Student-Athlete Spotlight: Allison Campbell, Water Polo
March 20, 2014
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Allison Campbell began her collegiate water polo career at the University of Maryland. During her junior year, Maryland's athletic department discontinued its water polo program for financial reasons, along with six other sport programs. Heartbroken, Allison finished her undergraduate education at Maryland, but eventually decided to come to Indiana as a graduate student to use her final year of athletic eligibility.
IU was an obvious choice as Allison's sister, Kelsey, formerly played water polo for the Hoosiers, but it was the team and IU's athletic community that has made Allison a Hoosier for life. The IU Varsity Club recently sat down with Allison to talk about her IU experiences.
Hometown: Maple Ridge, British Columbia
Q: How did you get connected to IU?
A: We had the relationship with [Head Coach] Barry King and with IU since my sister was here. So he was one of the first coaches I talked to. Even during the whole process while our team was being cut, our coach at Maryland said to me that Barry was really great. In some other sports if this had happened it might be like, "Oh, can I grab this player? Can I grab this player?" Barry was more like, "Hey, what can we do to help you guys?"
The reaction to Maryland's decision was more of a community instead of how it would be in a different sport so that was really great. We had just come back from a tournament in San Diego my junior year and a bunch of the Indiana girls bought t-shirts from us that we were trying to sell to raise money to save our program. It helped a lot coming here knowing that the group of girls was really supportive of my situation.
Q: Did you plan to go to a different school to get your master's degree?
A: It was actually my academic advisor in the athletic department at Maryland that suggested looking into IU. It was a whirlwind my junior year to find out that the team was getting cut and trying to save the team at the same time while competing in our season, not really knowing what was happening. So, I really initially just tried to focus on the season and finish up what we knew we had left. Then being a junior and with credits not transferring, I felt that academically it just probably wouldn't work to transfer anywhere for my senior year. It was just after our season had finished that our advisor had mentioned I might want to look at grad school and get my final year of eligibility. So, he was the one who started off the whole process. It wasn't until about May 2012, after the season ended my junior year, that I decided to really do this. I then applied to IU in the fall.
Q: You're from Canada. How did you get into water polo? Is it popular?
A: Not particularly, no. My mom was a swimmer. So, my sister and I joined the swim club at a really young age that my mom swam for. It's a summer league program that has water polo, swimming, and synchronized swimming. So, we got into water polo through the club. I started playing when I was about eight years old and then moved on to a full-time club a couple years after that.
Q: Water polo is not as common in the Midwest as in other regions. Can you explain how collegiate water polo works?
A: Actually most of the teams are in California. So, we went to tournaments when I was at Maryland to go out and see the California teams. In the ACC, Maryland was the only school that had water polo. So it's not the ACC or the Big 10 as the water polo conference; we have the Collegiate Water Polo Conference (CWPA). I was in the same conference at Maryland as I am here at Indiana. So, there are a lot of the same rivals, a lot of the same familiarity. I had a lot of changes personally being out for a year. I think the biggest adjustment was getting used to just playing again. I was worried coming in because I'd been out for a year. I tried to stay in shape, but had to adjust to the feel of playing again.
Q: It seems like water polo is a tight-knit sport nationally. Is this true?
A: Yeah, it is. Especially with everything that's happened with water polo being cut at Maryland, the six degrees of separation...it's crazy. I'm in classes with one of the swimmers here. He grew up swimming with a girl that lived across the hall from me at Maryland. Rebecca Gerrity was with me at Maryland and is here now. Meghan Lappan and I played club back home. Shae Fournier and I played on the junior national team in Canada. So, there are a lot of familiar faces that helped with my transition. It is very much a small community. Back in Canada, depending on the year and the age group, each province has two, maybe three, big clubs. So, fewer 20 total major clubs would be at our national championships every year. So you pretty much get to know everyone. There are a lot of people playing this sport, but when it comes down to it, it's still very small.
Q: What do you find most attractive about Indiana University?
A: My experience here is a lot different as a grad student than someone looking to come here as an undergrad. The program that I'm in academically is great. The human performance department is really cool because it's just all these people that really care about sports and want to find out all these different things and really get into the nitty gritty of the physiological side of sports. I've been playing all my life and now I get to see how this works and it's been a really cool experience.
Q: How would you interpret the Spirit of Indiana?
A: Everyone was super welcoming. One of the things that always sticks out when people ask about the experience is in the Wilkinson Performance Center [Indiana's strength and conditioning facility]. Not only is your strength coach really invested in what's going on, but you have coaches from all the other teams walking by and actually knowing everyone's names. That was one thing that really surprised me. There's really a sense of community here. It's not like people stick with their team or their staff, it's everyone. It helps, too, to build that sense of community that there's this amazing facility that everyone can use and be all together. I was pretty impressed by that for sure.
Q: Do you see yourself pursuing water polo further after you finish your master's degree?
A: Well, my plan is to apply for medical school. I'm actually writing my MCAT this summer; I just registered a couple days ago. I'll be coaching for the club that I first started playing for back home this summer. I actually coached for them last summer, as well. I definitely would like to stay involved with the sport in some capacity, whether it's just volunteering or as a coach, I've been given amazing opportunities because of it. I feel forever indebted to water polo because I was able to go to Maryland and then come here and experience all of this. Yeah, it's important to me to do that.
Q: As a scholarship athlete, how do you feel you benefit most from the aid you receive from our donors?
A: I think it goes back to the experience. Applying to medical school- especially in Canada- it's quite competitive because there aren't as many programs and to be able to add my masters onto my application will really help me. And, the fact that I was able to come here and play again. Even though it was a year I should've had to begin with, I now just see it as a bonus. The fact that I was able to turn a negative situation into such a positive one, the scholarship definitely helped out with that.
Q: If you had the opportunity to meet a donor what would you say to them?
A: Thank you, thank you, a thousand times, thank you. It's pretty unreal the experiences I've been able to have because of water polo.
Check back soon