Water Polo: Olympian Buckner relays his story

U.S. Olympian who competed in London tells Costa Mesa kids they too can reach their dreams.

May 22, 2013|By David Carrillo PeƱaloza
  • Team USA's Shea Buckner takes a shot in game vs South Africa during 2011 FINA World Championships at Oriental Sports Center in Shanghai.
Team USA's Shea Buckner takes a shot in game vs South… (USA Waterpolo )

COSTA MESA — One of the first questions Shea Buckner asked three dozen kids at the Costa Mesa Aquatics Center was if they had ever seen a professional water polo game.

"Yeah, they played [one] here," one kid responded.

"Yeah, I played in it," Buckner said with a smile.

The kid didn't remember seeing Buckner, but the 6-foot-5 attacker was in the pool at Costa Mesa High a couple of years ago as a member of the U.S. men's national team.

Back then, the Americans played Canada in the school's new 50-meter pool prior to competing at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Buckner made the U.S. Olympic team and became its youngest member.

Buckner, who's now 26, took time from his busy training schedule with the U.S. team on Wednesday to talk to kids from the Costa Mesa Aquatics Club about what it took to become an Olympian.

Many in attendance were around Buckner's age when he began to play water polo at 8. At that age, Buckner dreamed big.


While watching the 1996 Olympic Games on TV, Buckner told his father, Sean, that he was going to be an Olympian someday.

"I just told him. I didn't say I want to be. I didn't say I think I will," said Buckner, knowing that his father trained with the U.S. water polo team when he was younger, but never made its Olympic team. "From that moment on, I never let off it."

Buckner pointed out the reasons for his success while promoting his "Eat, Sleep, Play" tour in which he plans to visit water polo clubs in Orange and Los Angeles counties.

At every level, Buckner has excelled in the pool. At Villa Park High, he earned the CIF Southern Section Division II Player of the Year award by scoring 196 goals during his senior year in 2004.

In college, he led USC to two NCAA titles in 2009 and '08 and received All-American honors.

"I think the No. 1 thing is just listening to your coaches because they want you to be the best," Buckner said. "You've got to listen to your coaches. They're here to help you. You know what else, guys? Working hard. Whoever works the hardest is usually the best player. You've got to be faster, you've got to be stronger, and [you've got to be] smart, [go] to school."

Having Buckner show up meant a lot to Jose De La Jara, the Costa Mesa Aquatics Club director. The club probably wouldn't be around if it weren't for De La Jara stepping in as the director in January 2012.

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