Christian: Today I’m joined by Keesja Gofers, Olympian 2016, representing Australia in water polo. Keesja’s biggest achievements include a silver medalist at the World Championships 2013 and a bronze medalist at the World Championships 2019.
Keesja: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
What a florally conscious athlete is
Christian: Keesja, I saw on your Instagram profile, you’re a florally conscious athlete. What does that mean?
Keesja: I’ve studied and I am qualified to be a florist. So I love all things nature and all things creative. It’s a bit of a strange combination for an athlete to be a florist as well.
I’m passionate about water polo, flowers, and the environment.
That’s why I just want to let people know a little bit more about my personality and that I’m florally conscious and also conscious about the planet and the environment. I think being sustainable is really important and that’s also something that I’m passionate about. So water polo, flowers, and the environment.
How she got into water polo
Christian: How did you get into water polo?
Keesja: I have three older sisters and they’re five years older than me. They went and started playing water polo and my mom would drag me along to go and play with them. So I watched them and I got bored, so I wanted to jump in too.
That’s really how I started. I wanted to copy my sisters and get in the pool. When they were training, my mom and I would sit out the back in the pool and she would chuck balls to me and I would chase them.
Then as soon as I could, I started playing for my club. I just wanted to be like my sisters, so they’re the real reason I started playing water polo.
I wanted to be like my sisters, they’re the real reason I started playing water polo.
Christian: That is really cool. I’ve actually recently spoken to Inge de Bruijn, the Dutch swimmer and her brother was also a water polo player and an Olympian. She wanted to become a water polo player, but she didn’t have the ball-handling skills, so she became a swimmer. The rest is history.
Keesja: I think she could have stuck with it. She would have been pretty good, I reckon.
Christian: Well, the world of swimming would have missed one of its greatest swimmers.
Keesja: She’s a very good swimmer, so I think she made a good choice.
Her darkest moment
Christian: In your life as an athlete, what was your darkest moment?
Keesja: I have to narrow it down to two moments. I couldn’t just say one thing because for me, I had two moments that really have made me into the athlete that I am now. Even though they were my darkest moments, they’ve pushed me forward more than even some of my greatest highlights.
Even though they were my darkest moments, they’ve pushed me forward more than even some of my greatest highlights, and have made me into the athlete that I am now.
The first one, I went to the 2013 World Championships where we got the silver medal in Barcelona. The following international season, after our National Club Championships, my coach pulled me aside and dropped me from the national team.
My club did really well at the Club Championships. I got MVP [most valuable player] of the National Club competition, but I was dropped from the national team.
We got the silver medal at the World Championships in Barcelona, my club did really well, I got MVP of the National Club competition, but I was dropped from the national team.
So, there’s a part of you that thinks that this is unfair. How could I be one thing and not make the national team?
But what I decided to go away and do was think about how I was going to make it into this team again. I knew that I could do it. What are the things that were going to make sure that I got back into the team?
I asked the coach what I needed to work on. And the first two months he told me that I needed to be stronger. So I went to the gym and worked as hard as I could in the gym and I got stronger.
Then two months later I told him that I was stronger and I asked him what I should do then. He told me that I needed to make the swimming times. I was working at the time as a receptionist. So every day at lunchtime, I got to the pool and I swam laps and I made the swimming times.
Then it was something else, like shooting, I think. So I worked on my shooting and then finally he said that we just had too many people in my position. I was playing on the right-hand side of the pool.
In water polo, you’ve got the right-hander side and the left-hander side. Mostly, people, if you’re left hand dominant, you go on the left-hander side and if you’re right hand dominant, you go on the right-hander side.
I’m right hand dominant, so I was playing on the right-hand side. He said basically, there were too many people there and if I wanted to make the team, I was going to have to change position. So I decided to do it.
I swapped sides and finally, I made that World Cup team. I made the next World Champs team and then made the Olympic team. So that was how a dark moment when you flip it around, you can recover from it and you end up being the athlete you are because you take a step back and realize that you can do little things, step by step to get there.
I guess my second moment was in Rio when we lost that quarterfinal. So going into the Olympics, with our previous tournaments, we’d finished always in the top four and mostly got the second or third place. So we went in there, we were confident and we thought we’re going to come away with a medal.
At the last two Olympics, the team had got bronze and so, we were coming off the back of a really confident team. So going into the Rio 2016 Olympics, I never was in any doubt that we were going to come home with a medal.
Then we went into our quarterfinal and we were up by five and then slowly, slowly, the game ends in a draw. We have a penalty shootout to finish the game and we ended up losing to Hungary. They go through to the semifinals and we go down to play off for fifth to eighth.
