Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Team Ibuprofen

Son Number One is a high school senior this year, and last Tuesday night we attended what we thought was his last water polo game. He has been a Whitney High School goalie for four years now, and we have thoroughly enjoyed watching him play.

What we didn’t know last Tuesday was that he would play one more game last night. We were informed that the team was hosting a final scrimmage of the season.

Against the parents.

Hmm, I thought. That doesn’t sound like a great idea. That might be fun for a soccer team or a basketball team. I mean, sure, there are always going to be parental injuries in something like that, but water polo might be the only high school sport where inviting the parents to a fun scrimmage against their children is legitimately life-threatening.

Well, I thought, at least two of the kids on the team, my son included, are certified lifeguards, and the coaches have CPR training. Plus, they have those portable defibrillators at the pool. We might avoid a tragedy.

A few of the dads were really excited about the game. I was more than a little hesitant. My wife called me yesterday morning and asked if I was looking forward to it.

“Well,” I said. “Sorta, I guess.”

“What’s the matter?” she asked.

“Nothing, really. It will be fun to play against the boys and everything, but it’s just that it’s going to hurt. A lot.”

You see, I played water polo in high school and college. None of the other parents did. Some were wary. Some were full of hope. They were looking forward to it. I, on the other hand, knew exactly what we were getting ourselves into.

I was probably twenty-two years old in my last polo game. I’m fifty now. I’ve been out of the water longer than I was in it. That’s not a recipe for success. Plus, I’m fifty. Fifty is not young. Not by water polo standards. Not by any standard, really.

Did I mention I was fifty? Well, we hit the water last night and I was just praying not to pull my groin. It was cold and damp outside which didn’t help much. At least the high school kids didn’t have to worry about their arthritis acting up.

At the end of the first quarter the score was a fairly respectable 6-2. It was a low scoring second quarter, ending at 8-3. Things cranked up in the third and we started the fourth quarter with a score of 13-4. When it was all said and done, the scoreboard said 15-8.

Parents 15, players 8.

Yeah, you heard me. We crushed them!

At this point I should probably mention that the parent team was given a huge gift a few days before the game – Whitney high school alumni. We had four former players – now college water polo players – show up to help us.

They were a great help. And by great help, I mean they absolutely carried our team. I think the dads accounted for two or possibly three of our goals. The college kids scored the other twelve or thirteen. And if a dad scored, there was most definitely an assist by a college kid.

And they were suffocating on defense. The high schoolers only hope of scoring on us was being guarded by a dad. And when I say “guarded,” I mean swimming next to someone who was in the process of drowning.

We basically kept the college kids in and rotated the dads on every score change. We had guys calling for subs and paddling to the side of the pool while the ball was still live because they had a cramp, or just couldn’t breathe anymore.

Both my calves cramped up during the game. Mercifully, not at the same time. I was playing goalie, and was able to massage the knots out while the college kids were down at the other end scoring again.

In order to keep from destroying the poor little lads, we played mostly dads in the fourth quarter. The one or two college kids in with us still kept things under control, but the high schoolers were scoring on me at will if they were near a dad. After twenty plus minutes of water polo already, whatever gas we had in the tanks was long gone.

I was completely underwater for at least two of the goals they scored on me. In my defense, I’m fifty and had calf cramping issues. I also nearly drown one of the seniors when there was a loose ball in front of my goal. But again, in my defense, he’s one of the lifeguards and he should have known better than to get near me.

The boys didn’t get the win they were so sure was in the bag before the game, but they did learn two valuable lessons. First, they will get bigger, faster, and stronger in college. Second, never get close to a drowning full-grown man. We are desperate, and we will take you down with us.

Thankfully, along with the win, all the parents left the pool in their own cars and not on a stretcher. That, in itself, is a big win. But it wasn’t without a cost.

Everything hurts.

See you soon,



Copyright © 2022 Marc Schmatjen


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  1. We are so glad we got to witness this game. So fun to watch. Marc, you kicked butt! Go WHS!!!

  2. Thanks for coming out to be ready with life support! It was fun. Easily the best game I've played since the last game I played.