During my senior year of high school, I was apart of a successful varsity water polo team. The new head coach was taking over the team for the first time this season. Although he was a new head coach, his vast water polo experience and good relationship with the players aided his ability to direct the team successfully. The assistant coach was the head coach for swimming at the same high school, so he was able to bring in a different dynamic. Other members of the coaching staff included the two team trainers, one of which was a past player on the team. I think our coaching staff was able to use their different specialties in order to help the players work more productively.
The team I was apart of was notorious for being one of the best teams in the state. Our coach knew that after taking over the team for the first time, he would be tested. This idea was a motivating factor for our season. Coming off of a disappointing season, the team was determined to retain the image as a water polo juggernaut. The team’s dynamics for starting players was also a key factor to our success. Each player had a different role, and we were able to execute our positions effectively. My position was on the wing, which means I was making passes to the players swimming down the pool in order for them to score. Although each player had a specific position, something that made our team so successful was our ability to adapt to our surroundings and play any position in the pool. We would be able to seek out mismatches between players and exploit them to our advantage.
My senior year my team finished third in state after losing in the Semi-Finals of the State Championship. Our team had the best record in state with only two losses. Our first loss was during the regular season to another team in a shallow deep pool. Some high schools in Illinois have pools that are only deep on one half of the pool. Being able to stand on the bottom is a severe disadvantage when it comes to playing water polo, especially when you train year round in an all deep pool. The other loss was tougher because we were so close to completing a truly remarkable season. In the final game, we were unable to perform to our potential, having already beaten our opponents three other times in the regular season.
One of the structural configurations I can identify within my team was the circle network. Having coaches with different specialties and focuses worked as a circle network. Additionally, the players’ different skills and positions created a circle network. The team was able to function well when we understood our specific roles. The team understood we did not need to have the one player that could do everything, but multiple people that could execute their given tasks.
Another structural configuration that I can identify is a simple hierarchy between players and coaches. The coaches were at the top of this hierarchy, followed by the team captains. Seniors and other starting players were also towards the top of the hierarchal structure. I think this structure was conducive for players to grow as teammates and learn from older players. This structural design allowed for players to help keep the team under control and motivate us as a whole.
I think some distinguishing features of my team that reflected our success as described by Katzenbach and Smith are a deeper sense of purpose and accountability among players. Going into the season after a tough loss in overtime of the state championship from the previous season gave players a deeper purpose to perform. I was determined to work my hardest in order to achieve the title of the best team in the state. This motivation helped our discipline, which resulted in another feature of our team, accountability among players. Practicing everyday was difficult, but the only way we would be able to achieve our goals would be through the support of each other.