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Kayak Water Polo Tournament

Kayak Water Polo Tournament


Last night I played in my first ever kayak water polo tournament and MY TEAM WON THE TOURNAMENT!!! Incredible. Our brilliant lack of strategy, as I ever so humbly refer to it, paid off: if you have no strategy, they can’t fight it!

We were playing to raise money for the Bridge of Hope, a beautifully remodeled house in a pleasant neighborhood in North Platte. According to their website,

“The Bridge of Hope Child Advocacy Center opened in February 2007 to enhance the coordination between community professionals involved in child abuse investigations, promote more informed case management decisions and most importantly minimize the trauma children can suffer following disclosure and the subsequent investigation and intervention process. At the Child Advocacy Center, the child is exposed to one forensic interviewer. The interview and medical exam are conducted in our child friendly facility, as opposed to being interviewed by several strangers, a number of times, in a number of very intimidating locations.”

Last year the Center helped about 270 children, 55% girls and 45% boys. Nationally, the statistics are appalling--check out this link for an eye-opener The bottom line is that in the U.S. there are now about 3 millions kids reported as being abused or neglected every year and 5 kids dying every day due to neglect or abuse. Worse, the number has been steadily rising.

The whole thing makes me furious. I work at a homeless shelter and it never ceases to trouble me how many of our homeless clients started life as abused children. The scars may be internal, but they are permanent and they are crippling. If they had been badly burned as children, we would see disfigured faces and bodies and our hearts would be wrenched. But when the scars are on the soul, the marks are not so obvious.

Supporting the Bridge of Hope is therefore a privilege, and kayak water polo is a brilliant way to do it. One might hope that someday former clients of theirs will be free to enjoy the exuberant exercise and camaraderie it offers. In the meantime…

Four teams showed up to play at five per team. While that wasn’t as many as the organizers had hoped, it was a nice start for a first year event. We were a hodge-podge of professions, ages, experience, ability and fitness levels, from the ripped police officers right on down to me. No one, the whole evening, referred to me as ‘ripped,’ although they could have referred to my other bathing suit that way once or twice. It got ripped when a dog bit the back of my thigh while I was jogging a few weeks ago.

Our first game was an eye-opener. My team was one Egyptian, two old duffers with something to prove, a lanky teenager and a woman with four boys. You can probably guess which one I was, and yes, the lanky teenager and the woman were our best hopes.

We were impressive right out of the chute with two breathtaking goals in a row, and not so impressive thereafter. Sticking to a strategy that we were sure would work someday, we were rather quickly put into our places and lost the match by several points. Thinking back on it, having played the tapes in my head over and over, I don’t think we had the best strategy.

Well, that got people started calling us the losers, which rankled. We discussed a different strategy that held some promise, if only in comparison to the one that didn’t. And we watched from the sidelines as the winners, so to speak, had fun.

So then the losers played each other, which sounds pathetic, and when we won we couldn’t exactly even get all uppity about it because after all we had only beat losers. But we did play better, I thought, even thought we didn’t exactly have to, if you know what I mean. Our Egyptian was getting leg cramps and had to be subbed out, but our old duffers and our lanky teenager and our woman were acting like we were on the same team, which is something you can’t just take for granted.

It was a bit different playing with guys who were ripped. The good news is that all of those muscles weigh you down, it turns out, and the more you weigh, the slower your boat goes, all else being equal—another great argument for not exercising. The bad news is that when they decide to tackle you, they make pretty short work of it, and when they fire on the goal, there’s a lot of speed on the ball. Back to the good news, fortunately they didn’t get the ball that often.

Our win of course meant that now we had to go right back in and finish the tournament by playing the team that had defeated us at the start. We started off by telling them that we didn’t need to rest because it was “just them.” We hoped to defeat them psychologically before we ever sprinted for the ball. They didn’t look defeated or dejected, but you can never tell about psychological warfare.

I wish I could describe it as it happened. Play by play. We clicked. We even clacked. They led by one at halftime, but we could see victory coming. They had a nurse anesthetist and an anesthesiologist on their team, but nothing they tried could put us to sleep. Jenn was hot, Sherif was uncramped, Alex’s long arm was merciless and the two old duffers, Charles and me, reclaimed our long lost youth. When the whistle blew, we were up by one point and glad the whistle blew.

It was incredible. I have now won every kayak water polo tournament I have ever played in, and I intend to keep it that way.

#41. Check.

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