Sunshine State Games is held every year in South Florida at the Coral Springs Aquatic Complex. Teams from across the state and a few from Latin America compete for titles in 14U, 16U, 18U, and Open, in both boys and girls brackets. Currently, it’s the largest youth water polo tournament in the state of Florida. I’ve competed in both the 18U and 16U brackets with SEP over the time I’ve been with the club.
I look forward to Sunshine State Games because it affords our team the opportunity to play against competition outside of our local area. During club season, we only scrimmage local teams, so it’s good to branch out and see some different offensive attacks from around the region. The higher-level clubs also field teams at SSG to prepare for the National Junior Olympics, so it’s always good to watch and learn from the best talent in the region. I also get to see some of the kids I’ve played with and against that don’t go to schools were I live, so SSG is a great way to talk strategy with different players who play under different programs.
Travel tournaments are also a great way to bond with your teammates; we all hang around the town of Coral Springs for a few days, so when we aren’t on deck, we play cards, eat food, and horseplay at the hotel. This past summer SEP fielded a 16U boys team since our high school team was especially young, and that allowed our newer players to experience playing multiple games back-to-back and gain valuable game experience. There’s really only one way to learn the game of water polo - jump in and make mistakes. The more games you play, the better you become, so the high-density format of tournaments is really valuable in helping sharpen our skills.