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Thacher Scannell
Keeping up with our athletes – is a new segment we have started in order to see how our athletes go on to succeed after they have experienced their time with BIWPA. We have had the privilege to stay in touch with most of our athletes and we want others to see how they reflect back on their experience as well as apply it to their current careers. Athletes discuss how BIWPA has helped shape them into the athletes they are today and as individuals both inside and out of the water. Here is Thacher Scannell’s story!


Hey Thacher, how’s it going?

Pretty good and you?


I’m good thanks! Thank you for taking the time again to have a chat with us regarding your BIWPA experience and how you are doing. I’ll first start off by asking you basic questions just so the readers know a little bit more about you. Is that fine?

Yes, that’s fine.


First things first, tell me where you live and what team you currently play for?

I currently live in Stanford, Connecticut which is in the northern-eastern part of the United States. The club I currently play for is Greenwich Aquatics which is just on the next town over. My high school team is called the, “Brunswick Bruins”, which is a private school that I go to. I am currently finishing my senior year at Brunswick.


Thacher Scannell Team

Brunswick Bruins team


Taking it a step back, when did you start to play water polo? Give us a little bit of your background with water polo.

I started playing water polo around the age of 9 or 10 and I got involved with it because of my previous club that had a swim team. I had been swimming for a while when I decided to try water polo for the first time and I really enjoyed it and I went from that.


What position do you play?

I pretty much play anywhere around the perimeter, but I don’t play the centre forward position or the goalie of course. I am also a right-handed player. I’m a lefty in terms of writing things down, but with sports and water polo, I use my right hand. Being able to use both hands for different things, I have been able to develop my lefty game too, so I am a little bit of both to be honest.


What are you taking in high school or is there anything in particular that you know you want to do in college?

We don’t really have any majors in high school, at least in my private school, I know some schools do, so we take general courses. I am pretty interested in the sciences and working with money and stuff. I may want to be a banker or go into the banking industry one day. I am still unsure.


Have you started to apply to some colleges yet?

We are looking various schools that have water polo programs, but also with swimming, so my parents and I are looking at those. However, the deadline isn’t until a couple of weeks so we haven’t applied quite yet.


Do you have some specific in mind for water polo?

Although I might be going to college for swimming, for water polo, I have been talking to Pomona College in Claremont, California. It is part of their five-school system there. They also have one of the USA men’s national team coaches there as their head coach, Alex Rodriguez, so that would be a great learning experience for me.


Do you also swim at the same time that you play water polo?

Yeah, it depends on the season that I focus on mainly. In the fall, I usually focus on water polo and in the winter time, it is swimming. In the spring time, it is a mix of both, but summer it really depends on what is happening. The polo season only runs in the fall so it ends up working out.


For swimming, do you specialize in certain strokes?

Primarily long-distance freestyle and butterfly.


That is very cool that you are following water polo or potentially swimming all the way through your college years. You will have a great time Thacher!

Going back now to BIWPA, how did you come about finding it?

It was kind of my mom who found the program in Barcelona. She wanted me to go to Spain to play water polo, apart from learning Spanish, so we just decided to go. It was really easy to find all the necessary info that we needed and you guys were really helpful in making the process simple.


When was the first time you found out about this?

First time I went to BIWPA was when I had finished 8th grade. It was the summer of 2014.


How many times did you come to BIWPA and what program did you do exactly?

I came to Barcelona twice consecutively. The first time was for a summer camp I did in 2014 right in the summer of me heading into high school and the summer I also did a national training camp back in the US. The second summer was also a camp in 2015 and I got the chance to play with Club Natació Rubi. It was great to get some playing experience with them and I learned a lot.


Thacher Scannell

Thacher, during one of the Summer Camps in Barcelona


What would you say was the best thing you liked about BIWPA?

Well water polo wise, the most favourite thing I did was being able to hang out with kids from everywhere. It was cool because you didn’t know them at first, so you’d be shooting randomly with these other kids not knowing who they were, but as practices progressed and you started to know them, you would become close friends with them. You guys did a great job in the pool with team chemistry because you could see how each of us would improve and acclimated to each other’s type of play pretty quick. For the non-water polo part, I like that I still talk to people from BIWPA, and this is 3 years ago that I first met them. It was with other players that I went to the beach with, played volleyball with, and had beach soccer matches. It was the whole experience (water polo and non-water polo) parts that really made us make those connections.


