Girls Brackets Feature Serious Talent At USA Water Polo Jr. Olympics
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- Girls Brackets Feature Serious Talent At USA Water Polo Jr. Olympics
- United States at the 2012 Summer Olympics
Will your team be rocking custom shirts this year? Of the 32 on that roster, a whopping six of them are athletes. There is some big talent throughout the girls' brackets, but there's a serious concentration of it within those top-five teams.
But unlike the boys' side of the competition relatively there's little controversy about the elite programs, no discernible grumbling that the clubs are mercenary or unfairly assembled. Neither is there the phenomenon that exists on the boys' sidewhere highly talented year-olds, who happen to not fit in their high schools' plans for the Fall, form their own supergroup and have a tendency to win the whole thing, as United Cozy Boys did on Wednesday.
It would be easy to say it's largely because girls high school water polo is played in the Winter. But that's not true in Northern California, where Drivers is based and where both boys and girls their prep water polo in the Fall. And clearly, there is less of a concern among girls' club coaches that having year-olds who have already graduated on your roster will somehow disadvantage the affiliated high school team during the school year. For fans, the benefit is simply that the girls' competition will be among the best in the U.
And while the concentration of top seeds unsurprisingly rests in California, three of the top teams seeded in the Championship bracket come from outside the state. Only Houston's Viper Pigeon made it atop the boys' flight with its 24th seed. Once again the cameras will be on for all four days of action at Stanford, where as many as five games will be taking place at once, punctuated by an all star-studded final day of competition on Sunday.
See for yourself all day Thursday through Sunday via FloSwimming. Get the best swimming news straight to your inbox. Coughlin even postponed going pro in order to stay with the team. McKeever said Coughlin chose Cal because of that relationship, "and not because she thought I was going to be the greatest swimming coach in the world. She was dealing with rumors they she got the head-coaching job only because she's a woman, as well as fighting enormous pressure to change her coaching style.
Proof for the rest of the world to see. Vollmer arrived at Cal almost unable to swim. During her freshman year -- spent swimming for Florida -- Vollmer tried to get as much yardage as she could. There are 25 girls on McKeever's team -- each of whom requires a workout tailored to her specific needs. She shouts her criticisms and compliments across the pool. She lost her father at a young age and swimming became her escape.
Her mother was her coach, and the sport gave her one-on-one time with her mom -- a rarity in such a large family -- and a confidence she hadn't found elsewhere. InMcKeever's father was in a car accident, and he spent 22 months in a coma before dying at the age of At the time, McKeever was just 6 years old and the eldest of three. Her mother remarried, and seven more children were added to the clan.
McKeever grew up fast, often taking care of her numerous younger brothers and sisters. McKeever trained in her backyard pool, jumping in whenever her mother had a few minutes to spare. And because of these strict time restrictions, McKeever couldn't swim the thousands of yards so typical of practices.
Instead, she swam at full speed, with her mother focusing on correcting her form. This unique style of training became the basis for McKeever's own techniques.
Swimmers often look their sport as an individual one, but McKeever considers it a team endeavor. Forever connected, these girls will remain in one another's lives. A close-knit team will improve each individual's performance. By turning her team into a family, McKeever has created a group who care about each other emotionally. It's not just for themselves, but for their teammates as well. In sports, though, there is no equality. Someone is always better, faster, stronger.
But McKeever somehow manages to avoid hierarchies and creates a single unit. Her senior-year goal is to swim on as many relays as she can. Day 2 It's 2 o'clock on Tuesday afternoon. The swimmers emerge from the locker room and start rolling out the large metal spindles that hold the lane lines.
Spain at the 2012 Summer Olympics
McKeever and associate coach Kristen Cunnane sit together on the bleachers. Cunnane, a former UCLA swimmer, is an integral part of the team, determined to recruit the best swimmers she can find. But McKeever knows what it takes to get her girls going, how to get them to swim faster.
It is the same thing that spurred her love of the sport -- the relationships.
And just as McKeever swam for her mother, her girls swim for her. But what does that mean? In young children, negative emotions occur in the amygdala -- a primitive area of the brain -- and language occurs in the cerebral cortex, which is more evolved. The amygdala and cerebral cortex are barely connected. Ask 6-year-olds why they are sad. They usually can't answer. During adolescence, though, negative emotions move up to the cerebral cortex.
But only in women. A year-old man won't do much better at explaining his emotions than a 6-year-old. Sax said it best: The tired argument about which sex is more intelligent or which sex has the 'better' brain is about as meaningful as arguing about which utensil is 'better,' a knife or a spoon.
The only correct answer to such a question is: McKeever and Dave Salo, head coach of both men's and women's swimming at USC, have been friends for more than 40 years. They started their coaching careers at the same time, as assistants at USC. Salo coaches both genders on a daily basis. Salo does not believe in separate guidelines for women and men, but he does believe that women are motivated by relationships -- something he works hard to change. A number of scientists believe that while these differences exist and equality means teaching to each gender's strengths rather than teaching them both the same way, when it comes to professional athletes these same scientists jump ship.
They believe for a woman to excel in the competitive and aggressive field of professional athletics, she has to learn to think like a man. On the wall outside of McKeever's office in Haas Pavilion there is a bulletin board covered in photos of current and former Cal swimmers.
There are photos of women jumping into the ocean, hiking and holding the NCAA trophy. Everything in McKeever's office is neat -- except for her desk, which is strewn with papers, an egg-salad sandwich and coasters from the Olympics in Sydney. McKeever was married inat the age of 45, to Jerry Romani. McKeever poured everything she had into her career, and because of that, her personal life was shelved.
Even in those early years at Cal, when she no longer believed in herself, she refused to quit. And it was only then that McKeever was able to step out of the pool and back into her personal life. And she had only one thing to say when picking out her wedding ring: McKeever believes her Olympic role is to elevate the athletes and coaches around her.
A big part of McKeever's role in London will be to build a U. But this time is different because she won't have nine months to build her team; she will have less than two.
Teri McKeever making waves
As head coach, one of her main responsibilities is choosing which girls will swim which relays. A main staple of her Cal team and one of the main things that brings her team together, relays are crucial to McKeever and could mean success or failure.
The relay teams will show the world what McKeever was able to do with the team, will show whether she was able to create a family unit, a united Team USA.
The harder the workouts for the girls, the harder they are for McKeever. Being so closely linked to what her athletes are feeling -- emotionally and physically -- is exhausting. McKeever is invested in every up, every down, every moment. But it's not all stress.
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You just can't put that into words. You can't buy that. That's my gold medal. Both her and squads consisted of nine freshmen -- newbies -- the most difficult load McKeever has had. But I have to be OK with that.