On August 26th, Brenda Villa, a four-time Olympian, ran a half-day clinic with the San Marin girls water polo team. Villa began playing water polo when she was eight years old. Her high school, Bell Gardens High, located in Los Angeles, did not have a female team when she attended. She had to lobby her mother for over two years to allow her to play with the boys’ team. She made the Junior Olympic Team in high school, played for Stanford beginning in 1998, and joined Team USA that same year. Villa played with the Olympic team in Sydney, Athens, Beijing and London. Villa said that her key to success in water polo has been enjoying the game and daily grind of practicing, fully committing to the vision of the team, and contributing in any way possible.
Not only is Villa an Olympic water polo star, but she is also a minority youth motivator and an inspiration to women. The daughter of hispanic immigrants, Villa learned to swim in a program geared to Latino kids in the city of Commerce.
“Growing up in Commerce and having all these amenities not every other city in L.A. county had, I took it for granted,” Villa said. “When I left Commerce, I noticed more needed to be done. It’s a full circle for me.”
Today, Villa has organized programs, one of which offers kids from lower-income communities the chance to learn to swim and play water polo.
“Brenda had so much pride and confidence, and she wanted to share all her knowledge with us as a fellow female who played water polo.” said junior Maggie Duffield.
At the clinic, Villa worked with the girls on everything from shooting to how to escape grabbing players. In addition, she gave the girls advice that can be applied both in and out of the water.
“One thing I learned was that hard work can help a team, but friendships can truly make it thrive,” junior Rachel Houlihan said.
The girls were given an opportunity to hear about Villa’s experience and her road to the Olympics. Villa eventually became the most decorated water polo player of all time. She said that one of the best moments of the Olympics was walking into opening ceremonies behind the American flag.
Junior Casey Elmhirst said, “She took a lot of risks in her career and while following her dream to become an Olympian. I think she is really inspiring and taught us that being confident in our decisions is important.”
It is clear that the Olympian’s skills have rubbed off on the girl’s water polo team in some way as they rolled over San Rafael in a 24-1 win. Perhaps other San Marin teams should look into a professional athlete to train with them as it will be interesting to see how this team improves throughout the season.