Did you feel that some skills or other things you learned from BIWPA, you were able to apply it to your game play in the US?

Oh yes definitely! So, a couple of things that I learned was moving around the defender to steal the ball. The way I learned to steal the ball at BIWPA’s camps, the US didn’t have to teach me, they just told me to do it. I felt great knowing that I already knew how to do it from learning it at BIWPA and especially that it was something that the US told me after 3 years I had been in Barcelona. Basically, they were kind of behind the ball vs. BIWPA and a lot of the other skills I learnt from BIWPA I was also able to teach some of the other kids from around here, which they really appreciated as well.


Do you remember who your BIWPA coaches were and do you recall something important they said that really stuck with you?

Yes, Enric Carnella was the coach for my first year, and then my Rubi coach was Ferran. Cristina although wasn’t a coach, was very helpful with things we did around there. Yuri was also my coach at that time as well! Something that stuck with me that a coach said wasn’t necessarily a quote or anything, but more rather criticism. At Rubi, there was a coach that thought I was fooling around when I didn’t think I was. He did yell at me and having this experience really made me take the game more seriously. It bothered me in a constructive way because I knew I wasn’t fooling around even though he thought I was and It really made me work harder and pay attention more at a younger age which would help my progress as an athlete later down the road.


You recently played in the Junior Olympics in the US, how was that and how was your experience?

It was good, it was my down year, meaning next year I will be older for the 18U category. My Greenwich Aquatics team didn’t do so well but we have gotten bronze and gold in previous years.


Thacher Scannell JOs

Thacher Scannell, with his team at the 2017 Junior Olympics


What would you say is the main difference between Spanish water polo and American water polo?

I would say physicality. Just comparing it to scrimmaging, in Spain, the physicality is more graceful, whereas in the US, physicality is used with brute force. In Spain, it is more about fines punching people, where we go above the water in America. This also happens a fair amount.


Are there any water polo players that you look up to?

In the States, there are two guys that I look up to. The first played in Greenwich Aquatics when I was 10, and since I didn’t have a team, I played with the 12 and under team. His name was Thomas Dunstan whom later went on to play in the Rio Olympics and it was a pretty big deal as it was the first guy to ever do that from our club. The second guy was Charlie Allens. He was always nice to me growing up and taught me a lot of things about water polo and he now plays at Harvard.


What does Thacher miss the most about BIWPA?

There are a couple of things I miss. First, the place where we played was really cool. It had a beautiful pool and their installations were amazing. I miss the coaches a lot too because they were really helpful and really nice. Even if you didn’t speak Spanish, they would try their best to speak English. It was also great to learn from a wide range of people that you aren’t used to before, so learning water polo was fun!


Would you recommend BIWPA to other people?

I have actually recommended BIWPA to other people and two of my friends actually came. People ask me all the time about my experience with Spain and how it was and I tell them that it was really fun and I tell them to go. It will be a great learning life and water polo experience for everyone.


Lastly, do you see yourself coming back to Spain any time soon or after college?

Yeah, I might be coming back by Christmas time to play for Rubi again and then depending on how college search goes, I might be going for a longer period of time. I might also try and do a gap year in between my freshman year and after I graduate from high school and play in Spain.


Well Thacher, I wish you all the very best and I hope your search for colleges goes well. Thank you for taking the time to talk to us.

Thank you. It was my pleasure.

