- This is Poly
Becoming a high-level water polo athlete takes a special type of person with the dedication to move “through the pipeline.” Poly junior Elektra Urbatsch ’23, who was selected to the Youth Water Polo National Team and will represent the USA at the Pan Am Games in Brazil this January, is one of those special, motivated people.
“I have been a swimmer my whole life,” Urbatsch said. She has been in the water since the age of four and competes as part of Poly’s Varsity Swim team in 50 and 100m freestyle, 200 medley relay, and 400 free relay. “I tried out an intro to water polo class,” she recalls, “and I immediately loved it. I was bored of just swimming back and forth so this added a perfect element to a sport I was very comfortable with.” Urbatsch joined her first competitive team at 10 in Brooklyn and soon moved to Greenwich Aquatics in Connecticut, where she has practiced for the last five years. Urbatsch is also a middle blocker for Poly’s NYSAIS championship-winning Volleyball team.
“Water polo requires a lot of strength and technique,” Urbatsch explained. “Between treading, shooting, and passing with one arm, swimming, handling high contact aggression and a lot of perseverance, it is definitely a very difficult sport. It is not easy to train for and takes a lot of practice and committed time. This makes all my accomplishments very rewarding as I know my goals and can see them coming true.”
“We are constantly worked, evaluated, and tested,” Urbatsch added. “ A lot of girls don’t make it all the way through the pipeline as it gets more intense the older we get. As we age up, the sport does get very physical.
“I have had my fair share of blood, scratches, bruises, black eyes, and broken fingers. It takes a lot of fight in a person and I have learned a lot about my strength and ability to push myself mentally and physically. I admire the sport’s capacity to get grit and spirit out of an athlete.”
According to NYCAP ,”As a result of her outstanding performance… at the 2018 Girls Olympic Development Program’s (ODP) National Championships in San Ramon, CA, Elektra Urbatsch… was invited to join the National Team Selection Camp (NTS) in the Development age group. This is the first time a New York City girl has been invited to the country’s top age group camp, which consists of the best 70 players from all over the U.S.”
“Holiday camp is a training session for young, rising USA athletes,” Urbatsch explained. “Every year, around 100 girls from around the country get invited to Colorado Springs and train at the USA Olympic Training Center. It’s a four-day camp that includes three pool sessions a day, mental training, team bonding and meeting Olympians and coaches. This year, two-time gold medalist in the Olympics and UCLA Bruin Maddie Musselman will work with the girls.”
“I attended this camp as an eighth grader,” Urbatsch continued. “It is very rewarding to me to see how far I’ve come as an athlete and person. The camp is definitely strenuous for the girls, but extremely rewarding. As a mentor, I will be part of the coaching staff. Every year 2-3 girls are chosen to participate as mentors. As a mentor, I will help with gathering, teaching, and supporting the younger athletes during the long weekend. Unlike the adult coaches, I actually jump in the water with the girls, demonstrate drills, and help coach in the water. I will attend the coach meetings and get to learn about what happens behind the scenes.”
“I have been in the pipeline since seventh grade,” Urbatsch explained. “I made my first national team in eighth grade and have continued since. Every year you must re-try out. The pipeline starts with your regional team. You must try out for your zone team. Once those teams are selected, you play all the other zones in the National Championships. From there, they pick around 75 girls to attend NTSC (National Team Selection Camp). After that weekend tryout, they select a roster for the national team. Last summer, the national team traveled to Athens, Greece for training. There we played Greece and Germany and trained together.”
“To make the Pan-American roster, a small group of girls was invited to try out for a couple of weekends in California,” she said. “We spend around 15 hours in the pool during a long weekend of training.”
“I am beyond excited for this opportunity,” she said of the Pan Am Games [UANA Junior Pan American Championship Games] to be held January 7-17. “I am very confident in the group of girls selected for these games. Our placement in these games determines our qualification
s for the World Championships in Australia this summer. There is a lot of pressure on us as athletes to perform and produce. However, the experience from these games will be very beneficial to my future and development as an athlete and once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
“Whenever I jump into the pool with USA,” she said, “I look around and think to myself, ‘I am currently playing with some of USA’s future Olympic athletes.’”
“Time management is key when it comes to playing for USA,” Urbatsch said. “I fly out very often and miss a significant amount of school. I have spent a lot of plane rides back from camps studying and doing homework. Poly has been a phenomenal resource for me with my athletics. My teachers and peers have been very helpful through the process.”
“Whenever I jump into the pool with USA,” she said, “I look around and think to myself, ‘I am currently playing with some of USA’s future Olympic athletes.’ A select group of us will continue on to the Senior National Team and potentially the Olympics. That is definitely a surreal experience. It is a life commitment to attend and train for the Olympics. Right now, I am focusing on becoming the best athlete I can be and my next big step, college. I would like to play Division 1 Water Polo in college. I want to play in California and am looking into my top school now!”