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Water polo players reflect on time spent away from the pool, dive into academics

UCLA men’s water polo senior attacker Chasen Travisano scored nine goals last season after tallying 20 or more in the previous two years. Now a senior, he looks to make an impact for the men’s team this year in place of the now-transferred Ashworth Molthen. (Elise Tsai/Daily Bruin)

By Kyle Boal

Oct. 12, 2020 4:53 p.m.

The post was updated Oct. 18 at 8:23 p.m.

It can be easy to forget about the student in student-athlete.

For that matter, fans often idolize and view anyone associated with sports as demigods of sorts, which occasionally can make them people we struggle to identify with.

However, especially in the case of collegiate sports, this should not be the situation.

Three-time Olympian, silver medal winner and three-time NCAA champion head coach Adam Wright of UCLA men’s and women’s water polo has garnered an impressive resume. But when one accomplishes so much in such a short time, Wright said it’s easy to get caught up in the rat race.

Because of COVID-19, some sports have been fully shut down for months over the summer, and student-athletes and coaches faced a new challenge — how to spend their down time while staying in shape. Wright encouraged his team to take the negative situation they’d been handed and turn it into a positive.

“I love constantly being on the move and being challenged and really preparing everything that we can for our opponents,” Wright said. “But also I think a positive from COVID was that it slowed me down, which I needed. This has really given me an opportunity to reset.”

After finishing second in the MPSF in goals and steals during her freshman campaign, women’s sophomore utility Abbi Hill has been training with USA Water Polo’s women’s senior national team to stay in shape. However, Hill’s training in the last half of the year has been different than ever before.

“I haven’t been able to swim or work out in the pool every day like I used to be able to, so that was definitely a big adjustment these past six months,” Hill said. “Just not being able to do what I am usually able to do every single day, in more of a social way, (and) not being able to see my teammates and my friends in person … it’s just kind of a lonely situation for everyone.”

Appearing in 69 games to date and third on the team in assists in 2019, men’s senior attacker Chasen Travisano is one of four seniors on the roster and looks to make an impact this season as a full-time starter.

Travisano said both the men’s and women’s teams were engaging in weekly Zoom meetings to strategize and socialize in times of social distancing.

“I think keeping up with mental health was probably the hardest part for most athletes because we’re always so (actively) practicing and socializing,” Travisano said. “We had Zoom calls with our team trying to stay engaged with each other, going over plays, so that was great.”

Hill, undeniably talented in the pool, is also quite the academic. The first-team all-MPSF utility was the only women’s water polo player to earn an “Outstanding” designation for a GPA between 3.71-4.0 in the ACWPC All-Academic Awards for 2020.

Perhaps overlooked for both student-athletes and students in general are the resources to find success using online platforms.

“I just don’t like how awkward it is to be like in class on your computer – I feel like it’s so impersonal,” Hill said. “And also, it’s just hard to focus. I don’t have a desk so like I’m sitting in bed and I’m tired, it’s hard to focus when you’re just staring at a screen all day.”

Travisano, a six-time Athletic Director’s Honor Roll awardee, said he is confident that though the online platform may not be everyone’s preferred method, the UCLA professors are doing their best to transition.

“When we first went online it was winter quarter back in March, (and) the finals during that period were definitely a change of pace,” Travisano said. “But I think then in the spring quarter teachers figured out how to run on the online platform. Learningwise, this quarter’s going to be great. I think they’re really doing a good job.”

Wright – optimistic for the future – encourages everyone to reflect on their lives during this time of uncertainty, unpredictability and unhappiness to see how they not only can better themselves, but the world around them.

Specifically, Wright encourages his players to use the slowdown as an opportunity to experience deeper relationships and interact more with friends and family.

“One thing as a whole, and hopefully as a world – as a society – we’ve gone through an incredible period of time, and we’re still going through it,” Wright said. “But hopefully, we can all be better for it. I’ve thought a lot about how I can be better for our teams and better for my family, because a lot of times we forget just how lucky we are.”

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Kyle Boal | Assistant Sports editor
Boal is currently the assistant Sports editor and a reporter on the gymnastics, rowing, swim and dive, men's water polo and women's water polo beats. He was previously a contributor on the men's water polo and women's water polo beats. He is also a second-year student studying statistics.
Boal is currently the assistant Sports editor and a reporter on the gymnastics, rowing, swim and dive, men's water polo and women's water polo beats. He was previously a contributor on the men's water polo and women's water polo beats. He is also a second-year student studying statistics.
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