Suze Gardner

Do you still play water polo?
I do not play water polo anymore, but my career is in aquatics and I help facilitate youth programs so younger athletes can continue to learn the sport. It’s nice to be able to stay connected with water polo in that way. Every now and then I get in the water to play 6 on 5 or half-court, but very rarely. I didn’t realize it at the time that I was playing because I was so used to it, but water polo is really really hard and you have to be in great shape to do it!
Did you play water polo in college/what was that experience like?
I played college water polo at Stanford. The college experience was good for me, and I learned a lot about what it means to be a good teammate and the level of hard work that is needed in order to truly be the best. I can still remember my first collegiate goal and the thrill that I felt then — it was the feeling that I was just beginning an exciting new chapter in my life.  Traveling to different parts of the country to compete was always one of my favorite things and the time spent with teammates on those trips was very memorable. Of course college water polo does not come without challenges.  You do have to make a lot of sacrifices to play collegiate water polo and there are days when you think you might not make it through, but of course you do. It teaches you to prioritize your time and your values, and to always do the important things first.
Do you keep in touch with some of your old club teammates?
I made some great friends on my club team who I am still in contact with today, and also made friends with athletes from other schools/clubs which made competitions a lot of fun.  Even the teammates who I am not in touch with today had a lasting impact on me.  Every day you are with your team you are learning something from watching your teammates, and luckily I had teammates who set good examples of dedication and commitment, and it made me a better person to be around them. My teammates made me want to rise up and be the best.
What was your main rival team when you played for Stanford?
When I played club polo with Stanford there were very few other club teams in the bay area, and we didn’t really have a true rival because of that. Girls water polo was just really beginning to gather interest, and most of the games that we played were played in either Marin or Modesto . We basically played whoever we could find to play against! Now of course all that has changed because so many people are playing polo, and that’s really fun to see.
What’s the best piece of advice a coach has told you?
One of my high school coaches used to talk a lot about the fact that you can’t just “flip the switch” when you’re competing. This was in reference primarily to both effort and focus, and the message was that in order to be successful you have to be dedicated to a high level of focus and effort from the very beginning, and you have to sustain that dedication throughout an entire practice or game. You cannot simply decide in one moment to increase your level of focus and expect things to suddenly improve for you. I learned to practice and compete that way, and it is something that helped me become a successful player.