That night was like such an eye-opener. It was like you think that it’s going to go one way and it goes the complete opposite way. We had to get up the next day and we had to play another game and we had to get up two days later and play another game.
Those are some of the hardest games that I had to play, but I think for me, I’m still in that progression of recovering. So the last four years I’ve thought that I don’t want to feel how I felt again in that quarter-final.
Going into the Rio 2016 Olympics, I never was in any doubt that we were going to come home with a medal. Then we went into our quarterfinal and we ended up losing. , I’m still in that progression of recovering.
That doesn’t mean losing a game. That means being aware that you can give everything and there’s a possibility that you might lose. I think I have a more mature approach to playing the sport and then I can also appreciate that there are bigger things in life as well.
That doesn’t mean that I don’t want to go to the Olympics and I don’t want to win a gold medal because I do. But if that doesn’t happen, I know that there’s more things in my life.
So I think for me, the second darkest moment, I am still in that phase of recovery, but at the same time, it’s a day by day process. I want to go to this next Olympics to do something amazing and to really show that we, as a team can bounce back from a performance that we weren’t as happy with.
I guess those are my two moments. I think for me, that definitely made me stronger as an athlete in myself and also within my team. That was a very long answer. Sorry.
Christian: It’s a very good answer and actually I remember what you were just saying about being prepared, and things might not go your way. I was talking to fellow Aussie, Sam Willoughby, the BMX Supercross racer. He was the dominant man at the Rio Olympic Games 2016 and then he made a small mistake in the final and ended up with – I don’t know, seventh place.
He didn’t end up on the podium and he basically said the same thing. It’s like, you have to be prepared for that.
Keesja: Yes. At the end of the day, every team that you’ve versed or every competitor that you verse wants to win. You’re not the only one that thinks they’re going to come away with a gold medal.
I don’t know, but probably 90% of Olympians go home a bit disappointed, but yet they’re still Olympians, which is incredible. You have to appreciate what you’ve done and where you’ve got to, and then just give it everything when you’re in the opportunity to do so.
Her reflection on the penalty shootout at the Rio 2016 Olympics
Christian: I actually have taken that note down here of the quarterfinal in Rio against Hungary and you went into penalties. Did you take a penalty?
Keesja: Yes, I took a penalty. So it was funny actually, our coach was saying that I should take one and then he changed his mind and said I should not take it. Then he told someone else that they should take one.
So me and this other girl weren’t sure who was going to take it and I was saying that I was going to take it. So I ended up going in there and I didn’t feel that nervous. Looking back, it was crazy and I wondered why I wasn’t nervous.
But I just thought that I’ve done this a thousand times. It doesn’t come down to this. If we win from this penalty shootout, then that’s great. That’s amazing. But at the same time, we should have won this in the game. We were winning by five. We should have finished this off in the game.
I scored mine, but to me, I don’t know who’s missed. I can’t remember because it doesn’t matter. And that’s how I like to go into every penalty shoot-out, because if you put too much pressure on those penalty shootouts, then someone’s going to blame themselves forever. It’s a team sport and it doesn’t come down to that final shot.
If you put too much pressure on those penalty shootouts, then someone’s going to blame themselves forever. It’s a team sport and it doesn’t come down to that final shot.
It’s the team’s performance throughout the entire tournament, throughout the entire game that brings you to that point. It’s not down to one person. So I came going in there with confidence and that’s how I like to always try and do it.
Her best moment
Christian: What was your best moment?
Keesja: My best moment was definitely walking out for our first game of the 2016 Olympics. I think we were playing Russia and the whole tournament was ahead of us. Anything was possible.
I’ve got three sisters who all have partners and kids and my mom and dad and my fiancé’s parents and his sister were all there. So a huge contingent of people that I directly knew and then obviously, all of the other girls’ families all in the crowd.
I just remember walking out and singing the national anthem and just crying before the game even starts. Then we ended up winning that game. At that moment, we just were all together as a team.
It was just a really amazing time because, in our heads, anything was possible. We were going out to win gold and yes, that didn’t happen, but that moment still existed. So that’s definitely my greatest highlight.
We were going out to win gold and yes, that didn’t happen, but that moment still existed.
Christian: I read in an interview that you gave, that when you received the call to go to the Olympics, that was one of your best moments. In my research, I saw you were on the team in 2013, but you weren’t on the team at the 2012 Olympics?
