To celebrate the Club’s centenary we are publishing a series of stories from Penguins past and present, recording what being a member of our Club means to them.
This post comes from junior water polo player Olly Castell, who was highly commended for the Ron Turner Memorial Trophy in 2020.
I feel lucky to say I have been playing water polo now for six years. It all started when I met Shaun (the current coach of the Under 16s at Hillingdon Penguin) for a sports scholarship trial at my school and we played some water polo as part of the day. I thought to myself, what is this sport? And why is it so much fun? I had been a competitive swimmer at regional level at that point, but I had never experienced water polo properly until then.
Even in that first game, I recall the feeling of loving shooting the ball, receiving and throwing passes, the thrill of moving past opponents in the water and scoring goals. The sport seemed to have the best of so many worlds: the competitive team element of football mixed with the physicality of swimming, combined with clever chess-like tactics. My love of water polo was born!
At that point, there wasn’t any real school team that was in place, but Shaun suggested that I went for a trial at Hillingdon and play with the year 11s. That’s when I met Mickey, who with Shaun truly inspired me to think about how I could play at a high level.
What I enjoy about the Club
There are so many things that I love about Hillingdon Penguins. I love the training sessions, the team camaraderie, the togetherness we show in competitive matches and the fact that our team spirit always drives us on to succeed and never give up, even when we are several goals down!
There have been so many amazing, proud and fun moments in my water polo experience so far. I could mention the individual accolade of winning the coach’s player’s cup for my efforts, winning a particularly tough inter-county match, or even my great pride at being asked to train with the regional academy group at Crystal Palace amongst amazing players such as Elliot McHugh.
But one of my best memories of the Club and this unique team spirit we seem to have was a time I recall us being down 7-2 at half time at a game in Croydon, and against the odds the team pulled back to narrow the margin. We were playing off each other so well, it was like there a synergy in all our minds, and this enabled me to score five goals in the half! Despite the fact that we still lost by one goal, it was this unique team feeling of everyone supporting each other and a combined willingness to play our hearts out – that the Club has inspired through the years – that was the most striking and proud element.
I would say to any young player considering getting into the sport, it’s definitely worth trying out – in my experience this is one of the most fun things you can do. It’s great exercise and also brilliant for your own mental wellbeing with the team in a frenetic, busy world of school, exams and life. Plus, nothing can beat the feeling of rising up waist high in the water and smashing a shot past a keeper in the top corner! In terms of future growth, the sport still inspires me and has opened up my interest to looking at opportunities with US scholarships too which is exciting.
This is such a special Club. We are so lucky to have a great set of supportive coaches, friends, team-mates, parents and the wider Club community. This year has proven, even despite the unexpected calamity of a global pandemic and not being able to play together for what felt like an eternity, that spirit of Hillingdon Penguin has shone through.
I look forward to many more years of great water polo experiences (and goals). Thank you, and Go Penguin!