ciara gibson
We have talked to Ciara Gibson, recent winner of Spanish Queen’s Cup and LEN Trophy with CN Mataro. This summer she will be collaborating with BIWPA on the water polo camp that we are organizing in Reading. In this interview you can learn more about one of the best water polo players in the UK.
An English woman that ends up living in Catalonia. How did it happen?
My parents moved to Spain in the 80s: my father lived in San Sebastián and my mother in Mataró, and they then decided to settle in Mataró for a few years. They wanted to see the Barcelona Olympic Games, and in 92 I was born. So, my brother and I are ‘mataronins’.
You´ve been playing for a long time in CN Mataro. What do you remember from your beginnings?
I remember being desperate to improve – get higher out of the water, learn to do a bounce-shot and achieve a good faking technique. I was desperate to get into the pool and play with the ball, and when I had to play a match I used to get very nervous when waiting to play.
Why you could not play with the spanish national team despite you were training with them at the CAR?
It’s a difficult subject to understand, and I still don’t. Since both my parents are British, I was given a British passport. And when I wanted to play for the Spanish junior team, I wasn’t allowed because I lacked Spanish nationality. The process after requesting nationality – in the country where I was born and bread – took over 3 years and as a consequence I missed out on all junior international competitions. They were very frustrating times as I didn’t fully understand why I wasn’t able to play with my teammates and friends who I trained with on a daily basis.
How did you feel taking part in the Olympic Games in your homeland? More pressure?
Incredible and intimidating. Playing in the Olympic games is every Water Polo player’s dream and the atmosphere in the Olympic Village was incredible. Also, it’s hard to get used to the idea of playing in front of 5.000 spectators and controlling your nerves. Luckily, when the game starts, all external factors are forgotten.
What is your opinion about the current situation of water polo in the UK? Was London 2012 the necessary incentive to grow?
The Olympic Games helped people gain more knowledge about our sport and since the team in London proved Water Polo in the UK could be amongst the top teams, UK Sport decided to increase their funding. Sadly, they decided to  withdraw the funding two years later (including Basketball, Synchronized Swimming and other sports) endangering the post London legacy. It’s a shame given the amount of talent there’s in the country, who can’t compete internationally.
Luckily, there are still many professionals working hard to improve the level of waterpolo and to one day be amongst the top teams again.
Back to Mataro. This season has been amazing: first of all Queen’s Cup against CN Sabadell…
We had never beaten Sabadell until now, so we have been pursuing this day since the team was created. And, winning our first national title made it even more significant. It didn’t come easy though, we had to play our best game to achieve it and on that day, every player of our team was outstanding.
…and a few weeks ago, the LEN Trophy against Vouliagmeni…
I could have never imagined we would achieve to win a European title. To play a Final-Four has been my dream ever since I started playing Water Polo in Mataró 12 years ago.To win it with my first team and with the girls I’ve been training with forever, makes it vary valuable. It hasn’t been easy and it’s a reward for all the hard work everyone has put into this team.
What means for CN Mataró wining these two titles?
To achieve the first two titles in the history of the club, beating great teams like Sabadell and Vouliagmeni, has given us a massive boost in confidence. We’re very keen and determined to keep on training to improve as a team and so are our upcoming generations of Water Polo players.
The Reading Camp will be your first experience as a BIWPA coach, what do you expect from this camp?

I hope to share my deep passion for the sport with future promises and have an impact on their waterpolo careers.

How important do you think the water polo camps are to improve the technique of the guys / girls?
It’s a unique experience where players can make friends and live and breathe Water Polo, being surrounded by professionals and Water Polo lovers. It’s a great experience where one can have fun and learn on a daily basis.

 How did you start in waterpolo?

I came from the world of swimming and I took part in it. My brother also did it but he decided to change sports. I followed him.

What do you remember about your beginnings and when you start playing in the national league?

My beginnings were a good step because I only thought about having fun and nothing else (waterpolo hooked me like a drug). The first year that I started playing I stood out in the ascent phase being the best player and the national team called me. It was a very nice stage I will never forget. At club level my first team was the best I had (very modest) and pure companionship.

Your big jump was going to Italy to play. How was this transfer given?

Well, after four years disputing international tournaments with the national team, I was able to choose to play in several teams. And I did not think twice, because at that time it was the best league in the world and my goals were different.

 What are the differences between Spain and Italy?

Well I don´t like to comment on something that for the moment I do not know , 10 years ago I went to Italy and honestly over the years there are things I could not see or experience firsthand in Spain. I can speak about Italy, a very competitive league and in my case a professional league (because I´ve always lived off waterpolo) very hard and serious training which for me was a job and responsibility. I learned a lot in every aspects, tactical, technical…

 With the national team you have been one of the most influential players…  (Brief overview of your career with the national team)

The Spanish team has given me a lot! I have had the opportunity to learn from all the coaches who have gone through the selection. Thanks to them and thanks to all the colleagues who have accompanied me throughout my career, I have been the player I was and am very grateful for that and I value it.

