All posts tagged water polo

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.

The Spain Women’s Water Polo National Team reached the semifinals yesterday after beating Greece at the penalty shoot out. After a very tough game in which Greece took the lead since the very beginning, Spain tied the game 5 seconds before the final whistle (10-10). Judit Forca, top goal scorer of Miki Oca’s squad, scored on a men down situation with a very nice shot.

Apart from the leftie Forca, Bea Ortiz led the team in terms of the scoring. The former CN Rubí player and one of the images of Barcelona International Water Polo Academy (BIWPA), hit 5 times the Greek net and became a key figure to clinch the victory for the Spanish national team. With Anni Espar pulling the strings, Spain made it through the quarter finals with an exhibition of strength and courage.


The Spanish players, celebrating a goal / FINA

At the penalty shootout, two figures popped up with great performances. Laura Ester, who saved the last penalty, and Helena Lloret, who scored the last penalty with an unstoppable shot that got into the goal with a little suspense.

On the other hand, Canada defeated the host team Hungary unexpectedly (4-6) and will be the next rival for Spain on its way to the final. The girls will have the chance to fight for a medal no matter what happens at the semifinal, which can be considered already as a success and a very important milestone for this group of athletes. Whatever happens in the next game, this is the second best result ever achieved on a World Championships for Spain women’s water polo, except for the gold medal in Barcelona 2013.

Congratulations for keeping up the good work and a special shoutout to our BIWPA ambassador Anni Espar, and to Clara Espar and Bea Ortiz, BIWPA collaborators.


Kelly Doherty (California, 1999), who has been in our Academy for the past two years, will now be playing in the prestigious University of California, Berkeley.

Sometimes dreams do come true, due to a lot of effort & sacrifice. For Kelly & her family, this has been the reason for so much happiness, as well as for BIWPA. When Kelly arrived in Barcelona, she had in mind the goal of playing for a university in the United States of America. Something complicated, but not impossible.

We got to meet her during our summer water polo camp. Both sides were extremely delighted from the beginning. As soon as she knew about our Full Program, she didn’t think twice. She landed in September in Barcelona with her sister, Alison. During these two years they have been supporting each other to grow not only in the sport, but also on a personal level.

After two years of countless hours at the pool, improving her individual technique during long training sessions with her teammates at the Academy, and later, at the CN Catalunya club, Kelly has succeeded & made it. She has reached an optimum level of the sport, so much so that one of the most prestigious universities in the United States believes that she deserves to defend their colors.

Like Kelly, there has been more than 20 boys & girls from all over the world who have come & been in our Academy to improve their water polo skills in Barcelona – in addition to learning the Spanish language – one of the most important cities for this sport. In addition, Kelly has completed her high school studies at the ES International School school with which BIWPA has a collaboration agreement, the ESIS school is dedicated to working with international student-athletes to realize their full potential and to provide them with a lifetime of opportunities.

They have improved, competed, made new friends & returned home with the satisfaction of having worked hard in the water, and of course, always with a smile. The thing is that sometimes dreams come true & someone like Kelly Doherty can attest to it.

But beyond Kelly´s case, there are thousands of male and females water polo players in the world with a goal. Some of them, want to end up competing in Europe & take on an experience that will last them a lifetime. Others, on the contrary, just like most of our players, want to achieve their maximum potential and goal: to apply for a university chosen by them, and to in order to do it, the only secret is to work hard and be surrounded by the best.

For this reason, from BIWPA, we have created the Academy, with the hope of being, as it has been so far, a tool for those athletes who want to achieve their goals in life. Regardless of how ambitious it would be, in BIWPA, we would like to be part of this process.

junior olympics

Growing up as a water polo player in the United States, I was privileged to take part in one of the greatest club tournaments – USA Water Polo National Junior Olympics. Junior Olympics is the largest national tournament in the United States bringing teams and young athletes from all over to compete at a high level. These athletes train all summer for an opportunity to play on the main stage.

Junior Olympics offers 10U to 18U boys and girls the opportunity to compete in a 4 day tournament hosted in a location that USA Water Polo has designated. This 4 day tournament is jam packed with water polo games throughout the entire day and hosted in over 20 different facilities; being the best facilities that the host city has to offer.

I have been able to compete in Junior Olympics since I was 14 years old and every year offering a new and unique experience. Playing with SOCAL Water Polo Club, I was able to compete every year against the best club teams in the nation. This experience always brought me very exciting opportunities – traveling to far off destinations, bonding with my teammates, and competing in gold medal matches.

