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It’s all about fundamentals

Rachel Scott reflects on her Olympic effort.

Since joining the first girls’ water polo team at Bainbridge High School, Rachel Scott has gone far, reaching Athens this past summer.

Scott went to the 2000 Sydney Olympics as an alternate on the women’s water polo team, the first time women competed in Olympic water polo; she’s back on the island after serving as assistant coach to the women’s team in Athens.

“(The Olympics) is a great experience you train for for four years,” Scott said. “It’s a rare and unique experience... You’re with people so focused on what they want to do athletically.”

The road to Sydney and Athens began in the Ray Williamson pool for Scott when Steve Killpack, who had coached boys water polo for several years, started up a girls team at the high school in 1989. Scott was one of two eighth-graders invited to join the high school team.

“From the very beginning, it sucked me in,” Scott said. “I love it because tactically, it’s like basketball where you can run plays, (and) physically it’s grueling.

“It’s a challenging sport. It’s one you need physical endurance, incredible mental toughness and power – in terms of strength.”

Water polo players will swim up to two miles in a game.

Scott says Killpack was a huge mentor for her and the main competition for the team at the time was in Oregon.

Graduating from BHS in 1994, having earned varsity letters in water polo, soccer and basketball, Scott enrolled at San Diego State University. She was named most valuable goalkeeper at the 1995 Collegiate Nationals for the university, and was goalkeeper for the National Team at the 1998 World Championships in Perth, Australia.

Women’s water polo is still a relatively young sport, whereas men’s water polo has been played for over a century, becoming part of the Olympic Games in 1900.

Whereas Scott sees men’s teams all using similar strategies so that games are often reduced to “a physical game,” in women’s water polo, different countries use varying systems and strategies.

“There’s still a lot of growth that can happen,” Scott said.

The U.S. women’s water polo, having won silver in the 2000 Olympics, went to Athens favored for a gold medal, but came home with the bronze.

“(The team) had come off an incredible performance the year before in the 2003 World Championship in Barcelona and was disappointed to falter versus Italy in the (Olympic) semi-finals,” Scott said. “Our girls tried our best, but unfortunately fell short. They played stellar. It’s too bad they weren’t rewarded for their efforts.”

For herself, Scott will be settling in Sacramento, Calif., with her soon-to-be husband, Rafael Ruano, the USA women’s youth team coach, to coach water polo at a community college there. The couple are planning an island wedding in late September.

Her advice to the girls water polo team? Practice your fundamentals, passing and shooting.

“We practiced fundamentals with the national team four to five hours out of six hours in the pool. We are constantly running fundamentals,” Scott said. “We run clinics around the country; we do fundamentals and kids think ‘I’m too experienced,’ (but) if you have it as a building block, it doesn’t matter what offense or defense you run.”

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