Keesja: No, I wasn’t in the 2012 Olympics but the way that we got told that we were in the 2016 Olympics, was by our opposing number. So in Rio, I played number five and our opposing number for the Sydney 2000 Olympic team, which was the women’s water polo Australian team were the gold medalists.
So the gold medal-winning Sydney, 2000 team, our opposing number. For me, that was Bronwyn Smith. She went by Bronwyn Mayer back then. She was the one to call me up. Yes, so, everyone had the same situation. Their opposing number called them and let them know they’re in the Olympic team.
So our coach had organized that and it was just a really, really special moment. Like it’s amazing when your coach tells you because you’re going to the Olympic games, but when someone you have grown up idolizing tells you, it’s something even more special.
Her advice to a younger Keesja Gofers
Christian: If you could travel back in time, 10, 15 years, what advice would you give a younger Keesja here?
Keesja: For me, I’ve always tried really hard and give a 110%. But I think for me, the advice I’d give would be training like you’re the underdog, but compete like you’re the champion. So, train, like you’ve always got to be better.
Train like you’re the underdog, but compete like you’re the champion.
You’ve always got to improve, take on every opportunity, and try your best. But when you compete, when you jump in that pool for the games, have the confidence to take the shot, to be aggressive and to dominate your opposition.
I’ve slowly, slowly worked on my confidence throughout the years, but I started off training really hard and then getting into games and being anxious or being nervous. So I think for me, it’s training like the underdog, but compete like you’re the champion.
Her advice to athletes who are nervous in competition
Christian: Thinking about young aspiring athletes who might have the same challenge. They train very well, but then once it comes to competition times, they might get nervous and confidence is low. What advice would you give?
Keesja: It’s depending on the situation, for example in a team sport, you’re going to be one on one with an opponent. If you’ve made a team, there’s always something that you can do or that you believe that you can do better than them.
It might be really small. It might be that they’re the fastest swimmer. They’re really fast and you can never catch them, but you think, they’re the fastest, but I’m smarter. Or maybe they’re really strong and you say, if I stay still and they’re really strong, they’ve got me.
But if I keep moving, if I’m always trying to work around, if I’m always really fast, agile, then I’m going to be better. So you just have to find whatever it is, is that key thing that you can fall back on that you know is true. You can say that you are this, and this is going to be better than them today because you know it’s true.
You just have to find whatever it is, is that key thing that you can fall back on that you know is true.
The thing is when you get into trouble is when you tell yourself that you’re stronger than that person and you know it’s not true. So the first attack, they wrestle with you and they push you out of the pool. You now think that you’re not stronger than them and you’ve made a mistake. Now the game’s lost.”
No! You start to say that they’re stronger than you, but you’re quicker than them. So it’s like, they pushed you out, but next time you’re going to swim around so they can’t grab you. I guess my point is trying to find your strength as opposed to your weaknesses.
Christian: It’s kind of a David and Goliath thing, right? So even if the one is much better than you, you can still find ways to win.
Keesja: Yes, exactly. Think of yourself as David. He wins in the end.
Christian: Really cool.
Her success habits
Christian: What are the habits that make you a successful athlete or person?
Keesja: I am constantly writing lists, I am constantly writing down things. My brain is always working and sometimes inside my brain, there’s too many thoughts. So I get them down on paper.
My brain is always working and sometimes inside my brain, there’s too many thoughts. So I get them down on paper.
I write to-do lists, I write tactic lists, I write thoughts that I’m thinking. If I can’t sleep, I write down the things I’m thinking. So I think the ability to get out of my own head, put it on paper, and then go back to it later is probably one of my biggest skills.
I know it has nothing to do with being in the pool and it has nothing to do with training, but it’s a way that I am able to time manage. So I’m able to put my sport as a priority because I tell myself that I’ve got to do this, this, this, and this today. I’ve got to do 30 minutes of rehab.
That’s on the list. I tick it off when it’s done. If it doesn’t get done, well, then it gets done at 10:00 PM. It has to get done. I’ve got to go and do groceries, so I have a good nutrition. That’s important, so that goes to the top of this. It’s got to get done.
I’ve got something unimportant, like, watching Netflix. That doesn’t even go on the list, but if it was, it’d be all the way down the bottom. So, I’m constantly trying to prioritize myself so that every decision I make every day is to make me the best athlete.
I’m constantly trying to prioritize myself so that every decision I make every day is to make me the best athlete.
So in the pool, it’s like, I’m feeling tired. Yes, but you wrote down that your goal for today was going to be that you work on your swimming speed, so you can’t try hard in this last fifty.
So as you probably can appreciate my brain is constantly working, jumping from one thing to the other. But if I write things down, if I can fall back on those lists and those priorities, then it makes me better in every single aspect of my life.
