Mattie’s Musings: Water Polo Teams and High School Themes

A water polo game consists of four quarters. During my days as a varsity water polo player in the past, I had become familiar with the bench, so those four quarters went by slowly for me. I was an observer from the sidelines, just occasionally getting a taste of playing in the active waters. I was still having fun, but I didn’t feel quite as connected to the high stakes of each game.

This year, it’s different. I am a part of the starting lineup. I learn something new during each practice and utilize my new skills in the games. I am immersed in the game and forced away from the comforting familiarity of the bench. It’s my last year on this team, and I’m trying my best to make it count.

It’s my last year on another team, too. Water polo season is coming to a close, and my whole high school career is as well. My friends, classmates, and peers, the people I accidentally make eye contact with in the hallways, the students that make up the clustered hives within the Black Hole, they’re all on my team. It’s not the same as my 14-person water polo team, but I can’t help but draw parallels between the two.

It’s never a good idea to begin the first quarter of a water polo game with low energy. You’ll make mistakes. Your opponents will outswim you. You’ll find yourself trailing by a goal or two. And by the time you make it to the end of the second quarter, you’re exhausted.

We’re all probably pretty exhausted right now, stumbling away from the second quarter of this school year. Maybe we started off slow, feeling like we lost the ball a few too many times. Or maybe we feel like we’ve been scoring during the first half of the school year.

Either way, the thing about being at the halfway point is that the whole game is still subject to change. There’s enough time to take a deep breath and commit to making it through what’s coming. After halftime, all that matters is finishing a strong game: minimizing errors, moving fast, scoring goals.

When I enter the third quarter of a game, I find the greatest success when I acknowledge that the mistakes I made earlier don’t matter anymore. The first half is over. Making a bad pass, missing a shot, failing a chemistry quiz, forgetting an assignment, it all doesn’t matter anymore. There’s still one half left.

It stings a little to let that sink in. There are only two quarters left in this school year. There’s still so much to do before we leave this place, before the final buzzer sounds.

Some of us on this 2,400-person team will be back in the fall, equipped and ready for more halftimes and opportunities to change the game. But for those of us who have left the bench, who are leaving this place for good with the turning of a tassel in June, this is it.

So I will make it count. I’ll worry less about what happened in the past and what’s going to happen in the future. Right now, I’m in the pool with all of my classmates. We’re a team and we’re pushing to not only finish, but to win this game.

Winning the game of high school, of Westview, means something different for everyone. If I leave this school with an acknowledgment of all my mistakes and nothing but hope for what’s coming next, I’d consider my diploma to be a trophy. I’d consider myself a winner.