Allyson Hansen (23 years old, from San Francisco) and Sean Grab (also 23 years old, from South Pasadena) arrived to Barcelona at the beginning of September and they are currently playing water polo at CN Rubí.
- How has your experience been so far?
Ally: So far my experience here has been incredible. My team in Rubi has helped me to feel very welcome here and they have treated me like family. The city of Barcelona is so beautiful and so full of culture. I am very happy to be here.
Sean: The experience here so far has been great. Barcelona is a beautiful city, with wonderful places and people. I have been particularly lucky to play with a great group of people in Rubí. They have made me feel at home, and helped make my move to Spain very easy and enjoyable.
- Why did you choose Barcelona?
Ally: I chose to come to Barcelona because I wanted to become a better water polo player and because of the many opportunities that there are here to play high level water polo outside of the United States. A coach from back home, Dan Leyson (head coach of the UC Davis Men’s water polo tem), who played for Barceloneta under coach Quim Colet during the 1990s, had such an amazing experience here & he highly recommended that I take advantage of this opportunity as well. Dan & Quim (along with BIWPA) were the people who helped make this opportunity possible for me.
Sean: To be honest, I had been searching for a team to play with for a while. So when my coach from UC Davis, Daniel Leyson and Quim Colet offered me an opportunity to play with Rubí in Division de Honor, I was excited for the opportunity. Having traveled to Barcelona the past summer to train with UC Davis, I knew immediately that the chance to play in Barcelona again, was an experience I couldn’t say no to. I am very excited to be back in Spain, and playing in one of the most competitive leagues in the world.
- How is training and playing water polo in Barcelona?
Ally: Water polo is very different here than it is back in the US. The game is a lot more physical and there are not as many calls made by the officials. They really let you play it out over here, which I like. I feel like I have had to do a lot of learning and adjusting, but it has given me a different perspective and new appreciation for the sport. I am so impressed with how much raw talent there is here in Spain.
Sean: It is definitely a different experience from training in the United States. However, I am enjoying it very much. The style of play is much different, as well as the officiating. There is much more physicality to the game that they don’t allow in the states. The thing I like most, is the environment at the games. In the United states, you never have 100 or more people at a game. Here it is normal to have that many people or more, and that brings an energy to the game and the team that is incredible.
It is all still very surreal. Having the opportunity to play in such a beautiful place with such a great group of guys. It is something I am very thankful for, and especially to Daniel Leyson (UCDMWP), and Quim Colet and his BIWPA colleagues for finding me this opportunity.
- How do you think this experience can help you?
Ally: I think this experience will not only help me to become a better water polo player but also a better person. Since being here not only have I gotten to continue playing water polo but I have also started learning Spanish, exploring Barcelona, creating memories that will last me a lifetime, and gaining new knowledge and skills about water polo that I can bring with me back to the United States.
Sean: I obviously think as a player I will grow, especially being able to play at such a high level of competition, but it will also help me as a person. Having the experience of being with different people in a different place is always something I’ve embraced, and it has always been a positive experience for me. It will provide me more opportunities, and build more friendships that I will appreciate for the rest of my life.
- Why would you recommend it?
Ally: I would recommend this experience to other water polo players in the Unite States who are looking to improve their game and who want to continue playing at a high level, as well as to those who want to experience a new place & a new culture.
Sean: I would recommend playing in Barcelona for many reasons. The first of which is, you get to live in Barcelona! I also think there is a cultural experience here that you cannot have anywhere else. The people are incredibly friendly, welcoming, and will always show you a good time. Finally, the water polo itself is such a fun and challenging experience, that anyone looking to play overseas should definitely consider the option of playing in Barcelona.