Christian: It does make a lot of sense. And does it also help, once it’s prioritizing, but does it also help to get a little bit more headspace in terms of thinking less?
Keesja: Yes, absolutely. So I can get caught up in my own thoughts and I’ve recently started doing meditation to try and calm my own mind down as well. So maybe that’s going to be a helpful piece of advice for someone who’s like me, who’s constantly thinking. Someone who’s really chill and needs to perk up a bit.
They’re going to be asking me why I would do that and that it seems crazy. You’ve definitely got to find the advice or the skills that are going to work for you and the type of person you are.
You’ve got to find the advice or the skills that are going to work for you and the type of person you are.
So if you had someone who overthinks then over complicates, this definitely what helps me a lot.
Christian: I can relate to that.
Her morning routine
Christian: Do you have a morning routine?
Keesja: I do have a morning routine, but it actually happens at night. So with water polo, we are often training at 5:00 AM. So that means I’m getting up at 4:00 AM. I’m having a coffee, I’m getting in the car and I’m going to training.
So basically my night routine is so that everything for the next day is organized, is prepared, has been thought about. So, every night before I go to bed, I will pack my bag for the next day. I will make my lunch, I will set up my clothes, I’ll stretch, I’ll do rehab, if I haven’t done it, I will meditate.
I’ll do those things every night so that the next day I know that everything can run smoothly. If I’ve got a busy day, I know that I’ve thought about the day and it has already happened the night before, because I don’t want to be waking up at 3:30 to do all those things. So I said, I do them at 9 pm the night before.
How to prepare for important moments
Christian: How do you prepare for important moments?
Keesja: For me being, as I said, an over-thinker, I actually like to treat important moments as normal as other moments. I like to fall back on all the preparation that I’ve done every single day.
I like to fall back on all the preparation that I’ve done every single day.
So, I do not worry about whether I have worn the right socks or if I have eaten the right food. Those are all really important and are things that you should think about, but not focus too heavily on. So instead, for example, if my car’s got a flat tire, I still think that the game’s going to be good because I’ve done the preparation work every single day before that day.
I like to think of it as a brick wall. So day by day for my entire career, I’ve been building this brick wall. I build it brick by brick, and sometimes a brick gets knocked out, but you’ve still got a pretty decent meter high brick wall.
So if one day, as I said, I’m feeling really tired because we’ve had a huge training week, that’s a brick down in the brick wall, but it’s still a pretty solid structure. I still know a lot about water polo. I still have all the same skills. I still have all the same knowledge.
It’s just one tiny brick missing, but the foundation is really still strong and steady. So, that’s how I like to think about important moments, just like any other moment. Just maybe more people watching.
How to overcome setbacks
Christian: How do you overcome setbacks?
Keesja: For me, it’s a lot about getting it out and getting my thoughts out. Sometimes that means writing it down. Most of the time, it means calling up my fiancé and getting it off my chest and communicating.
It’s a lot about getting it out and getting my thoughts out. Sometimes that means writing it down. Most of the time, it means getting it off my chest and communicating.
If it’s a game, I think about whether I have a chance to fix and redeem it. Or what I can do the next day. Or what I can do now that’s going to mean that tomorrow I’m going to wake up and I’m going to be able to play a good game the next day, or have success the next day.
If it’s injury, I’ve been really lucky and I haven’t been injured that much, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve had a few injuries. I had a shoulder injury last year and I think that actually for me, has been a hard thing to overcome because the injury is something that you don’t have as much control over.
I had to really try and change the fact and instead of thinking that I can’t do something, I wondered what I could do. I also thought about how I could improve something else while I can’t use my shoulder. For example, in water polo, maybe I couldn’t do any shooting, but that means that I’ve got more time to do legwork drills or more time to suffer strength and conditioning.
So it’s a matter of flipping the situation and figuring out how you can move forward. In general, I like to also take into the mindset that water polo is important and it’s what I’m doing every single day. I put a lot of effort and a lot of time and I love it, but it is just a game.
It’s a matter of flipping the situation and figuring out how you can move forward.
So, it’s like any sport, it’s a huge part of my life. A huge part of an athletes’ life is their sport, but at the end of the day, there’s your family, friends, and your loved ones. There’s your career outside of sport. If you are financially, not a professional athlete, there’s your life after sport.
There are so many things that you can go back to and you can find happiness in. So, at the end of the day, you should be happy to play, not miserable. So, when you think about a setback, it can’t be that bad because you’re still happy in other areas.
