Yes, this is the last season that my family & I will be sports fanatics who ditch, leaving home at 05:00h to travel to the tournament, chant the institutional “war cry” and cluck about sore muscles, banged lips & plays that didn’t quite happen. Our daughter is starting her final waterpolo season at UC Berkeley, where she is team captain and elected “blogger”. 1/22 was the first day of the UC Santa Barbara women’s collegiate waterpolo tournament and her birthday. She surprised us with a gift we couldn’t have anticipated and something more inspiring than the 6­layer chocolate cake & presents we hauled up from Orange County. Our “pink package” has metamorphosed into a strong, beautiful, resourceful woman. Her physicality and drive is impressive but her work ethic, problem solving ability and integrity is what makes me realize that she will succeed in this life; this knowledge is a great comfort to me.

Her final season has been challenging: games lost, comrades injured, other team mates drafted by their respective countries for the summer Olympics, exclusion from the 2016 NCAA tournament.. For the uninitiated, waterpolo is a curious sport; the sprints up & down the length of the pool & sprints are reminiscent of basketball, however the fisticuffs have more in common with wrestling or cage fighting. She has had more than her share of injuries: nasal fracture as a high school freshman, labral tear of her shoulder, four years later as a college freshman. While I reduced her nasal fracture, I had to relinquish control to the Orthopedist who did a masterful repair. In surgery, we are fond of saying that outcomes depend on the patient, surgeon & “healing”. Despite being cautioned by her coaches that this could be a career ending injury, she took the assignment seriously, rehabilitated and rejoined the team with a minimal interruption. She elected not to “red shirt” or sit a year out but took up her role as “utility” player after a short 5 months.

Statistics and goals in particular are seen as a player’s worth. Defenders who enable the shooters to score are under appreciated. As a cosseted child, we could not do enough for her, however as a clutch defender, she worked tirelessly to analyze the opponents, neutralize threats & assist others ” find the back of the cage”. I must admit that this transformation has been nothing short of miraculous. One of her favorite coaches once remarked that she was extremely “coachable”; at the time I didn’t fully appreciate the implications. Like many doting parents, we entrusted our keen athlete to teams for growth and life lessons. She has made a breathtaking start, earning a complete scholarship, maintaining solid academics, dealing with disappointment and all the while keeping us on her radar.

Win, lose or draw, it’s been an exhilarating adventure for us. Thank you, daughter for the glimpse of the future. I am confident that you will meet each of life’s challenges with the same consummate professionalism, intelligence and energy as you have demonstrated to date. One of the most meaningful compliments rendered by another parent recognized her steadiness under pressure, leadership, relentless devotion to the team. Her response was predictable, “I stayed because I love Cal & my team”. So although I may look concerned, I’m not really, but old habits are difficult to shift overnight. I know that she is on the precipice of life, eager to embrace the next chapter, while drawing on the experience gained in the pool. “You don’t always get what you want but if you try, sometime, you might find, you get what you need”.

#pippafinishstrong

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