Junior Olympics is far more than just a summer water polo tournament. It is a journey. All summer you and your teammates spend hours training and playing games in preparation for an opportunity to participate in the ¨big leagues¨ of club water polo. Training 3 hours a day and playing in weekend tournaments, just to do it all again the following week. And finally, the moment arrives in late July when you and your team are having a JO´s send-off party to celebrate the end of an enduring summer and the beginning of the 4-day JO excursion with the goal in mind; to take home the gold. It was always worth it.


Trieste preolympic has finished and it’s time to collect some impressions about what has happened in this appointment that gave the pass to the Olympic games. The first good news are definitely that the Spanish national team will be at Rio 2016. With a good team gaming despite they started badly the event.

Other good news are the good sensations that Canada national team have left along all the preolyimpic and they showed clear signs of the good health of the waterpolo in north America. The tie with only a few seconds left that they got against Hungary will remain for the posterity of this sport.

But for BIWPA, if there is a national team that has been the surprise team –with permission of the rest-, that has been the Holland national team. Their game has been praised for most of the experts and the brash that they have showed when fronting the rivals without caring about their level, even if they were superior a priori.

Guided by the Olympic champion Robin Van Galen, that won the Olympic Games with the woman national team, the squad has taken an undeniable leap of quality. This is in part because of the large agreement that BIWPA has with the dutch federation. There are a few points to focus in, but we will analyze two of the most importants.

The first of them are the stages that the senior national team and the lower grades realize in Barcelona, looking for a place to compete and grow as a team having in front top rivals.

This plan was created in 2014 as a consequence of two matches that in may of the same year BIWPA organized for the Dutch team. The Catalan coaches were invited and the result was magnificent. Thanks to this four Dutch players were incorporated to the Spanish competitions, being Club Natació Barcelona and Club Natació Sabadell the host clubs.

The second point is maybe one of the most noteworthy that can explain the evolution and growth of the Dutch waterpolo directed by Van Galen. In this new season 2015/2016 there are up to seven players in the Spanish top division, a very interesting aspect that has allowed, as Van Galen has recognized, to adapt the players to an extraordinary competitive level that seems to be the mainstay of his team. “We see a streamlined development in technical, tactical, physical and mental aspects in our players in Barcelona that lets them reach a better level than they had playing in Holland” , recognized the “orange” coach few months ago.

For BIWPA this preolympic has been a satisfaction as a company. When we started with the collaboration with the dutch federation, we established a Olympic program thinking in Tokio 2020, without forgetting Rio was at the corner and was a good opportunity too. We won’t deny that the non-qualification of our dutch friends has been something sad, but observing the development and knowing that is a young team, we are sure that if we continue with the same dynamic and we keep cooperating, Tokio will see the renaissance of a competitive team that can become a referent for the waterpolo in the north of Europe.

pain-waterpolo-olympic games

Spanish waterpolo is back in congratulation after winning the ticket to the Olympic Games of Rio 2016. Since Moscow 1980 Spain has been part of this appointment uninterruptedly. An achievement available to few countries beyond where water polo is well established and has an important social prestige such as Hungary and Serbia between others.

Not only the girls gave us a great joy winning Holland in their own home, but also the boys finished the job. This way and by second time in the history of our sport, both national teams will go to the Olympic Games as it happened in London 2012.

A double satisfaction that is because of the good moment of the sport of our country despite the economic crisis has created a lot of difficulties to clubs and federations. As Gabi Hernández said, this achievement in Trieste is an important part of all the Spanish waterpolo.

pain-waterpolo-olympic gamesBut it has been a path full of difficulties since the beginning of the Olympic cycle. Hernández assumed the charge with the intention to renew the team without losing the quality. The non-qualification for the last world championship in Russia was a tough moment for everyone but it helped us reach new goals. The World League is an example of it, where the youthfulness had the chance to grow in top level international competitions and to adapt to the demand of a national team.

Meanwhile Miki Oca’s girls have had a tougher path. They came from an ascendant dynamic winning the World Championship and the silver medal in their first Olympic Games. But they accustomed the people to reap victories but when the first major defeats appeared it seemed as we woke up from a dream.

