It doesn’t take more than five minutes at a UCLA water polo game to realize that the program is all about family. At each game, parents bring goodie bags for the team post-game and greet one another as they would close family members.
Sophomore utility Becca Dorst not only has her “water polo” family, but she has a family of aquatic athletes. Dorst’s two sisters also play water polo ““ one for Cal and one for Stanford ““ and her parents were also athletes.
Dorst and her two sisters, Lindsay and Emily, have been in a pool either swimming or playing water polo practically their entire lives.
“The girls all learned how to swim when they were about 2 years old, so being in the water was not anything new for them,” said the girls’ mother, Marybeth Dorst. “They used to swim in the summers at a local country club; the girls had fun, but they realized they preferred the team aspect of sports better and so they all began to focus on water polo.”
Becca Dorst was 11 years old when she began to play water polo competitively. Having both an older sister who was already quite involved in the sport, and a younger sister who was beginning to find interest in it as well made it easier for her to pick up on the game.
“From what I can remember, my oldest sister Lindsay had always been playing, and when I came to her practices I would always play around,” Dorst said. “And because Emily (my younger sister) was with me, we had a lot of time together to grow and love the sport.”
It would seem that a sibling rivalry would naturally emerge and competition would exist between them, but all three of the sisters deny ever being too competitive with one another and instead find this commonality between them as a way to improve their game.
Lindsay Dorst attributes their supportive nature for one another to the fact that the girls played in different age groups and were never really competitors. Emily Dorst, the youngest of the three girls, recalls the ability to play with Becca Dorst as a great teaching tool for the both of them.
“Becca has definitely helped me improve,” Emily Dorst said, now a goalkeeper for Stanford. “Whenever she wanted to work on her shot, we would stay after practice until she fixed it, and whenever I wanted to work on a particular scenario shot, she would always do more of those in scrimmages to help me get better at blocking them.”
Playing against each other was one thing for the girls when they were younger, but now that they are all on a Division I team at rival schools, the competition between them has changed just a little bit. The sisters agree that being in college and playing against each other is a little weird and even a challenge at times.
“It’s been a challenge to try and find the balance between being happy for them when they play well, and when I’m trying to play well to beat them,” Becca Dorst said.
Lindsay Dorst agrees, saying, “It’s weird, having to face off and block some of her (Becca’s) shots, because under any other circumstance I would want her to make them!”
Becca Dorst will have one of these unusual situations as the No. 1 UCLA Bruins (16-1, 5-0) take on the No. 5 Cal Bears (16-6, 3-2) this weekend.
The challenge of playing against each other not only exists for the girls, but also affects their parents. Even the crowd notices the challenge the family faces when having to cheer for opposing teams. Marybeth Dorst finds these moments a little nerve-racking and yet funny at the same time.
“A few weeks ago at the Stanford Invite, UCLA was playing Cal. Becca went up for a shot against Lindsay and Lindsay blocked it. It seemed like everyone in the crowd then kind of turned around to look at how we were reacting,” Dorst said. “It was pretty funny, but can also be a little nerve-racking at times.”
Becca’s father, Chris Dorst, agrees that it is nerve-racking, but also finds it a little exciting. “It is more exhilarating than difficult having our daughters play on different teams, even when they play against each other,” Dorst said. “It’s hard sometimes to find a neutral place to sit, but we are blessed to be in this position and are trying to enjoy every minute of such a special season for our family.”
Despite playing on opposing teams, Becca Dorst will always have her sisters and will always be cheering for them.
“I’ll never stop cheering for either of my sisters when they are playing,” Dorst said.
Much of Dorst’s success comes from the fact that she has always had the guidance and wisdom of former athletes her whole career.
Chris Dorst is a member of both the Stanford Athletic Hall of Fame and the USA Water Polo Hall of Fame. He competed at the 1984 Olympics where he helped the United States win a silver medal. Marybeth Dorst was also an incredible athlete as she was an eight-time NCAA champion in swimming and was a member of the United States National team during the 1980 Olympics.
Having parents who have succeeded a great deal in athletics was an encouragement for Becca Dorst as she began to pursue her own career in water polo.
“I always had my dad to talk to if I had questions,” Dorst said. “He always encouraged me to be daring and have fun while I played. Having fun in the sport you do is one of the most important things an athlete can remember.”
Encouragement and words of wisdom are not the only aspect of the sport that Dorst shares with her parents. Because both her parents were athletes before, they are able to relate to the physicality of the process of being an athlete as well. Becca finds this kind of connection as motivation for her to improve her own game as well.
“As an athlete you have to respect the process of the sport, which is early morning weights, or swim sets that seem too fast, and maybe even another afternoon practice,” Dorst said.
“I am encouraged to work harder and be the best that I can because I know my parents did that too. It’s something we can share forever ““ our love for the process.”