Carlos Steffens’ emails are no longer a family secret.
U.S. water polo members Jessica and Maggie Steffens receive “little messages” from their father when he feels his daughters need it most during the Games.
“Did the girls tell you the secret?” Carlos Steffens asked. “They are just fun, sports wisdom. I have little things that I send them that are fun and they laugh because that’s what they need right now.”
Jessica Steffens, 25, and Maggie Steffens, the youngest on the squad at 19, are competing internationally together for the first time. Their father, who played for Puerto Rico in three Pan American Games, could not be more thrilled.
“Dad loves to send emails,” Jessica Steffens said. “I think he is just very excited for us and that we’re here and that he gets to be a part of it.”
One of Carlos Steffens’ dreams was to be an Olympic water polo player. He started playing in the 12-and-under age group in 1970 and continued until he was 29. Now, Maggie Steffens, who will enter her freshman year at Stanford University in the fall, said her dad gets to live through his daughters’ Olympic experience.
“That makes him really proud. He loves this team,” Maggie Steffens said as four on-looking teammates smiled and nodded in agreement. “They know that. He wants to be a part of the team.”
Jessica Steffens, the oldest of four children in the family, was part of the 2008 U.S. silver-medal team in Beijing. Then-15-year-old Maggie watched from the stands with the Steffens family as her sister celebrated Team USA’s third straight Olympic medal in the event.
Carlos Steffens remembers watching the gold-medal match from the stands, and believes the experience has helped his younger daughter in London.
“I turned around to Maggie, just to test her, said, ‘Maggie, it’s going to be your turn next to bring home the gold.’ And she turned around, gave me that look with her mouth half-way open in awe, and said, ‘OK.’”
Four years later, the sisters were decorating their room in the Olympic Village with family photos. Carlos Steffens said his daughters did not choose to room together. Head Coach Adam Krikorian paired them up.
“I’m glad they haven’t killed each other yet,” he said. “I think Krikorian purposely has done this. Rooming together in the Olympic Village is probably really, really smart. There is undervalue – the strength of family support. I think a solid family says a lot.”
Maggie Steffens grew up watching her current teammates play in college and would watch ‘how to play water polo’ videos with her teammates in the starring roles. The 19-year-old said she has looked up to them for years.
“It’s definitely surreal,” she said. “Thinking back to 2008, I was the one walking around outside the Village. Now, I’m on the inside. We’ve prepared for this. I’m around people who I’m with every day, so as much as it may seem overwhelming, it seems natural at the same time.”
Carlos Steffens receives about 75 emails and 100 text messages almost daily during the Games, and he said he’s even getting advice on what to email his daughters.
“I know my kids really well,” he said. “I feel when they need something. I send little messages that they can read and read into, whenever they want.”