Realistic goals become important. Polo like most sports is full of competitive pressures, parental influences and teammate influences. The boys are frequently reminded that they must keep a realistic perspective on their goals. Team goals then become the extension of personal goals – naturally a given personal goal for each boy is to make the best contribution possible, given his skill level and purpose within the team.
Team goals for the season have included learning to play together as a squad, respecting each other, having fun, and playing with good sportsmanship. The boys have shown tremendous dedication towards training, morning sessions and early evening training.
As with most contagious actions, it appears I am not immune to this polo passion. Thank you, boys, for infecting me with your appetite for this sport.
Until the next fixture...
Mr. Q Pascoe
MIC Preparatory Water Polo