Senior Megan Benz pours a few drops of milk into her swim goggles, tilts her head back and puts the goggles on. She then blinks to get the milk out, takes the goggles off and dives back into the pool.
During a normal water polo tournament that consists of three to four games, just like many other players, Megan’s eyes will sting due to the immense amount of chlorine. The milks helps Megan protect her eyes.
Megan started playing water polo when she was 14 because of her father, George Benz, who played when he was younger. He recommended that his daughter follow in his footsteps and try to play herself.
“My dad made me a deal, he said, ‘Megan, if you stay for the two weeks out of the six-week camp then you can quit.’ After two weeks, I completely forgot about the entire deal and I absolutely loved it. I signed up to play for my high school and then club,” said Megan.
After Megan moved from Manhattan Beach, California to Dallas before her junior year, she began her search to find a water polo team so she could continue playing. Upon realizing that the only school team in the area was St. Marks, Megan looked for a club team. The team is in Southlake and they are called the Southlake Thunder.
“The number of women’s teams and locations is still limited compared to California. Megan is driving more than 100 miles a week to commute back and forth to evening practices,” said Mr. Benz. “It is not convenient, but it is important to her, so she makes it work.”
According to her club coach, Chris Cullens, Megan is a hard-worked and a key part of their team’s success.
“She is a good swimmer, she’s athletic, she can throw the ball well and she’s left handed so we can count on her. She is definitely an integral part of our team,” said Coach Cullens.
Although school water polo teams are scarce in Texas, Megan hopes that the state will see growth in the game.
“I wish it was more popular for high schools to have girls water polo because there is something so different from a high school team than a club team. I love traveling with my team but it’s so different when you don’t go to school with them….the team bonding makes school teams so special,” said Megan.
Megan and her father also recognize that despite how tough the sport is to play, it does not receive the recognition it might deserve.
“It requires a great deal of endurance, and it uses nearly every muscle in your body, especially your legs and core,” said Mr. Benz.
Megan often gets asked what water polo is and she often receives comical questions.
“When I first came [to Texas] everybody asked me what sport I played. I had to explain to them that water polo has nothing to do with horses,” said Megan.
Although Megan has learned a lot of water polo skills from her father, there are many differences between men’s and women’s water polo, such as the
offensive and defensive formations as women and men have different physical strengths.
They also include the differences in the physicality of the sports, as women wear full body suits and tend to be more aggressive by “playing dirty” and “grabbing and holding onto others” suits underwater.
“It is a very physical sport, especially for the girls, because they wear full body suits so they are taught to grab. There is a lot of grabbing underwater that the refs never see,” said Megan.
Coach Cullens believes that Megan can be great later in her career.
“I believe there are opportunities for her to play in college…left-handers there are not as many of them so I know a lot of coaches will be looking for a left-handed attacker…she definitely has the ability for her to play in college,” said Coach Cullens.
While Megan is not committed to play water polo in college, she said would like to continue playing water polo.
“I would love to play in college. But if I don’t get to play in a divisional level, I hope I go to a school that offers it as a club sport,” said Megan.
Photo courtesy of Megan Benz
Originally published in the December 2017 print issue