Interview with Ava Bangert (@ava.bangert)
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I started playing water polo when I was 12. I was a club soccer player from a very young age and was getting kind of burned out with it , so when my friends said they were going to try a water polo practice at Corona Del Mar high I decided to go with them and check it out for myself. I had no idea how to play water polo, I was never a swimmer, but I figured it was basically soccer in the water so it had to be fun! After that first practice I was hooked! It was very freeing playing a sport floating in the water, there is nothing quite like it. And being in Southern California, the water polo mecca there are so many options for clubs, there is a place for everyone of all skill levels. Water polo is an extremely inclusive sport, I love that about it! There is no one size fits all, we come in all shapes and sizes and we all contribute for the better of our teams! That was important to me when choosing a sport I wanted to continue playing from the high school level through college, and maybe even beyond.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started doing this?
That’s easy! It has to be when I decided to become a water polo goalie. I started playing water polo for the club team of CDM at 12U. They didn’t have a goalie at the time, and I being new to the sport didn’t love the idea of swimming up and down the pool as a field player! So I decided to give the goal a try. Being a goalie is extremely difficult, and I think is the most underrated position on the team. I was up for the challenge, it was something I could set a goal (no pun intended!) towards becoming better at each day. It takes so much more than just long arms. The leg strength needed is insane and it is something I work at daily. I feel my legs are my best asset! I am 5’9″ so not on the tall side for a goalie ,but I think I make up for it with my leg strength and passing ability. The mental aspect of the goal is the most critical part, you need to be aware of the entire field (pool) as you are basically the quarterback of the team. All of these aspects of the position made it intriguing for me and I have never regretted my choice!
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them thrive and not “burn out”?
I believe it is important for all athletes no matter the sport, to make their mental health a top priority. We live in a digital world and that world can often times be cruel. People portray the version of themselves that they think will be accepted and get the most likes, but often times behind those pictures and videos there is person hurting inside not knowing how to process their feelings. As athletes and students we are tired, & stressed trying to manage our academics and personal lives. I have experienced cyber bullying and it was extremely difficult to go through. Having a safe place to talk about your feeling whether it be with friends, family, strangers or professionals is really important. I also started doing yoga, meditating and using a mindset app which has really helped. I use the apps calm, and the champion’s mind.
None of us can succeed without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Yes! My favorite person in the water polo world : Rico Azevedo! I have known Rico since I started playing water polo. When I came to Rico my fundamentals needed a lot of help. Rico, is the father of 5 time Olympian Tony Azevedo. Rico has coached multiple Olympic teams and is world renowned in the sport. In 2020 when Covid hit and shut everything down, a unique opportunity came my way. I decided to enroll in The first ever 6-8 Sports Academy at Los Cab in Fountain Valley. I was the youngest and first female goalie to enroll in the program! This water polo academy was founded by Tony Azevedo and 3 time Olympian Maggie Steffens. In this academy I was able to work with Rico everyday and my game awareness and quickness was taken to a whole new level! Also this academy is where I was introduced to mindset & mental training. Rico’s stories and insights showed me the importance of mental health and the critical role it plays for competitive athletes. My favorite and most inspirational story from Rico has to be about Laura Ester Ramos. She is a Spanish National water polo goalie who competed in the 2012 Summer Olympics and her team took home the silver medal…she is only 5’7″!!!! This was my motivation as a goalie who is 5’9″, if she can do it the why can’t I? Rico taught me that anything is possible with hard work and a great mindset.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I believe it is important to use our platforms for good. The world needs to see more positivity and light! I am the student leader for my high school for The Just One Project. This is a mobile food pantry serving families and individuals in need. Over 12,000 families are served a month in each location. This is what life is all about, lifting each other up when we are down. Showing up for people when no one else does. I love that. No one should ever go hungry, there is absolutely no excuse for that.
Do you have a favourite “written Quote”? Can you share a story of how that was relevant to you in your life?
My all time favorite quote passed down from my Grandma to my mm, and now to me. It is an anonymous quote my Grandma cut out of a newspaper back in the 1990’s that she taped to her refrigerator. “Trying for it doesn’t guarantee you’ll get it, but not trying for it guarantees you won’t”. I’ll never forget this, as an athlete this is so inspirational. It reminds me to keep on pushing even when it’s hard, and that barriers are just something you need to figure out how to overcome.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
I am on Instagram @ava.bangert & Tik Tok @ava_bangert.
Anything specific you’d like to have mentioned in the article?
I am an Academic All American through USA Water Polo, I made the NTSC female Cadet selection camp 2022. My Spa Red Cadet Team finished 2nd in the 2022 ODP National Championships. I plan to play division 1 water polo in college.