Water polo player Alex Bowen has been representing the United States in international competition since 2013. In that time he has won gold at three FINA Intercontinental Tournaments and the 2015 Pan American Games, and twice placed fourth at the FINA World League Super Final. Bowen scored three times at the Olympic Games Rio 2016. He is chronicling his journey at the Pan American Games Lima 2019 – where the U.S. men’s water polo team is seeking Olympic qualification – for TeamUSA.org and @TeamUSA social channels.
It is time. First game of the tournament against Cuba, and we are excited to get started. Our ultimate goal for this summer has been to qualify for the Olympics, and a Pan American gold medal is how we accomplish that goal. Today is just another day.
Our days here have a structure, but it can change at any time, so we have to be flexible and adaptable. We play today at 3 p.m., so our schedule started at 9:30 a.m. with a check-in at the athlete lounge to grab some coffee and head off to breakfast. Peanut butter and jelly, some protein and water for me; light, but I have established a routine. We head back to the lounge after breakfast and kind of take it over to watch some surfing then an episode of “Last Chance U” on Netflix. It’s a great show and we have been watching it in big groups this whole trip. After, we all go back to our rooms to pack up for the game, then to lunch (chicken, pasta, salad) at noon, pregame meeting at 12:30 and off to the game.
Our warm-up routine has been pretty well established for this summer: 5-10 minutes on our own of stretching and band work, then our trainer Chris Bates takes over. He works us through our dryland routine of jumping jacks, squats and jumps to get our heart rate up for the pool, and finishes with reaction drills to wake up our minds. We jump soon after, take five minutes to swim on our own and stretch out our strokes before breaking into groups. Our assistant coach Gavin Arroyo takes over our swimming and continues to raise the heart rate with over-the-hip movements and sprints. We start passing to get our arms ready and switch with the other group to get shooting. We get called out about ten minutes before the game to line up for announcements, then we shake hands with the other team and give every teammate a hug. We started this tradition a couple years ago, to us it means “I got your back” and it’s stuck with us. We line up again on the water’s edge.
I call “ONE!”
The team responds “TWO!”
I call “THREE!”
And we jump in together. Take some sprint strokes, a couple jumps and we get together in the middle. Luca (Cupido) and (Alex) Obert talk about the game plan before handing off the cheer to me.
“ONE, TWO, THREE, U-S-A!”
We get our heads to the lane line and we wait for that first whistle.
Today’s game went well – 21-6 final against Cuba – an unfortunate third quarter for us but we finished the game well and we ended with the result we wanted. We get back to the village around 5 p.m. for a quick rest and I make my routine phone call with my dad. It’s been routine for a very long time to talk with my dad after games. He is still coaching at my high school, Santana, and for my old club, San Diego Shores. I have memories recounting games, going over mistakes and things I can work on. He always kept me humble and really instilled the habit of always improving.
After that short rest we have dinner at 6:15 then back on the bus at 6:45 headed to the military base for another pool session. I spent the bus ride sitting next to our mental skills coach Brian Alexander to talk about the mental aspects of the game, and the mental preparation going into our game tomorrow. I have been very lucky to work with Brian over the last couple years to build my mental game. I feel the results and it has definitely improved my game.
We spent our time in the pool fine-tuning different things, some five-man defense movements, some zone attack movements, focusing on and improving specific details. Then once again back on the bus for our fourth half hour bus ride through Lima traffic. It gives you a lot of time to write. We get back to the village around 10 and I’m in bed by 10:30 looking forward to a good night’s rest and expecting a similar schedule for the next day.