Inside the Game: Goalkeeping with Stephanie Clements

By, Rico Chow '12

SANTA CLARA, Calif. - As most students are looking forward to Spring Break after final exams, most Bronco student-athletes are busy training and continuing to compete for Santa Clara. That is definitely the case with the SCU women's water polo team, who will play eight games including two tournaments (UOP Invitational and CSU Bakersfield Tournament) during the upcoming break.

In many sports, the fans love to see an offensive player score, but it is often forgotten that you cannot play at the highest level without a good goal keeper. Stephanie Clements (SC), a junior on the Bronco women's team, shares why she became a goalie and what it takes to be a great water polo player.

SCU: Why did you choose the goalkeeper position? What do you think your role is on the water polo team?

SC: Funny story. I actually never really chose to be a goalie. I kind of fell into the position.  On the first day of water polo tryouts as a freshman in high school, I introduced myself to the coach before practice and the first question he asked me wasn't "can you swim?" but "any experience playing goalie?" I told him I was a goalie back when I played soccer, so he turned to the team and said "Meet Steph, she's the new JV goalie." 

SCU: Have you ever thought of playing a different position? If you got to choose to play in any position other than goalie, which position would you choose and why?

SC: I have never considered playing any other position in my water polo career for two reasons. The first reason is that I am not a very good swimmer. The second reason is because I love being a goalie.  If I were to switch to a field player, I would probably play the wing or the flat on the right side of the field because I am a lefty.  Having a lefty in the field always creates an additional offensive threat for the opposing team. I probably should have thought about that sooner. 
    
SCU: Can you describe what your typical training is like for the goalie? 

SC: Legs, legs, legs. On a typical day of practice we will get in the pool and do a light warm up and when the field players do their swim sets, the goalies will do drills and exercises that strengthen our legs and quicken our reaction time before we pass, take shots and scrimmage. Outside of the pool, since my freshman year of high school, I have done Olympic-style lifting on my own in order to build up additional strength.  I need all the strength I can in order to make up for my lack of height but the additional lifting has also developed my work ethic in pretty much everything I do both in the water and out. 

SCU: This is your first year being the starting goalie for the team. How is this season different compared to the past two years? Did the way you see the team changed due to having an important role this year?

SC:
With every graduating and incoming class, the team dynamic changes and different people step up into the leadership roles that people look up to.  It has been really exciting to see who has stepped up this year, especially since there were a lot of girls in my recruiting class and the class behind me.

My personal belief is that the goalie needs to have a strong presence in the pool, and I am learning more and more everyday about how I can accomplish this and understand my role on the team.

SCU: What are your individual and team goals for this season? How well do you think the team will compete in the Western Water Polo Association Championships coming up later this spring?

SC:
The goal that I set for myself at the beginning of the season was to gain trust and respect from all my teammates and to assure them that I have their back. Of course our team goal is to win WWPA's this year.  I really think we have the potential to give every team in our conference a run for their money.  This season has definitely had its ups and downs but I strongly believe that we have yet to play to our fullest potential and really surprise ourselves. 

SCU: How long can you be under the water for? How long can you float with your head above water and without touching the floor?

SC:
I probably can't hold my breath under water for more than one lap. I've been swimming all my life but I'm not very good at it. I tend to sink in the pool so floating is not really one of my strong suits either. But if treading water counts, then I can do that for hours! 

SCU: What are some of the qualities that are important in playing in a water polo game? 

SC:
I think the two most important qualities to have when playing water polo are toughness and having a short-term memory.  The sport is physically brutal so being tough is essential.  As a goalie, you really don't get roughed up that often, but the field players really take a beating.  Also, because the game is so fast paced, in the moment you really can't stress about little mistakes, all you can do is focus on what's in your control with the next play at hand and how you can help out your teammates.

SCU: Any comments for the fans?

SC:
Our fans are awesome! We get tons of support from our families and the student body.  I know personally I always get super amped and play a lot better when I see the stands full of red and the fans cheering loud.

Go Broncos!