Bellevue water polo player Marco Stanchi just completed a tour with the U.S. Youth National Team in Istanbul, Turkey, but two years ago he was a rookie to the sport.
“It’s been a lot of fun to watch the progression from a completely raw player with ability, but no experience, to a member of the U.S. National Team,” said Evan Kaseguma, Bellevue water polo coach.
Stanchi first received national recognition when he was selected to the U.S. Cadet Team in June 2013, which is made up of freshmen and sophomores. This year, Stanchi competed with the Youth National Team, which is mostly sophomores through seniors. This August, Stanchi played in his first overseas tournament, the FINA Youth World Championship, where the U.S. took 11th. Stanchi was one of two players from Washington on the 13-man roster, which is rare, as most water polo players hail from California.
Stanchi, who attends the International School, came from a line of swimmers: his parents swam at the University of Arizona, and his two older brothers also competed. The 6-foot-2 Stanchi grew up in the pool, but didn’t pick up water polo until the end of his freshman year.
“He seemed very strong in the water,” Kaseguma said. “He had hand-eye coordination and could pass and throw and catch very well. You could tell right off the bat he had all the tools necessary to be a great player.”
On the court Stanchi is a center—a position that requires leadership, as the offense revolves around the center, and Kaseguma says is a natural fit for Stanchi.
“It’s the most physical position, so you have to have somebody who is strong and can handle it when someone else is hanging on them and trying to drown them,” Kaseguma said.
Stanchi also competes on the Bellevue swim team in the 100 back, 200 back, 500 free, and 400 IM events. As a senior he’s being looked at by Cal, Stanford, UCLA, and Air Force.
We caught up with Stanchi on why he switched to water polo, his training regimen, and competing in Istanbul.
What made you want to switch to water polo your freshman year?
I did not qualify for state swimming my freshman year, so I was kind of bummed about that. Then I was out of the pool for three weeks, and I kind of reflected on swimming as a whole and I decided I wanted to try something new. I tried out a couple water polo practices and liked it. I stuck with it.
What were the things you liked about water polo?
The biggest thing was the team aspect and working together for something bigger. That was my favorite part about it.
How did your experience on the U.S. Cadet Team prepare you for the Youth National Team?
It was four or five days of really intense training, so it kind of exposed me to that level of training I would have to do if I wanted to continue on the national team. And it told me how I needed to train when I went home.
Besides swimming and drills, what goes into water polo training?
A ton of weight training. I try to run a good amount to keep my agility up. I try and cross train as much as possible with other sports to get exercises that I can’t get in the pool or from weight training – soccer and basketball.
What were the thoughts going through your head the first time you got into the pool at the FINA championship?
At first I was kind of nervous in the water, and I didn’t want to make any mistakes. I was really careful, but as I kept training and playing games I became more confident, and I started to become a leader on the team and be more comfortable.
What’s next for you, in terms of a U.S. national team?
This summer there’s going to be a junior national team (under age 21). I don’t know where they’re traveling, but they will be competing in the junior world championships. There’s a possibility I could make that, but I’ll be competing against college guys. Maybe if I put the work in and get exposed to more coaches, there’s a possibility. That’s my goal.
What is your ultimate goal in water polo?
I have two goals. I want to play in the Olympics, and I want to play in Europe for one or two years, maybe more, professionally. In the US, they’re starting to make a league, but it’s not really one. Whereas in Europe, it’s kind of like soccer – there’s a lot of different teams, and the players get paid, and it’s pretty serious.
Who is a professional player you admire and want to take after?
The guy that plays my position on the Senior National Team, his name is John Mann, and he’s a former medalist. Just an absolute beast. He’s probably one of the guys I admire the most.