Written by Media Relations Volunteer Joey Karp '09
Santa Clara, Calif. - Last year Nick Poggetti (NP) was the leading goal scorer on the Santa Clara University men's water polo team, breaking the single season record for goals scored with 78. Poggetti also has Type I Diabetes. The men's team is ranked No. 13 in the country and open the season at No. 1 Cal on Sun., Sept. 5 at 3 pm.
Poggetti and his roommate, fellow co-captain Mitch Klipa (MK) talked to www.SantaClaraBroncos.com about how Poggetti found out he had diabetes, what he does to make sure he stays at the right levels and what Klipa does to help him.
SCU: Please introduce yourself.
NP: I'm Nick Poggetti. I'm a senior on the Santa Clara water polo team. One of the 3 co-captains. Yeah, that's me. And I'm from Burlingame, California. I am here with Mitch Klipa, who is also a senior captain from Grand Rapids, Mich.
SCU: Nick, you are a diabetic. How old were you when you found out?
NP: I had just turned 16. It was three days after my 16th birthday. And that's December 27, five and a half years ago.
SCU: How did you find out?
NP: I had been showing all the signs of the symptoms. At the time I didn't know what the symptoms of diabetes were, but I had lost about 20 pounds. I was using the bathroom probably six or seven times per night, sleeping 14-16 hours per day. Just uncontrollable and I couldn't stay awake. After Christmas break, I was sitting in second period geometry class and I fell asleep three times in my class. The first time my teacher said, "hey Nick, wake up. Nick wake up." So I say, "OK" and sat there and 10 minutes later I'm back out asleep. I fall asleep again and this time he threatens me. "Nick, if you can't stay awake I'm going to make you stand up in the back of the classroom." So I wake up, fall asleep again, and the third time he makes me stand-up in the back of the classroom. I stood back there, in my own little world, unable to focus really. And then after the class I went home, told my mom something was wrong. I told her I needed to go to the hospital, and she took me. I got a blood test and later that day found out I was diabetic.
SCU: Did you spend the night in the hospital?
NP: I spent about a week in the hospital.
SCU: Do you use needles or an insulin pump?
NP: Right now I just use the Novalog pen, so that's basically needles. I give myself a shot before any meal that has a significant amount of carbohydrates. But once my senior year, this season of water polo is over, I'm going to go on the pump because the pump would be kind of a hassle trying to take it in and out in the water.
SCU: Have you looked at pumps yet?
NP: No, I have not. My doctor just gave me the OK that once I'm ready for it, he'll sign me up for some classes, teach me and get me on the road to using it.
SCU: Did you play water polo in high school?
NP: I've played since I was 10.
SCU: How long did it take to get back in the water?
NP: Actually a couple days after I got out of the hospital. If anyone's ever been there then you would know it sucks. Excuse my language - it's just not very fun. And I really wanted to go work out and play water polo. I love it, so I wanted to go play. We had a club tournament one of those weekends following me getting out of the hospital so I went and played a couple games. I was not in the best shape but still it was nice to get out and do something.
SCU: Do you have a pregame or pre-practice routine?
NP: It's not really a set thing to eat. I check my blood sugar, make sure it's not in the range where it would go low because working out does drive the blood sugar down so I always keep it in the 130 to 160 range and have a little snack. The snack helps keeps me stable for the entire practice. For a game, it's pretty much the same thing.
SCU: Do all of your teammates know?
NP: Yes. I don't know if all the freshmen know but everyone else knows. Coach Wilbur knows so if I get out of practice for a low blood sugar, then he knows I'm just going to get Gatorade or something to eat that I have in my locker.
SCU: Have you gotten low during a game?
NP: Oh yeah. Games not as often because I'm usually even more adamant about being a little higher before a game just because I don't want to miss the game or get out for it. But it'll happen, once, maybe once every two weeks on average for practice I'd say. Maybe a little more. It's definitely a lot more at the beginning of practice, at the beginning of the season, going from light workouts to double-days, when I am working out five to six hours a day where the huge change in the regimen of the workout really plummets my blood sugar down. So it's a little different once you get working out more.
SCU: Have you ever had any serious incidents?
