Who begins playing water polo in the third grade? Parker Strickman did just that and never looked back, becoming one of the premier high school players in South Florida. Training two to three times a day, he developed his strength and physique so that he now powers the ball on every shot on goal.
University of Florida-bound, Parker opted for a place on the STA swim team this year to give his game an extra edge. The water polo team lost all but one of its starters last year, and no one thought it would qualify for states. Losing to Belen in the 2016 State Final had humbled the players, gave them the extra drive they needed, and fired them up for the upcoming season. Despite the fact that STA's 2017 water polo team went into states with a 24-1 record, the year took its toll on Parker, emotionally: Club teammates Andre died after a car accident and Stefano succumbed to cancer.
Frankly, Parker calls his four years of water polo at STA, "a roller coaster," moments of victory along with those of defeat. "Losing in the state finals three years in a row can really drag you to a point where you consider it not worth trying next time. But I have finally understood in my senior year that so much more is learned from losing.
Despite this year's losses to the eventual 2017 State Champion Ransom Everglades, one in regular season and the other in the overtime state semifinal, 7-8, life lessons remain for Parker, especially when he reflects on his coach: "Coach Mike [Goldenberg] has always been there to pick us up when we fall.... I respect my coach more than I can express in writing, and that is why he has had such an impact on us and the sport of water polo.... I am forever indebted to him." Inspired by his coach and motivated by his friends who passed away, Parker scored five of STA's seven goals—not enough to win. But he gave the semifinal match everything he had.