What is the toughest sport? According to Graeme Carey, a blogger, from msn.com, it is boxing. Others think that swimming is the hardest sport. Combine the two sports and add in soccer and baseball attributes, and you’ve got water polo and May Kamaka ‘20, arguably ‘Iolani’s best player.
For those who do not know how tough playing water polo can be, think a combination of swimming (treading water), boxing (physical battle), baseball (accurate throwing), and soccer (effective blocking). Chris Siddell, a blogger from bleacherreport, sums it up in one sentence: “Try going to your local pool and treading water for more than 30 minutes, then imagine playing an intense contact sport in that time.”
It is hard to imagine persevering through such challenging conditions, but year after year ‘Iolani provides teams of girls and boys who are willing to put their bodies on the line for a game they love. One stand-out player, May Kamaka ’20, comes from the Girls Varsity I Water Polo team and has represented the Raiders on a national level in the Olympic Development Program (ODP).
Kamaka started ODP clinics in eighth grade and barely made the school team. Never having played water polo seriously before, she described it as similar to “learning a new language.” However, with hard work and a positive attitude, Kamaka excelled.
“If you are put with people who are good at the sport you are almost forced to be good,” said Kamaka with characteristic enthusiasm.
After participating in rigorous ODP clinics for four years, Kamaka was recruited to join the Youth ODP team, reserved for juniors and highly talented sophomores. She and her team traveled to California and competed in ODP tournaments. Her team went into the competition seeded 15th out of 16, but beat the odds to win four out of five games and seeding 10th overall.
According to Kamaka, one reason for the team’s success is that the opponents “push her to be better” and she wants to give her opponents a hard time so they can have fun. Kamaka’s success comes from her strong athletic background. She used to swim and play softball which are sports that apply to water polo the most, throwing and treading water. Without much enthusiasm for running, Kamaka turned to the water as her main source of athleticism.
“If you don’t come from some sort of swimming ground, water polo is going to be hard.”
Her motivation got her through the tough training.
“I didn’t want to be weak link so I tried even harder,” said Kamaka.
It paid off, as she played very well throughout the tournament, receiving the same amount of play time as the starters and scoring one goal against the very skilled mainland players which is a major accomplishment.
Although most of the players on her team were girls from the Punahou Varsity 1 water polo team, Kamaka said there was no rivalry between them the entire trip.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better group of players,” she said, insisting that she learned a lot and had a lot of fun with her teammates on long bus rides. Kamaka and her teammates also found sync in the teamwork as well, going into the games without many practices and working together perfectly as if they had always been a team.
For aspiring female water polo players who are in ODP clinics, Kamaka says, “Don’t be intimidated [by the other players]. You can’t control what others are going to do, you can only control yourself.”