A notorious episode of your career was your frustrated signing with Pro Recco, what had happened and which were the consequences?

Orizzonte, the team where I was playing in that moment, did not give me the desire to go to play with Pro Recco. Orizzonte behaved very badly with me but I have forgiven. The consequences were that I lost a good and excellent contract, but I decided not to stop my career. In five days I took the bags with my husband and I went to play the Greek league with the Olympiakos team. There I had the opportunity to learn a different way of working, although I was not very happy at first because it was not in my plans.

But without any doubt one of the biggest obstacles that you have encountered in your career was the uterine cancer detected in 2009. How did you live that period?

It was a very bad and hard period, but I surprised myself with my reaction, I had to keep doing what I liked and I had to stay in the top.

Recently, you decided to hang your swimsuit, why?

Circumstances of life and changes, the reasons are clear: to dedicate to my family. I suffered 15 years around the world without my parents and my brothers and I could not enjoy them. Now I want to have more time and give more attention to my son and my husband. Being on the highest level and being a mother is like being a superwoman! Life are stages and now is a new one. Although the decision was hard to take, one day it had to end. And now it has come my time!

Now that you are no longer in active, you want to stay linked to waterpolo. What awaits the children who come to your campus in august in Mallorca?

Mainly my goal is that they have fun and learn everything they can, and to stay with the memory of having been a special time and it was worth it. Transmit all what I have learned, I also want to get involved like one of them with the same enthusiasm as when I started.

What do you think about biwpa and in your opinion how can it help waterpolo?

Everyone should support and recognize that biwpa is doing a competent and a quality work. It is helping greatly to international waterpolo. I wish I had had the opportunity in my time to make a campus of this level.  It gives the opportunity for players to have a more complete training and this indirectly helps all clubs.

How did you learn about BIWPA?

During a tournament in the USA I saw a BIWPA flyer, I took it and pretty liked what I saw.

What skills do you want to develop in the academy?

I have not set any goal in particular since I am in BIWPA. Perhaps swimming, strength, throwing … Everything has improved since I came 6 months ago to the Academy.

And some goal that you set for yourself?

I want to shoot more, sometimes I am too shy when it is about throwing, I want to be more self-confident, it is my main problem.

Why did you choose Barcelona for your training?

First of all, I think that European water polo is of a higher level. Also, there is no better place than Barcelona because it is beautiful, the best city of Spain and it is always a reference in terms of water polo quality.

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Have you been here before?

I spent here for one week when I was 7, but this is the first time when I stay for so long.

What does it mean to come to Barcelona as a young water polo player?

It is a big challenge. I would not have been achieved it without Ferran or anybody in this swimming pool (points at his teammates), because to be alone is difficult, but with friends like these one can feel comfortable.

How important is it to meet new people and learn a new language during this process?

It is important to meet people from all over the world, the more friends you have the more lucky you are. Spanish gives you more opportunities to find a job, that is why I want to use a chance to learn the language along with improving my water polo level.

Do you believe that BIWPA might have helped you choose a university with a scholarship?

Yes, I am sure that yes. I need to keep on training, because if I leave BIWPA and stop doing that I am not going to achieve any scholarship. But if I go on improving my skills as I am doing in BIWPA I am sure I can get it.

waterpolo felipe

¿Cuáles fueron tus inicios a nivel de club?

En un club muy humilde de Brasil. Tenía un entrenador que era un enamorado de este deporte, Paulo Rogelio. Entrenábamos mucho recuerdo. Después mi hermano Kiko con 25 y yo con 15 jugamos el Mundial de Fukuoka con Brasil. Hablé con Iván Pérez le comenté que tenía pasaporte y que quería jugar en España.

¿Y cómo acaba esa historia?

Tuve la suerte que Guillermo Molina acababa de fichar por el Pescara y había una plaza en el CN Barcelona. Toni Esteller –que es de los que arriesga- fichó a mi hermano que fue el primero en llegar y yo posteriormente.

