An Afternoon with Maggie Steffens

In honor of International Women’s Day we wanted to celebrate with a badass woman doing amazing things. We were lucky enough to steal a bit of Maggie Steffens time while she is in Budapest and ask all those questions we’ve been dying to know.

 

 

So Maggie how old were you when you first started playing and what memories do you have from playing at that age?

I started playing when I was 8, there was no splash ball or 12 and under at the time because water polo was still a new thing in the area and in general for youth.  Me and Kelly Mendoza (who was my coach’s daughter) and all of my siblings would be dropped off at the pool together. It was easier to just drop me off with them so they were going to be there to play so I was always there. Me and Kelly tried to play with the younger teams and I just remember we were awful! It was so much fun though being at the pool for 10 hours a day and having Kelly as my partner in crime. Weekends in the summer were also the best, we had balls in the backyard and my dad would play keep away, we would play soccer and then toss the balls in the pool, it just felt familiar and like the perfect backyard sport. It fueled my passion and it resonates with the family values of the sport. It wasn’t a required thing to do either it was just a fun thing to do with family and friends playing backyard ball.

pro water player, Maggie Steffens, in a mud bath with friend

What do you love about playing water polo?

Teamwork, water polo has the most team oriented vibe, it’s a physical fast game everyone plays defense and offence. You are not just one type of player, it’s a constant puzzle you have to figure out under water, over water, breathing fast, and you’re alongside 6 other people at the same time. I also love that you are constantly learning and improving. My teammates are what keeps me going.

pro water player, Maggie Steffens, playing water polo

Was being an Olympian always a dream for you?

Yes, from as long as I can remember I wanted be Mia Hamm, I wanted to go to the Olympics for soccer at first, that was the initial dream. Then I fell in love with water polo so the dream carried over.

a crowd cheering on pro water player, Maggie Steffens

When did you realize holy shit I totally could be an Olympian?

I remember watching my sister at the 2008 Olympics and I didn’t quite think I was going to be one at that moment but it felt so real being there and I was so connected watching my sister and just being there cheering her on. It was at that trip I thought wow, I don’t know when I will make it but I want to be in the water, it was where I was meant to be. I had no idea I would join a year later, and even when we qualified for the Olympics I still didn’t really know I would make it even then. The beginning of 2012 is when I had that moment of this is real. I figured out my role on the team, I was young and trying to fit in and I was playing with people I idolized so it was a huge transition. It really just hit me all at once during that first Olympic game. We had a huddle and I freaked out, I wanted to throw up, my stomach was in knots and Adam Krikorian our coach was silent for a minute, he looked around and said you did it we are here, now go out and play … that’s when I had the real moment of wow we are Olympians. That was the best moment it truly finally hit me.

How does scoring a goal in the Olympics feel?

Honestly, I don’t remember at all, I have watched the video so many times and I don’t remember. I blacked out that first game. I remember every play I have done and every play my teammates or our opponents do but that game I blacked out completely.

pro water player, Maggie Steffens, doing a side plank

You’re on the younger side of the team? Has that ever intimidated you or was it more inspirational?

More inspirational, but it was still intimidating because I didn’t want to mess up. I wanted to emulate my teammates so it was inspirational because it was all of these amazing women that I didn’t want to fail. I looked up to them so much that I wanted to work harder and make sure I didn’t let them down. I wanted to play to the standards they played at so I worked harder so I could do that and be there for them and play for them.

pro water player, Maggie Steffens, exercising on the beach

What do you like best about being on a team? Any weird team rituals or habits?  

The best part is just knowing you have each other, it makes everything way more enjoyable. The journey, struggles, successes, knowing you do it with people you respect and trust and love is more important than anything else. When you’re on a team that plays for each other it’s the best. We all love to dance and have fun together and the level of respect for each other really makes it amazing. We go out and play for each other it’s a powerful feeling.

pro water player, Maggie Steffens, on the beach

Are there any athletes you looked up to growing up?

It’s a collective group of so many athletes, the girls I watched in 2008 at the olympics and then the girls who weren’t there I watched them in college and knew them. I looked up to them and they set a high standard and were a huge role models, you just wanted to be like them. My main person though is my sister, she’s the one who set the highest standard for me, for my family, and she’s been my biggest inspiration.

pro water player, Maggie Steffens, in a kayak

How do you shake the nerves out before a big game?

It depends on the game who we are playing or where it is, for me it’s my certain people I talk to before a game. Eye contact and connecting with my team to bring it back to what’s important which is my team.

pro water player, Maggie Steffens, on the beach

What would you say to younger girls if they are thinking about playing water polo?

DO IT ! #1 It’s such a great sport for younger girls. You gain immediate friendships, and especially at that age finding people who are also driven, competitive and want to play, develop and grow, this is the sport that allows you to be around people like that. You develop a family, it is such a family orientated sport and that is such an important thing to be a part of. #2 You learn to be competitive and mentally, physically, and emotionally tough. It is such an important value especially with the teamwork of the sport you learn to work together under high stress situations. #3 it’s FUN plain and simple! I played soccer, basketball and swam ...water polo took all of the aspects I loved of those sports combined into one thing. It also helps with your confidence. You are in a swimsuit every single day and meeting all these people across the states and sometimes world and you appreciate who you are in your own body. It doesn't matter if you are short, tall, big, small, lanky, muscular, what matters is how you play in the pool. All body types and backgrounds playing together, the water is an equalizer it truly helps young kids.

pro water player, Maggie Steffens, as a child

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