For most high schoolers, waking up for school when the sun has not risen is a real struggle every morning, let alone actually submerging yourself in water at dark o’clock in the morning. However, for senior water polo player Michael Watson, waking up to the smell of chlorine and the feeling of being in water is how he spends most of his mornings during the spring athletics season.
Watson initially decided to join water polo because of his brother, Tommy. Though he had been swimming competitively since he was little, Watson said he never took a great liking to it. However, once he saw his brother play, he decided to look a little closer into a different aquatic sport.
After deciding he wanted to pursue the sport, the beginning of Watson’s freshman year was spent learning about the sport with now-sophomore teammate Carl Michelotti. Though Michelotti is two years younger than him, Watson explained that Michelotti’s early talent in water polo helped to introduce Watson to the sport.
“His dedication for the sport was unbelievable,” Michelotti said. “Everyday he was ready to go and play. He loves the sport more than most people I’ve ever seen.”
Watson officially started playing water polo during the spring of his freshman year when he made the junior varsity team. At the end of the season, however, Watson was selected as one of the few JV members to be brought up to the varsity team as part of the state series team.
When spring season came around again in Watson’s sophomore year, he made the varsity team and continued to play on the team throughout the end of his senior year.
In his four years of water polo, Watson has grown as an athlete, being able to recognize more technical aspects about the sport. At the same time, he also expressed how he has grown as a person.
“About myself, I learned that even though I’m smaller, especially in water polo, that I can make my presence felt through leadership, especially with younger teammates, and just by playing smart throughout the game,” he said.
Though Watson has been a part of the boys water polo program for the past four years, head coach Ethan Matthews is currently wrapping up his first year in program and has appreciated Watson’s help and knowledge of the program throughout the year.
“[Michael] without question has been my leader for the guys in and out of the pool,” Matthews said. “He is one of my ‘go-to’ players and has been starting for me all season. He has been an example of what it means to be thoughtful as a teammate and considerate as a friend.”
With his time in high school coming to a close, Watson has his sights set on the future. Next year, he will be attending Loyola University in Chicago and will be majoring in marketing. While at Loyola, Watson plans to join the club water polo team. Over the summer, he will also be coaching a club team through Cats Aquatics for local kids.
In addition to playing water polo each spring season, Watson was also a part of the JV golf team during his freshman and sophomore years, the varsity golf team throughout his junior and senior years, and the JV swim team since his junior year. He was the captain of the golf, helping to lead them to a third place conference finish and fourth place regionals finish, along with a top five sweep at a Wisconsin match. He was also captain of the water polo team during his last season at LHS.
“I would recommend [joining a sport] freshman year,” Watson said. “Especially a sport like water polo because it’s so different than the normal sport you can play; there’s so many different skills that are helpful to learn earlier. And also just because of the people that I’ve met along the way; it’s been awesome to be around it for four years.”
Though he does recommend starting a sport early, Watson did decide to join the swim team later in his high school career as a junior.
“I decided to swim, even if it wasn’t really what I wanted. I knew it would help me become a better water polo player,” he said.
Having been a part of the golf and water polo teams since his freshman year and the swim team since his junior year, comparing the experiences came easy to him.
“In water polo, it was a lot easier to just come in and meet people, and from a skill standpoint, I felt like when I came in as a freshman I had already had a little bit of experience, but if I needed something to be asked, like I could ask a question and know that other people had the same question,” he said. “Wherein swimming, since I joined late, I felt like people had already answered a question that I had asked, but they just answered it earlier in their career.”