NP: Well speak of the devil. Last Sunday I was at my brother's house, visiting with he and his new wife. They just bought their first house. We were hanging out and my brother's running around showing me all the cool stuff they just acquired. I told him I was pretty tired since it was our day off so I wanted to take a nap. I laid down for a nap and three hours later I woke up with eight paramedics around me putting an I.V. into my arm, giving me fluids. Sugar water fluids straight into my blood stream. It took me an hour to regain consciousness because my blood sugar was down. I think they said it was at 35. I guess I just ate way too small of a lunch compared to what I normally eat. So, it was kind of scary.
SCU: Mitch, do you know what to do if that happens?
MK: His mom always makes sure I know what to do. When we were first talking about moving in together and because we hung out since our freshman year. When I'd go up there for dinner or something, she would always ask, "so you know to make sure to remind him he has to take his insulin at night if you go out" At night I'll say "Nick..." (makes needle poking gesture) "take your insulin." Because he needs to take the night shot. What do you call it Nick?
NP: I take a shot at night. It's a different type of insulin. It's called Lantus and basically that's just an all day regulator rather than to compensate for what I just ate.
SCU: Mitch, have you ever had to do anything?
MK: Not really. It's never really come to that. His mom has told me a bunch of warning signs. I make sure he eats this before this. It's just a lot of second checking to make sure and then if he's grunting and making weird noises in his sleep and I can't wake him up then just call the paramedics. Which I guess are the symptoms of a seizure.
SCU: What are you looking forward to your senior season?
NP: Winning. It's been a lot of hard work up to this point so it will be fun to see if it plays out the way we want.
MK: When we came here as freshmen, our team wasn't consistently in the top 20 or anything and it was just a real developing program. And I think just kind of luck, we had a really good recruiting class our year and we only had two guys that were top recruits out of high school and we all just sort of started playing well together. Then for a couple years here we haven't had big recruiting classes but we managed to still improve the program. So it's really cool that the program has gotten to a point where it's attracting new talent and not just relying on team chemistry to win but now you have talented players along with the team chemistry so it should be a really exciting season. We have a lot of good freshmen coming in to help us win.
SCU: Nick, were you here when Adam Morrison was at Gonzaga playing Santa Clara in basketball? He is a diabetic.
NP: I think we missed him by one year. I still remember hearing about him and watching him play. It was always something for me to look up to. Knowing there could be a star athlete and still have diabetes. It was definitely something to look up to when I was younger. He was kind of a cool person to watch play.
SCU: Are there any other diabetic athletes at SCU?
NP: Not that I know of. I haven't met anyone else here at Santa Clara that's diabetic, but I had a friend in high school that was. He had been diabetic since he was like four or five years old, so he was someone to go to if I had questions. It was kind of nice having someone my age that I could look to. I'm kind of alone here.
SCU: Do you feel like you're a role model?
NP: Kind of but I'm not really in one of the streamline sports. Water polo's low key, there's not a huge fan base or anything, so I feel like I could be if there more broadcasting of water polo, if it was more popular. But with just the sport I play it's just not that sort of situation for me.
SCU: Are you excited to be on ESPNU on Sept. 10 vs. Princeton?
NP: Yeah, that's actually pretty cool. We're actually really excited for that. Last year we played Princeton in the same tournament and it was broadcasted online. So it's sort of a little upgrade, which is really cool. I'm telling my family and friends that can't go to watch me play on TV.
SCU: Do you think there is anything you can do to get more fan support at games?
MK: A lot of people show up to our games – a lot of our friends and family so it's always fun to play at home. Hopefully we'll have some more fans come to the games. I think one of the biggest obstacles is that people just don't really understand what's going on in the pool. If there was a five-minute video to show how you play the sport, before every game, then more people would show up.
SCU: How do you tread water for longer than 30 seconds?
MK: People always say that. They're like, "How do you tread water for that long?" And they don't realize it's like standing, if you play soccer it's like the time you just stand there. It's so easy since we've been doing it for so long that you just don't even think about. That's not the hardest part of the game. The hardest part of the game is treading out to your suit over and over again and fighting with the guy next to you and then sprinting down the pool and sprinting back and forth. And people are always focused on just how you stay afloat for that long.
NP: But the same side, if I were to go try and run more than a mile I'd probably be sore for about a week. Because I'm not good on land (laughs).