Good sensations have returned as we could see in Gouda, where the national team beat Holland in their home. Sometimes we forget that feminine Spanish waterpolo has lived in the shade until very recently and that now we were fighting against the best national teams. And even more in top competitions as Anni Espar remembered to BIWPA. Now in Rio, in front of their second Olympic Games, they have the chance to recoup from the final in London.

Now, with the ticket to Rio, the success was given by the players and coaches but the work has been done by all the people involved in this sport, especially in this tough moments. This August, as every four years since 1980, we will be in front of the television watching how our national teams try to write their own history in the Olympic Games.

water polo academy

Could you imagine having the opportunity to live in Barcelona and train water polo with some of the best coaches? This is what all our Academy students are doing thanks to BIWPA. Our young athletes come from all around the world with the same goal: to improve their water polo skills while enjoying a new cultural experience far from their home.

· Alison Doherty, 13 years old (California, USA)

“Ever since my first day at BIWPA Academy I feel like I’ve been improving my skills a lot. My goals are to improve my water polo skills and at the same time my ability to speak and understand Spanish and Catalan fluently”

I love this experience here in Barcelona. I’m here with my mom and my sister Kelly and I wish I could stay here forever; it’s amazing, I love it so much!”

· Kelly Doherty, 16 years old (California, USA)

“My goals are to improve as a player; as a more technical player and be able to read offense and defense. Just to improve all around. By now I feel like I’ve definitely improved my water polo skills

“I am really enjoying this experience. It’s a different lifestyle from the United States and I really enjoy everything about it”

· Eleni Kokinos, 17 years old (California, USA)

“My main two goals are to get on the ODP team which is the American Olympic Development team and to hopefully play water polo in college”

“I think that my swimming has improved the most. Since I’m a fairly slow swimmer and now I’m actually beginning to progress in that aspect, so it’s been very positive”

“I’ve made lots of friends in the Blume residence and I really enjoy my time going to school here. I really enjoy having the freedom to go out and explore Barcelona

