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Ben's England water polo dream

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Our son Ben is 16 years old and has played water polo since he was just 7 years old, training hard at both his local club - Sedgefield and playing in Mens National league for Rotherham Metro (from the age of 13) - before progressing through North East Regional Academy and subsequently being invited to join the England National Academy in January 2018 where he trained a year ahead of his age group.  Ben trained with this group for almost 2 years, making it to the final 30 players before the final squad was selected for that particular age group.
 
Not making the squad at the time was disappointing for Ben, but he turned this to his advantage.  It gave him the determination and drive to train harder – taking on board the feedback from coaches on the areas he needed to improve on - and he was subsequently invited to the England National Academy for his own age group in January 2020.  Covid then changed everything in life and he adapted to zoom workshops and exercise classes to maintain his fitness since the pools were closed as part of the national lockdown.

National Academy resumed face to face camps in Walsall in June and July 2021, where there were approximately 40 boys on the programme; the boys knew they needed to work hard at these camps in order to keep their place as the squad was being formed in September 2021 and would be on a 3 year programme, aiming for the European Qualifiers in 2024.  Ben attended a 5 day residential camp in Glastonbury in August, followed by two weekend camps in September (Walsall and Coventry) where the numbers were reducing to get closer to the final England U19 Junior Mens Squad.

Ben was overjoyed to be selected for the England U19 junior mens squad in September 2021, and even more so when we received the email confirming he had been selected to attend the U17's EU Nations tournament in Brno (Czech Republic) in October 2021.  Just when we thought life couldn't get any better for Ben, we found out he had been selected to be team captain for the tournament; a phenomenal achievement for a 16 year old making his England debut!

We are massively proud of how hard Ben has worked - training for a minimum of 12 hours every week after school / college and improvising with home workouts and a rebound net in the garden over the recent covid lockdowns.  Representing his country is something he has dreamed about since a very young age, and to this day, we still have his Christmas wish which he made at primary school at the age of 8 years old where he wished to be able to play water polo for his country; very impressive considering his friends at the time were asking for X-boxes and playstations!  

We expect this trip alone to cost approximately £1000 for Ben to go without any of his family there to support him; this will cover his flights, food & accommodation, England kit and training fees.  Unfortunately, there's no government help for water polo parents - even when their child is selected to represent England.  All of his previous training, camps, academies and trials have been funded by ourselves without any financial assistance from anyone.  We anticipate that we'll have spent approximately £4,000 by the end of this year alone purely on getting him to the different venues around the country.  That may sound a lot of money but it's a lot less that we expected it to be; probably the only benefit that we have seen of the pandemic and every day life temporarily being placed on hold.  We’ve spoken to other parents who have been on a similar water polo journey with their children in the past, and have been advised that the average cost is approximately £6,000-£7,000 per year – not much less than we’d pay to send a child to University!

During his time in the England Squad - which should be for 3 years - we expect that Ben will be attending monthly England Squad camps at various locations across the country, meaning we'll have additional fuel and overnight accommodation costs to pay each month.  Previous weekend camps have cost us around £200-£250, including his training fee, overnight accommodation and fuel; fuel being the main expense currently since we live in the North East and his next closest club is a 196 mile round trip just for a 2 hour training session.  We’ve decided to set up this go fund me page to help contribute towards the costs of his England journey if at all possible.  Ben’s ultimate goal is to make the final 13 selected for the GB U19’s European Championships in 2024 and then to make the England Senior GB squad.

The hidden costs of the time and effort we put into helping Ben attend his training often means that as a family, we have to make sacrifices; Ben has a younger brother who also wishes to follow in his brother’s footsteps and doesn’t want to miss his water polo and rugby training here.  This means that we often miss out on our family time together and alternate between ourselves as to which one of us stays home with the youngest child and which one spends their weekend driving up and down the A1, living in a Premier Inn and eating sandwiches from a coolbox!!!  
 
Ben’s story shows that Christmas wishes do come true; all you need is faith in yourself, determination to succeed and a little bit of help from friends and family to keep his dream alive. If anyone is able to spare a couple of pounds to help fund this trip and his time in the squad over the next 3 years, it would be greatly appreciated.

Organizer

Vicky Alderson
Organizer
England

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