Saddleback’s men’s water polo team huddles together. Luke Walters | Lariat
The Saddleback College men’s water polo team finished off the season with a rank of third in the state as well as tying the program’s all-time record for wins. The Bobcats were able to reach such arduous milestones with simple principles to the teams “why.”
The “why” being why they play and put in effort each and every day, their statement being “aspire to excellence”.This motto was repeated to the team every day by head coach Jason Lynch who created the statement to demand excellence not only in the pool, but to be excellent in all aspects of life.
“Learning about this mindset and practicing the behaviors that are necessary to truly achieve excellence through the journey of this season will help you apply the same concepts and behaviors to every other area of your life,” coach Lynch said. “This will then allow you to truly become excellent and live a very meaningful and fulfilling life, one in which you can lead and serve others.”
Lynch implemented a strict training regimen for the Bobcats to ensure that their physical fitness was above the rest of the competition. With eight practices a week and each practice being 3 hours in length, the team had to find ways to keep the rest of their lives in balance. Being a student athlete can be a full time job and requires the utmost amount of effort each and everyday.
“The way I balance everything out between polo, academics, and family life is that I try to make time for each thing equally. I don’t just focus on one thing only, mornings are for academics, polo in the afternoon and the remainder of the day is family time. To keep the stress low I try to take everything one day at a time and try to focus only on the moment,” center Jackson Butler said.
This training schedule produced not only a winning program but a chemistry between the team.
“My favorite experiences from the season were the tournaments we played across the state. Hanging with the boys and playing games was a good time and what made it so special was that we were close,” Jeffery Hoss said.
Hoss mentioned that the chemistry he felt on the Bobcat lineup triumphed any team he had been on before. There were plenty of team events outside of practice time such as dinners, paintball games and parties. The culture that surrounds the Bobcats is built by trust in one another and always knowing that you can depend on your teammate. These principles can be found in the Bobcats’ handbook:
“The largest motivator to cause a player to give max effort and be selfless comes from doing for your teammates. Guys will fight for each other. The bond formed is the strongest motivating force. You don’t play for the coach. You play for each other.”
This culture and competitive environment is a perfect recipe for a winning team and is also a contributor to the talent that is brought in from all parts of California. Bakersfield, Murieta, and Oceanside all have representatives on the lineup as well as a player who moved from Arizona to be a part of the team. Ivan Moilanen left his home and family in order to live on his own for the first time with a team he had never met before.
“The move from Arizona was crazy in so many ways. I got to live in a new way and also play in a much more competitive setting. The hardest part was being comfortable when I am living on my own but the biggest deal is to just enjoy it and not worry about what you left behind,” Moilanen said.
There are plenty of factors that played a part in the 2021 season but the formula to keeping the Bobcats together was culture, relentless effort, playing for one another and enjoying the small moments. There are times to give up in a season and it is in those moments that true character shines and opens up doors that were not before seen. There are ways that a team can improve and it is up to the team to keep pushing when times are hard and realize that a lot is possible.