Former MHS water polo star no summer slacker

Former Malibu High standout goalie JoJo White has been putting in lots of hard work to be fit and ready for her upcoming season in the pool for the Indiana University women’s water polo team. Courtesy Indiana University Athletics

JoJo White, a Malibu High School grad and sophomore goalie for the Indiana University Hoosiers water polo team, has been putting in the work to take her game to the next level before heading back to Bloomington.

By Jordan Littman / Special to The Malibu Times

Indiana University sophomore JoJo White returned home to Malibu this summer with a task at hand.

A member of the IU water polo team and a standout goalie from Malibu High School, White and her teammates were told to stay in shape over the summer or else face consequences.

Upon her return to Indiana, if White or any of her teammates is unable to run a mile in under eight minutes, complete four pull-ups, thirty-five crunches and twenty-five pushups in under a minute each, her team will face longer practices and more intense workouts during the season.

White’s summer dilemma is just part of the student-athlete experience that makes being one so demanding.

“If you’re in shape, you don’t want someone taking your spot as a starter,” White said. “Even if you’re trying to become a starter, you have to work and keep adding to it. The coaches always look for consistency and it’s just all about who’s showing the hardest work to stay in shape.”

More than 420,000 other NCAA student-athletes share the same situation as White. At some point in the summer, they go home to their friends and family and are faced with the duty of staying in competition shape while facing the temptations of being away from school.

Without an organized daily workout schedule and the fact that they are on their own to stay in shape, it is sometimes difficult to remain in top form while away from school.

“A lot of girls at Indiana don’t have the ability to take part in stuff [over the summer], so obviously if you can’t do it yourself, most people wouldn’t do it,” White said. “Some days you might feel too tired or don’t feel like working out, but you try to overcome it.”

When student athletes do return to school out of shape, not only is it problematic for the players who have to go through difficult workouts, it also makes life tougher on the coach.

They have to deal with the task of making an out-of-shape team fit to compete against their competition which, in Division I sports, happens to be some of the best in the entire nation.

“It is very important that we communicate and build trust with our team so that they are prepared for this upcoming season,” Pepperdine men’s basketball coach Marty Wilson said. “We don’t expect them to be in playing shape, but we don’t want them to lose a whole lot of what they’ve worked hard on.”

To combat the potential issue of student-athletes returning to school unhealthy, teams send out guidelines of what to do over the summer. For Wilson’s team, that consists of a well-planned four-to-five day workout routine per week based on the resources each player has available. The location of those workouts could vary anywhere from being at a high school gym or track to a local weight room.

For White, who lives nearly 2,000 miles from where she attends school, it means that she must reconnect with her club team over the summer and work out with them to maintain her fitness. That includes participating in workouts two to three times per week and playing in tournaments on weekends.

Such efforts are made so that she is prepared for what is to come when she returns to school.

“We run so much [at Indiana], we probably run as much as soccer players do every day,” White said. “Between stadium stairs, sprints and laps, we did so much running just constantly getting in shape. It’s a whole different world and you have to be ready for it.”

It is only a matter of weeks until students return to school and student athletes across the nation such as White start preparing for yet another season on campus.

When it boils down to the basics in the end, that one player being in shape over another after the summer vacation could be the difference between being a benchwarmer and the next future star of the team.

“We want them to have the mindset that the work ethic during the summer is just as important as when they’re here,” Wilson said. “We are definitely going to challenge them to make sure they are in shape when they get back here.”