Jessica Steffens, photographed by
Jeff Shewmon

What if you had the chance to represent your country in the Olympics? Jessica Steffens, the 21-year-old defender on the USA Water Polo Women's Team may get that chance in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China. GL chatted up the Stanford University student and California native about water polo, traveling the world and what it means to be on a team.

Girls' Life: How do you feel about potentially competing in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing?

Jessica Steffens: It is very exciting. I feel very proud to have the opportunity to represent my country, my lifestyle and my sport. To compete in the Olympics has always been a dream. I never thought it would be an attainable dream, but here I am.

GL: When did you begin playing water polo?

JS: I grew up swimming and playing soccer, but in high school I wanted to try something different. I had a couple friends trying water polo so I ended up in the pool. That was probably a good choice!

GL: What has been your most embarrassing sports moment?

JS: Well, at my first swim meet (time trials as a 6 year old) I was very nervous, so my dad gave me some advice, "just go when you hear the beep." Sounds simple enough. Before meets start, the timers have a stopwatch check and use the beep to start and stop the watches. I heard a beep so I rushed through the coaches standing in front of me, dove in and swam the length of the pool. Only after I got out and realized no one else was even wet yet.

GL: What is the best part about playing on a team?

JS: There are so many great things you learn from playing on a team. I think the most important thing, though, is learning how to interact with others to form the best group. It's not hard to make a team, but it is hard to make a team successful. I believe that learning how to support and push others in just the right balance is an extraordinary skill and practicing this skill leads to successful teams in the pool, on the field, in school, and in the workplace.

GL: What do you do for fun when you're not in the pool?

JS: Right now most of my life is water polo and when I'm not playing, I need to relax. I love to do puzzles, play games and go on walks around town to find a nice spot to read and enjoy the day.

GL: How often do you practice with the team?

JS: We practice everyday for about six hours with weekends free to recover for the next week. Away from the pool we make sure that we eat healthy, sleep enough, and take care of our bodies so that when we are at the pool, we are ready to train.

GL: You've traveled all over the world for water polo, do you have a favorite country you've visited and why?

JS: I loved going to Brazil, it is such an interesting country filled with very passionate people.

GL: What health/fitness advice do you have for young girls?

JS: Sports are a great way to stay healthy and out of trouble. It is very important to surround yourself with positive influences. It makes being a good, healthy person that much easier. For me, joining sports teams was always the most fun way to surround myself with good eople and good habits.

GL: Thanks for your time, Jessica, and good luck at the Olympics!

JS: Thanks!

4/1/2008 12:00:52 PM