anni espar
 We´ve talked with Anni Espar, professional water polo player and BIWPA ambassador. Good read for all water polo lovers!
What memories do you have of your formative years in the CE Mediterrani?
I started there since I was a baby, combining water polo and swimming. They were my first years and I took the opportunity they have given to me as a player of my first team.
In 2009 you took your first step in CN Sabadell
It was the opportunity to continue growing. Sometimes you have to make these changes. I thought I did not want to be stagnate and this was a way to learn from other players, coaches, club … it’s the same vision I had when I left for the United States.
Certainly crossing the Atlantic was your great personal commitment
It was a difficult decision to leave everything behind and embark on this adventure. I spoke to Anna Pardo and the truth is that I was really excited. Further, the full scholarship that I was offered to study there was also very important when making the decision. It was a year in which I had time for everything.
How do you assess the possibility to combine studies and sport at the highest level?
It is a wonder. I lived five minutes from the training facilities and campus. I would use a bike. 6;00 to 8:00 in the morning training, after class train, and then the same in the afternoon. The facilities you use are immense. You only worry about training and studying.
What do you like most European or American system?
Is different. The truth is that I wish we could have such large sports complexes like in the United States and it was so easy to have it all so close. Still, I must confess that in that sense, BIWPA is doing a great job focusing on the possibility of combining education and sport for athletes who can not access the High Performance Centers in their respective countries.
Is a college education more valuable in America if you are an athlete?
Being honest it does not have the same value. In America if you’ve been an athlete you have more recognition and value companies. In job interviews, the sporting aspect often plays an important role.
Why most Spanish players and players who leave the United States are girls?
The scholarships are divided into male and female. The same money in all sports. As in football a lot of money for the guys goes, in other sports there is more diversity, something that would take advantage of other sports such as basketball or water polo. The university would also be interested in foreign players to give a plus of competitiveness.
To close your stage in the United States … what does it mean to be a NCAA Champion?
For me it was something to feel proud of. At my university it meant to be very much a USC Trojan. This was instilled in me since I understood the rivalry with UCLA, Stanford … create a special bond with the University. So you can imagine the importance that is given to this title, I had a teammate who was an Olympic champion and for her it was more important to win the NCAA than the Olympic Games. Obviously I do not share that view, but I give it a lot of value. When I won the NCAA I remembered what Anna Pardo said, “You win an NCAA ring and check again”, and I did (laughs).
With the selection you have also had some great moments. What is the best remember?
I think there are two. When we qualified for the final of the 2012 Summer Olympics as were World Champions in Barcelona 2013 before all our people. I must say that losing an Olympic final was very sad but this year, I hope to try to get me a thorn for four years.
Anyway, following recent events (World and European) you have us spoiled with victory … What lies ahead for the Preloympic qualifiers?
It is true that they have not been our best competition, I still think we’ve been there, especially in the European. We have fought to the end. We are calm about our game but it is true that in terms of results, other teams also compete. We will qualify for the Olympic qualifiers and the Olympic Games we will not go on vacation. If we play well we will have possibilities.
Speaking of BIWPA, from the beginning you have been involved in the project …
They are doing a great job for the water polo and at the worldwide level. Training in the CAR of Sant Cugat is priceless. The food is good and the ability to enjoy other athletes, especially for boys and girls aged 14-15 is a very nice experience. The campus offers you the opportunity to improve your technique with good coaches, if they continue doing this work in a few years they will have more impact. The Academy has had several players around the world and seeing it from outside, if I had the opportunity to play in another country to continue studying, it would be a dream come true. A wonderful experience. In addition, BIWPA also manages other foreign teams to come to Barcelona to compete with other competing teams. Surely BIWPA will grow in the coming years.
From my experience in the US I can say it has been one of the best things that could have happened in my career, because of the different gameplay with the Americans in relation to European or Spanish. It has also been an awesome experience regarding my social and personal life, because I have met many people from elsewhere with different opinions and customs and that always enriches you as a person. BIWPA helped me to organize and arrange accommodations during my time in the US. I was living with a family of a fellow water polo team in which I played and I think I was very lucky to live with that family for their hospitality and kindness to welcome home a person who they did not know and treated me as a member of their family.
There are some differences in water polo in the US compared to water polo practiced in Spain, so I think my stay there helped me to grow at a sporting level thanks to the advice and technical coaching points that advise you on how they prefer you to play and eventually there comes a time when you get used to the gameplay there. During my stay in the US I was able to play at several tournaments and qualifying rounds (in a month and a half I played about 40 games), that helped me to get more experience as an athlete.
Also the time I was there helped me improve my English, especially oral expression, since I only lived with people who speak English I struggled to communicate with others. After a couple of weeks, I could understand my teammates and the coach when they spoke to me quickly and colloquially.
It was the best trip of my life so far, because I was able to visit and enjoy one of the most amazing cities in the world such as San Francisco and cities and neighborhoods around, like Berkeley.
Finally, as to my opinion and experience of JO’s, it is the most important tournament for clubs in the United States, if you were to put a score out of ten, no doubt would be a ten for the organization, because there was many teams to play in the pools in Los Angeles, where the tournament was held, and the coordination of each category by level and age. During the tournament I played approximately eight games, and although we all wanted to win, matches were raced but where they were always fair games. The opposing team was considered a rival, but never an enemy and after the game the team players together chanted the name of the opposing team and when we greeted each other after the game, we always said “well played” regardless of whether we won or lost . In short, I think it’s a very impressive category for a tournament, the number of teams involved, the level of play and sportsmanship of the participants.

In general, what do you think about the team training camps (facilities, accessibility, organization)?

The facilities were outstanding. The convenience of walking to CN Barcelona for training and taking the Metro to our competitions made preparations very easy. As I discussed with you in Spain, I would have preferred more formal competitions, rather than the scrimmage type of activities we had at most places. CN Rubi was the closest to what I would have wanted at each place. Meditterani was the least productive activity for us.

What did you and your team think about the level of the Catalan teams?

I was very impressed with the sound fundamentals of each team we played. The level of competition was very appropriate for our team. We were required to play hard and be prepared to compete. Any team from the United States would be able to find competition at the appropriate level.

What did you and your team think about the city of Barcelona?

We loved Barcelona! It is beautiful and very easy to manage. The Metro is very convenient and clean. The city is diverse in food and culture. The people were very friendly and helpful. Our group’s collective ability to speak Spanish was low, but we found that it was fairly easy to get around due to the citizens proficient English.

What did you think about BIWPA as a service?

I enjoyed working with you very much. I wish I would have started the conversation earlier to have more time to really reap all of the benefits of what BIWPA and Barcelona had to offer. I very much appreciated your response and service after the Meditterani issues. I thought overall it was a tremendous experience for our time. Your service was a large reason.