“Mom, Dad, I’m not playing basketball next year. I’m playing water polo."
Michelle and I remember the conversation well. Mallory had just experienced one of those seasons that makes you wonder if some people get into coaching just to make others’ lives a sadistic departure into the steaming bowels of hell. It was a season that painfully stripped away the joy of one sport to the point that she was willing to forego her varsity years for a game we’d never heard of, outside the confines of the occasional Olympic event.
Mallory made a decision that would have a long-lasting, positive impact on our entire family, more than we could have ever imagined. (Thanks, coach. Wouldn’t have happened without you.) This past weekend at the University of Notre Dame, she closed the books on another chapter in her water polo career. She played along side her sister in her final college game for the University of Cincinnati women’s water polo team. And to add a bit of style to the moment, she fired a shot into the top right corner of the net, scoring one last goal during her swan song.
So, how did the switch to water polo work out for Mallory?
She played two years of varsity water polo at Sycamore High School, including one year as a broken-fingered starting goalie.
She recruited her sister, Anna, and many other girls into the Sycamore program. Anna would go on to be a three-year starting varsity goalie, a two-time All American, and hold the Sycamore record for shots blocked (leading both men's and women’s teams); and many of the girls she recruited would play in back-to-back state championship tournament finals.
At the University of Cincinnati, Mallory would become the president of the water polo club team.
She worked hard to recruit both young men and ladies – including Anna – into the UC program, growing their roster and participation in tournaments against such teams as Florida State, Auburn, Alabama, Ohio State and others.
Over the next three years, she played an important role in the development of separate UC men’s and women’s teams.
She led the transition of the UC teams from club status to College Water Polo Association membership.
She met Trent, whom she has been dating for the past three years.
And she has developed life-long friendships among the players, coaches and referees in the Ohio water polo community, and among teams throughout the United States.
And something tells me that, even though her college water polo playing days are over, her future will almost certainly include many years of involvement in this great sport.
Mallory, your willingness to take a chance on the unknown has impacted many lives. That’s the kind of person you are, and the kind of person this world desperately needs. Congratulations, my dear. We love you and are always so proud of you. Now...onto your next challenge!
© 2016 Timothy J Condron