Más tarde decides por marchar a Italia…

Sí. Yo tenía ese sueño de jugar la competición de las grandes estrellas. Surgió la oportunidad de ir a un club que era muy bueno para los jóvenes como era el Savona. En aquel momento tenía 21 años.

¿Cómo es el Pro Recco como club y compartir vestuario con las grandes estrellas?

Muy profesional. La ciudad vive el deporte como locos. Es un pueblo de 10.000 personas pero sí que es verdad que la relación con los jugadores es muy profesional. Están volcados en el resultados. Recuerdo que el primer año perdimos la Copa de Europa y al final de temporada nadie sabía quién iba a seguir el próximo año. El segundo año ya la ganamos y nos quedamos más tranquilos.

Hablemos ahora de tu etapa con la selección española.

El primer éxito con España es el bronce en Mar de la Plata. Y luego nueve años increíbles con la absoluta. Quizás no tuvimos la suerte de obtener un oro pero dado el contexto internacional yo lo veo como un logro. Es una etapa muy importante de mi vida en la que he construido muchas amistades y que las tendré toda la vida.

El elemento social en tu incorporación a Brasil es importante me imagino ¿no?

Así es. He visto algo más que las medallas. La función real del deporte de Alto Rendimiento. Gracias a esto he podido crear un proyecto social en Río de Janeiro de 100 niños que me llenan mucho. A veces se olvida de que el deporte también puede hacer personas mejores. En Brasil esto es una herramienta increíble. Además el waterpolo que es un deporte muy completo con valores como el equipo, el sacrificio…

Tengo que preguntártelo. ¿Cómo es Ratko Rudic de entrenador?

Es una legenda de este deporte. En Brasil decimos que si viene alguien con cuatro oros olímpicos y te dice que te rompas la cabeza contra la pared, lo haces (risas). Fuera bromas, le han propuesto un reto impresionante. Es un entrenador muy exigente pero vamos todos a una con él.

easter camp participantes felipe perrone

Felipe Perrone en uno de los campus BIWPA

¿Qué será después de Rio para Felipe Perrone…?

Esa es una buena pregunta. Con sinceridad, no lo sé. Tengo presente que cada día es más difícil vivir de este deporte pero hay que saber prepararse para el día de después. En la selección el grado de Licenciados se ha incrementado muchísimo en los últimos años y esto es un dato muy importante. Yo he acabado mi Grado en ADE y ahora pienso en prepararme como entrenador y quiero hacer un Master pero la olimpiada de 2016 lo hace difícil.

En relación a las últimas noticias que han aparecido de que hay varios clubes que atraviesan momentos delicados en el plano económico… ¿Estamos ante una desprofesionalización del waterpolo en España?

Sinceramente me duele. Es una pena que muchos jugadores no puedan dedicarse a este deporte. Yo he vivido un momento en el que se invertía mucho dinero pero esto ha cambiado. En lugar de quejarme prefiero ver su lado positivo. Es momento de reestructurar el waterpolo español y hacerlo más sostenible. Como modelo profesional hay que buscar nuevas iniciativas que nos permitan dedicarnos a este deporte. Lo que se hace hoy en día es de héroes con la dedicación que hay y lo poco que se gana.

Para cerrar la entrevista me gustaría que hablemos de BIWPA. Desde el principio has estado al 100% con nosotros. ¿Qué le has visto?

Yo creo que sobre todo es la idea y la capacidad que tiene BIWPA de desarrollar el deporte. Su potencial para enganchar a más gente en este deporte y disfrute del waterpolo.

Estamos viendo como empiezan a ver diferentes iniciativas privadas donde antes estaba lo público… ¿Cómo lo ves?

Yo lo veo bien. En base al concepto de responsabilidad social corporativa, es un camino para buscar a las empresas. Por qué no una empresa puede asociar su imagen a un deporte. Sinceramente si supiéramos vender la imagen del waterpolo sería uno de los caminos para emprender .

¿Qué recomiendas a los chicos para que vengan a BIWPA?

Lo veo como una posibilidad para ver el waterpolo de forma más intensa y una manera de conocer otras personas, otras culturas de todo el mundo y relacionarte con personas con el mismo gusto. Al final se juntan grupos humanos increíbles. Es un aprendizaje como persona y deportista.

Foto cabecera: Pilar Silvestre