The U.S. Women’s Water Polo team is currently ranked #1 in the world and is gearing up for a holiday tournament next month. The U.S. team won the Gold Medal at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil, its second in a row, and has its eyes set for the gold at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
The women rolled through the competition this summer, winning the Gold Medal at the Pan Am Games in Peru. The win in Lima was the fifth straight Pan Am win for the women. En route to the title they crushed Peru 21-3, then Cuba 31-7 to finally reach the finals where they dispatched Canada 24-4.
So, how do the women prepare themselves for the next tournament? How about spending a day training with Navy SEALs in Coronado, CA.
Playing competitive water polo is not for the faint of heart: ask any SEAL or Combat Diver, who has played by “combat” rules in the pool, and they’ll attest to the toughness. And playing on a national team at an Olympic Gold Medal level is another thing entirely. But there is a vast difference between playing a sport — albeit a very physically demanding one in a pool — and being a Special Operator working in the ocean.
But the SEALs at the Naval Special Warfare (NSW) Basic Training Command (BTC) tailored some training at their Coronado training facility to give the women’s team a different perspective of working together in the water and building in them even more confidence before they embark on yet another Gold Medal run this coming summer.
“Navy SEALs are the premier maritime special operations force, and we stay that way by fostering a culture of professionalism and diversity. Having the U.S. Women’s National Water Polo Team visit allowed for two high-performance teams to sit down, talk and learn from each other, which in the end helps us both continue being the best at what we do,” said the Basic Training Command’s commanding officer Cmdr. Keith Marinics.
A couple of the traits that anyone going through the training at Coronado needs to be successful is firstly being in top physical shape, and secondly having a comfort level in the water. The women’s team more than checked the box for each. However, the purpose wasn’t to turn them into SEALs; rather the exercise was designed to test and build their mental toughness and foster their teamwork.
Giving them something different than what they’ve even been used to, the SEAL cadre members led them on a smoker of a PT session — calisthenics with those 200-pound logs, which are a favorite (not) of every SEAL or SFAS candidate — and then tested their teamwork by having them work small inflatable boats in the pitching Pacific surf.
The U.S. team came away with a greater appreciation after just a small taste of what SEAL teams do.
Defender Alys Williams got a great perspective of the SEALs training and knowledge from them.
“They are really great to be around and learn from,” she said. “They perform at such a high level and to be able to come here and spend some time with them and get a better understanding of the training they endure was amazing. It was great for us as a team to be able to visit and learn from them.”
Despite the vast difference in what each organization accomplishes, the shared goal of being the best at what each does, while working in the water, was a great training vehicle for the women’s team. Their coach, Adam Krikorian also used it as a way to give the women a different perspective while doing something fun and challenging and building an even closer team.
“This was a great opportunity for us to engage with such an amazing group and get some insight into how they approach some of the obstacles we face as well,” Krikorian said. “There are a lot of similarities in our two organizations and seeing how they approach teamwork and how they handle adversity were great educational experiences for us.”
Obviously, it was a time that the team won’t ever forget. What they did is somewhat similar to what we’ve seen some college football teams do: spending a day with the military and running through various training scenarios that build team chemistry and camaraderie. It works, and does not only build the team up, but gives the athletes a greater appreciation of what the troops of the United States military have to go through to accomplish their own mission.
The Women’s team posted a video of still shots from their time with the SEALs complete with a Rocky soundtrack…
Good luck in Tokyo, and bring home another Gold!
Photos: U.S. Navy