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Humans of Harker: Making a splash

Andrew Reed leads his team with compassion and resilience
Alena Suleiman
“To me, water polo feels like an escape from schoolwork. That facet of it inspires me to play even more and improve. School’s pretty stressful, so at the end of the day, it’s nice to get out there with my friends and play together for a couple hours. The water serves as my de-stress zone,” Andrew Reed (12) said.

As the bright golden ball falls into the open palm of Andrew Reed (12), the crowd watches in anticipation. Drowning out the shouts of his teammates, Andrew tenses his arm in preparation to shoot the ball. Suddenly, he snaps his arm forward, flicking his wrist, the ball skidding across the surface of the water before slamming into the back of the net with a splash. The audience remains silent for a moment before erupting in cheers, the buzzer on the pool deck blaring as the water polo game comes to a close.

Another goal, another game, another victory.

Andrew has been playing water polo for nine years, and since joining the upper school varsity boys water polo team in ninth grade, he has witnessed the impressive growth of the team throughout his time in high school. Over his four year high school career, Andrew has led the varsity boys water polo team to a title as the 2021 Central Coast Section (CCS) Division II champions and make the team’s historical appearance in the CCS Open Division playoffs in 2022. Now co-captain of the team, Andrew observes — and leads — the group’s evolution into stronger players.

“There’s definitely a higher expectation when it comes to seniors; we’re usually the ones who keep everything under control,” Andrew said. “We got a new coach in our sophomore year and since we won CCS, we’ve been taking the program even more seriously and ramping up all the drills and conditioning. It’s been a really positive transition from freshman year to now.”

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Although there is great joy to be found in winning a hard-fought game, especially as water polo tends to be competitive, Andrew finds that he simply appreciates the thrill of the sport. The quick pace and intense nature of water polo allows for the team to form strong bonds in practices and games as they work together to reach new heights.

“Water polo is exhilarating,” Andrew said. “For the most part it’s fun to play even though we’re taking it seriously. It’s very rewarding when we win a game, and even if we lose, it’s all right. The opportunity to be able to play almost every day is good enough for me.”

Together with his team, Andrew has learned to overcome challenges. He prides himself upon overcoming whatever obstacles block his way, no matter how imposing they may appear at a first glance.

“One idea I keep in mind is to work harder every day,” Andrew said. “My dad always says to work hard and play hard, and I try to live by this motto both in the context of school and other extracurriculars. For school, I really try to stay with it.”

Close friend and fellow water polo captain Thomas Wisdom (12) praises Andrew’s drive and work ethic. In the pool, he constantly strives for improvement, and as a friend, he doesn’t hesitate to let his humor shine through.

“Andrew is a very unique individual; there’s not really a lot of people I can compare him to,” Thomas said. “He’s very funny, but also well-behaved and knows when to, in the context of water polo, be serious and work hard and when to have fun. That separates him from a lot of other people.”

The leadership and compassion that Andrew exhibits extends beyond water polo. Close friend Isaac Yang (12) adds that Andrew’s ability to read the room and form meaningful connections with those around him has greatly boosted his own morale.

“There was a period of time where I wasn’t doing great mentally, and I reached out to talk to [Andrew], and he was able to listen and offer advice,” Isaac said. “Andrew might come off as not the most serious person, but when situations are bad and you need someone to talk to, he’s always there and willing to speak to you and give good feedback.”

Such attentiveness and care makes Andrew’s presence a welcome one. Upper school mathematics teacher Caren Furtado remarks that Andrew’s perceptiveness and his ability to attune to the emotions of his peers remains one of his greatest strengths.

“One time, I was pairing up two students to help each other, and they didn’t want to help each other,” Furtado said. “Andrew noticed they were uncomfortable working with each other because before I knew it, he had quietly slid into the discussion and helped the child who needed it. I didn’t even have to ask or say anything more, and I appreciate Andrew so much for it.”

Thinking quickly and acting with acuity, Andrew is able to overcome difficult problems, a trait that shows itself in his sport and his interactions with peers. Andrew also challenges himself to think beyond societal norms and develop new approaches to day-to-day problems he experiences when the situation calls for a novel solution.

“A personal strength of mine is creativity,” Andrew said. “I don’t follow conventional wisdoms. Whenever creativity presents itself, I take the opportunity, whether it’s in class [or] water polo.”

Andrew’s warmth towards others is present in all he does, from his team spirit in water polo to his kindness for the community around him. Easily able to adapt to any situation, Andrew has found flexibility to be an integral skill, both in playing his sport and in helping others feel at home. While Andrew harbors immense gratitude for water polo and enjoys the many interactions he has with peers, he fosters a deeper appreciation for the solace that his time in the pool entails.

“To me, water polo feels like an escape from schoolwork. that facet of it inspires me to play even more and improve,” Andrew said. “School’s pretty stressful, so at the end of the day, it’s nice to get out there with my friends and play together for a couple hours. The water serves as my de-stress zone.”

This story was originally published on Harker Aquila on May 15, 2023.