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Maggie Steffens Reflects On Year Of Cancellations And How She Was Able To Find Opportunity For Growth In Midst Of Pandemic

By Maggie Steffens | Dec. 28, 2020, 9 a.m. (ET)

Maggie Steffens poses for a portrait on Nov. 23, 2019 in West Hollywood, California.


I remember when a coach used to say “canceled”, it was a sigh of relief or for our team, an instant dance party paired with some high-pitched screams of happiness. 

It meant our coach was rewarding us for all the hard work we had put into that phase of tough training and giving us a practice off to recover physically, mentally and even emotionally. It also was generally followed by a team brunch where we were able to bond over pancakes and an afternoon to actually digest them!

These little breaks truly felt like little wins. They were purposeful for our bodies and minds. They would even give us the extra energy we needed to come back even stronger the next day or the next week. 

2020 has changed what the word “canceled” means to me. 

It no longer was paired with a dance party or brunch. It no longer was a little win. The word “canceled” was now an unfortunate theme that felt uncontrollable, uncertain, and inevitable. 2020 was a test, just like we train for, on how well we can react to the new meaning of this word. 

As Olympic athletes, we train for the uncontrollable. We train for the uncertain. We train to be prepared for anything thrown our way. This year threw many curve balls our way and although we may not have been prepared for these as we would have liked to be, I am proud of the way our team handled this adversity. Let me give you a glimpse into how the different “canceled” events affected our schedule and the way we train. 

It’s only right to start with what brings us all together, what focuses our diverse bodies and minds - the Olympic Games. Back in March, when we got the news the Olympics were “canceled,” it didn’t feel real. It was a very numb feeling that grew into a long, emotional roller-coaster. One that had slightly different spins and turns for each individual on our team.

Despite the variety of emotions and despite the unknowing of where this roller coaster would take us, we stuck together. We knew that no matter the end result, just like a water polo game, the most important part is to have each other’s backs and to remain a team. This was how we conquered the variety of “canceled” practices, tournaments, events, trips and more we faced; we kept the team in mind and kept our common purpose alive. 

Maggie Steffens shares a socially-distanced stretching session with her teammates at a practice in December 2020.

Throughout this year, we have gone back and forth from training as we continued to work towards our Olympic dream and our common purpose of constant improvement. The latter has been a motivator during this chaotic time. This year of “canceled” has meant more opportunities to improve, try new things, and discover deeper levels to yourself and your teammates -especially when we weren’t allowed in a pool for months! 

That is the approach we have taken. Any challenge, small or grand, presents opportunity. What you do with that opportunity is what will set you up for the greater challenges and thus opportunities ahead. With this mindset, we were able to push ourselves through an adjusted training plan (with lots of COVID-19 testing and social distancing) as we continued our pursuit to greatness. 

If there is anything this year has taught me it’s to mask up ALWAYS and to have fun, enjoy any opportunity we get, and make THE MOST of every day because you  never know what might get “canceled”!

Maggie Steffens

Maggie Steffens is a two-time Olympic champion and two-time Olympic MVP. Representing Team USA for the past decade, Steffens’ legendary water polo career also includes multiple world championships titles, World Cup trophies, World League Super Final victories and more.

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Maggie Steffens

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