In an Aug. 10 letter written from Beijing to his friend, Wayne Bean, current U.S. Olympic water polo team coach, former Olympian and Pepperdine University water polo coach Terry Schroeder illustrates his experience of the 2008 Olympic games thus far.
The letter begins with Schroeder’s description of the slogan on a T-shirt he donned to that morning’s pregame practice, which read “I did not come here to lose.”
“I wanted to send a subtle message to the guys,” he wrote.
A team meeting, following the practice, was ended with a card sent from Pat McCormick (an Olympic champion in diving), who told the team she was proud of them all, assured them of their physical and mental preparedness and also told them, “you can live a lifetime in a moment and this is your moment.”
“I was ready,” Schroeder wrote. “I felt good all day until about 30 minutes before game time and then I got that sinking feeling that I often get as a coach. Had we done everything we could have done to be ready? Maybe I still have a little too much of a player’s mind-set.”
This being his first Olympic coaching experience, Schroeder expressed the differences between the emotions he feels when standing on the sidelines and playing in the pool. “I always knew as a player that I could totally impact the outcome of a game. There are certain things during a game that you can control and there are others things that you can’t control,” he penned. “Coaching, I feel the pressure build up and then the game begins and you really have no outlet for that pressure…I had the pre-Olympic butterflies and I had to go and sit in the locker room by myself and just relax and pray.”
Schroeder commented on the game against the Chinese, saying that it began well for the U.S. team with a three-goal lead in the first quarter, got sloppy and became tied in the second quarter, led by two goals at the end of the third quarter, and scored two more goals in the fourth to win the game 8-4. Despite scoring double the amount of China’s goals, Schroeder said the U.S. team “struggled on offense and had many opportunities to put the game out of reach, but just could not shake them.”
Before closing the letter, Schroeder talked about the team’s “huge” Tuesday game against Italy. “This will be a big test for us,” he wrote, as he recalled a World League Super Final when the U.S. team was ahead of Italy for most of the game, but allowed them to score and lost to them in a penalty shoot out.
“It is a nice feeling to have one win under our belts,” reads the letter’s closing. “No time to relax though-the tough ones are coming.”