Monthly Awards

Athlete of the Month - February 2009 Tommy Gilfillan - Rose Bowl Water Polo

My nominee for USAWP's athlete of the month for February 2009 is Tommy Gilfillan.

Tommy Gilfillan was the MVP of our 18-and-under Rose Bowl team, which recently won the 2009 Florida International Tournament in Ft. Lauderdale. This was his final opportunity to play for Rose Bowl—he was born in 1990 so now he’s only eligible to play in grade-level or 19-and-under tournaments—and he really made it count. He was a consistent scorer during the tournament, was our 5-meter shooter, and made countless important passes and defensive plays. He was also our leader in and out of the water. Along the way, the Rose Bowl team had key victories over Ventura Premier and Spandau (Germany) and tied with the Mavericks (Toronto, Canada) to capture the championship.

But it wasn’t just this tournament that made Tommy stand out. He’s been an outstanding member of the Rose Bowl Water Polo Club for all of his 11 years with the team. He’s a pleasure to have as a player: He genuinely loves the sport of water polo and enjoys training and competing hard. He really gives everything he has every time he puts on a cap. And he sets an excellent example for the other players in our club with his work ethic, positive attitude, and focused approach to training and competitions. Tommy is also a naturally gifted athlete. He is a graceful player, moving smoothly in the water and appearing to expend very little effort—when the opposite is true. He plays hard.

This spring, Tommy will help out at the Rose Bowl in another way: as a coach for the younger age groups. The greatest compliment I can give a player is to ask him to help coach my athletes. I am excited that Tommy will join our staff, if only for a limited time before he heads off to college.

During his career with Rose Bowl, Tommy has participated in most major national tournaments including Junior Olympics and the National Club Championships twice in every age group. He won the Coastal California Zone Championships in 2004 and 2005 as a 16-and-under and 14-and-under, respectively.

He played for four years at the Polytechnic School in Pasadena—a K-through-12 school with a total enrollment of under 900 students. There he accumulated some impressive numbers: 500 goals, 350 steals, and 195 assists. He led Poly to two consecutive CIF Division VI semi-finals. In 2008, Poly lost to the eventual champion, Crescenta Valley.

All of Tommy’s outstanding water polo achievements were put into perspective, however, in November 2007, when his sister Sarah was killed in a tragic car accident. The taxi she was riding in was broadsided by another car that ran a red light. She was 26 years old. Despite the enormous emotional burden, Tommy quickly returned to the pool and began to train again. He seemed to have even more drive and determination after his sister’s passing. He worked extremely hard to persevere through some extremely trying times. When he returned to Rose Bowl we were elated to see him back in the water where he belonged.

This fall Tommy will begin his water polo career at Cal Berkeley, his mother and father’s alma mater. I look forward to watching Tommy’s progress. Given his natural ability, work ethic and love of the game, I know that he’ll do just fine. I am proud to nominate Tommy as USAWP’s Athlete of the Month for February 2009.

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