Written By Joel Hafnor
It was a most ordinary realization that spurred Kaitlin Murphy's athletic career in a new direction. That direction—which quite literally changed Murphy's perspective from below the water to above it—would ultimately lead her to a collegiate water polo career at Santa Clara.
Murphy, who overcame a bevy of injuries as a freshman to register 39 goals over the past two seasons, now enters her final year with the Broncos as one of the team's leaders.
In a one-on-one interview with SantaClaraBroncos.com, Murphy discusses the realization that led her to water polo, her fears, goals, injuries, and what being a first-born child has to do with succeeding in the pool.
SCB: When did your water polo career begin? Was there ever a seminal moment during your prep career when you thought to yourself, 'I am good enough to go places'?
KM: My sister and I started competitively swimming at a fairly young age. I think around eighth grade I finally got tired of staring at the black line at the bottom of the pool. I guess swimming was my gateway to playing water polo. I immediately took to the physicality and team aspects of the sport. I played throughout high school and kind of fell into college water polo. There was never a moment I thought I was good enough to go places, but rather that I knew I didn't want to stop after high school.
SCB: You are the oldest of four children. Positions of leadership tend to be familiar territory for eldest children. Is this something you've found true of your water polo career?
KM: As the oldest, I was taught to assume more of a silent leader role than a vocal one. Personally I've found leading by example to be a very successful technique within my own family. I figure if you wish to see those around you work their hardest and succeed, it's only fair to meet that standard with your own hard work and success.
SCB: If you could somehow poll every college-level water polo player in the country, what do you think the most common answer would be to the question: "What is your greatest fear each time you take to the pool before a match?"
KM: I don't think there would be a widespread consensus as to what a collegiate water polo player's greatest fear is before a game. Sometimes there is the fear of failure before an important game. But I try to go into every game with the mentality that failure is not an option. I think that fear is conjured by many "what if" scenarios that can really psyche any athlete out. From fear of an injury to loss of a game to personal failure, each collegiate level water polo player is different.
SCB: What have you noticed most about your development as a player during your career at Santa Clara?
KM: I'd like to think I've come a long way since my injury-riddled freshman year. I started out pre-season of freshman year with a serious knee injury, followed by a fracture in my hand. I ultimately decided to redshirt my freshman year, so I had the opportunity to watch a lot of really good, high-level water polo. As a sophomore, I went into the season knowing I had to prove myself at every game, but especially every practice. I put in a lot of hard work and time and all the hours of water polo I watched my freshman year helped me a lot. Ultimately, I think the development I am most satisfied with is that of my relationships with my team and coach. Without the constant support and advice I received throughout my career so far, I'm not so sure I would be where I am now.
SCB: You doubled your goal count of 13 as a sophomore to 26 as a junior. Should we go ahead and mark you down for 52 goals in your final season at SCU? Talk about your personal goals heading into your senior season.
KM: Coming off a year-and-a-half long back injury and recent surgery, my most important personal goal is to stay healthy. I would also like to continue to improve my defense, considering my position is so focused on offense. And in the end, I really just want to have a great season with some of the best teammates and friends that I could have asked for. These four years went by way too fast, so I really want to make my last season of water polo count.
SCB: How about as the team. What are your collective goals? And what must you improve upon from the 2013 campaign in order to bring those goals to fruition?
KM: This year we're entering a new conference with a variety of really strong teams. We worked extremely hard last season to prove that we could match top-ten teams in skill and physicality. This season we're going to try hard to keep the momentum going strong and consistently all four quarters so we can dominate those teams. With a good group of incoming freshmen and a strong returning group, I am confident that we'll be a threat to every team that we play.