Virgen's View: Lessons learned at water polo clinic

There were several valuable lessons to learn for young athletes at a water polo clinic at Costa Mesa Aquatic Center Saturday afternoon.

There so many messages to keep tucked away, or perhaps write them down, stick them onto a wall.

Some of the advice coming from Olympians Courtney Mathewson and Shea Buckner really stuck out.

Mathewson wanted the young players to believe in themselves. Self-confidence can be the most important asset for any person in any profession, she said.

Buckner stressed the importance of setting goals.

For a few hours, the two Olympians wanted to inspire the youth and give them tips for what it takes to become an Olympian and what it takes to become the best.

"You have to work hard and you have to put everything on the line," Mathewson, a gold medalist, said of what it takes to be an Olympian. "But most of all you have to believe in yourself. Because you can't get anywhere in life — whether it's your job or whatever you choose to do — unless you believe in yourself and that you can accomplish your goals."

Mathewson said she has enjoyed the results of winning a gold medal with Team USA, attending various special events in her honor or the team's. The U.S. women were on The Tonight Show. They were recognized at a Lakers game and at a Clippers game.

Mathewson went back to her high school, Canyon in Anaheim, for a special pep rally where she spoke.

At Costa Mesa High, she coached the young players. Mathewson, who brought her gold medal, wasn't in the water because of some shoulder soreness.

Buckner, who played at Villa Park, coached while in the water. He also played with the students in a fun six-on-five tournament to cap the clinic.

"Every Olympian has their own path," said Buckner, a member of the U.S. men's team that reached the quarterfinals in London. "For me it was goal setting, and it started at age 8. From third grade, I have a paper that says I want to be an Olympian. And, since then I never let off the gas pedal. There was no option: I was going to be an Olympian."

Buckner and Mathewson wanted the young students to have fun at the clinic. The two Olympians also wanted to have fun, and they wanted to help.

Ryan Cook, a sports agent and a former Newport Harbor High water polo standout, helped organize the event. Cook featured his two friends, but he also wanted the children and their parents to learn as much as they could about the game and other facets in roughly four hours.

Local sponsors, who have athletics in mind, also helped put on the clinic. Demian Ross, a representative from Custom Comfort Mattress, spoke about the importance of proper rest. He said the company has made over 500 beds customized for pro athletes. Recently a custom-made 10-foot-by-10-foot bed was made for Dwight Howard of the L.A. Lakers, he said.

Trainers from nearby Velocity Sports Performance taught the young athletes some stretching drills. Aaron Williams, who played football at Marina High, talked about the importance of dry-land training for water polo players.

Yes, lunch was provided by In-N-Out, but representatives from Advocare and Gatorade were also on hand to stress the value of nutrition.

There were 100 kids who attended the clinic. Rain didn't ruin the day. They paid for their day of learning, but Cook hopes that in the future there can be free clinics.

He's a sports agent who also wants to promote the sport. He thinks the physical play that takes place in the pool can be appealing to sports fans and he believes marketing the athletes based on their good looks and down-to-earth personas can also help bring popularity to water polo.

"By having events like this we can really help the sport," Cook said.

Twitter: @SteveVirgen

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