At the end of the day, you should be happy to play, not miserable.
Christian: You’ve got to put it in perspective.
Keesja: Yes, exactly.
Her role model
Christian: Who’s your role model and why?
Keesja: My role model would definitely be my sister, Taniele. She went to the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and they won a bronze medal there. She had a really injury-ridden and challenging road to the Olympics.
She had to have surgery before she could enter back into the team. She was out for six months, but she showed me that if you push through and if you give it everything, then you can succeed and you can make it to the Olympic Games.
She showed me that if you push through and if you give it everything, then you can succeed and you can make it to the Olympic Games.
She also now works for the UN advocating for human rights and so she, even outside of sport, was able to pursue such a really incredible career. For me, she’s my role model because firstly, when I saw her at the Olympic Games in 2008, that’s when I decided that that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to go there.
Again, we spoke about at the very beginning of this interview, copying my sisters. So I wanted to go there and be just like her and also in her post sport career, she’s really shown me that you can do anything you want to do and you can really make a difference if you put your mind to it. So she’s my role model.
The relation with her sisters, a rivalry or do they support each other
Christian: I’ve noted that down for a later point, but since you just mentioned it, your sister’s also an Olympian and you also have another sister who’s a successful handball player. Is it more kind of a rivalry between you guys or do you support each other?
Keesja: I’ve got three older sisters and I’m five years younger than them. So I think between themselves, there was a rivalry, but because I was so much younger they always wanted to protect me and they always supported me.
Between themselves, there was a rivalry, but because I was so much younger they always wanted to protect me and they always supported me.
Even now, they’re so supportive of me. They come to so many of my international games and even if they’re overseas, my parents and my sisters are always supporting me or they’re watching on the livestream. If I make the Olympics in Tokyo, they all want to be there.
So for me, it’s definitely a supportive family. I remember the first time I got to play with my sister, Taniele, she was always making sure that I knew what to do. I had all my equipment and I knew what the tactics were. She wanted me to succeed.
So even when I versed my eldest sister at one time, we agreed we wouldn’t mark each other so that we both could play well. No, so I think definitely a supportive family and yes, I think for me, all of my family’s the reason that I have been able to have such a successful water polo career.
As they say, it takes a village and my family is almost 13 people, so that’s always a village. But again, they’ve been so supportive and they’ve been amazing.
The best advice she has received
Christian: What’s the best advice you received and who gave it to you?
Keesja: Recently in the national team, we actually went to a military base and worked with the commandos there. So it was recently that I got this advice and I can always say that I wished I got it sooner.
Actually, they were screaming at us the whole time because we have to do physical challenges, while they’re screaming at us and we have to try and beat the other teams. It was all very emotionally overwhelming.
But he said to me, “Don’t rush to failure.” So essentially, it means, take a minute, take a tactical pause and think about what you’re going to do. What is the best way to approach this and then go and do it?
“Don’t rush to failure.” Take a minute, take a tactical pause, and think about what you’re going to do. What is the best way to approach this and then go and do it?
For me, I’m always a bullet out the gate, I’m ready to go. I just want to fail and then try again, fail, try again, even if it takes me five times longer to do it. But this piece of advice was just exactly the advice that I needed.
He probably saw it in me the second I walked in the door and he said, “Don’t rush to failure. What is your plan?” Because we had a challenge set out and I was the leader of the group for this particular challenge. “What is your plan? Tell the team how they’re going to do it.”
So for me, I notice it so much more in myself now that I just rush and then fail. It’s not big things. Something’s coming out of the oven and I think that I’ll just quickly pick it up and it’s a thousand degrees, so I burned my fingers. Things like that.
I’m just rushing around. I’m trying to carry 30 glasses and I drop one. Things like that. I’m looking at the kitchen now, so that’s why I thought of two food things.
But it’s just that thinking of what is your plan, then go and execute it. I think I can use it in everyday life, as well as in water polo. Don’t just bang your head against a brick wall. What is your plan, then go and execute it?
A typical training day in the life of a water polo player
Christian: How does a typical training day in the life of a water polo player look like?
Keesja: In season, we would do two pool sessions per day. The first one of the day might be a 3K swim set and then like a legwork circuit. So we’re doing two and a half hours in the pool for the morning and we’re probably doing half/half for that, so swimming and then legwork.
A night session, it might involve games, so we might play games against each other. We might do tactical plays. So offense or defense or extra man defense and that’s probably two and a half hours as well.
So each of those pool sessions, we’ll have 30 minutes on the side of the pool doing our rehab, doing our warmup, and just making sure that we’re ready to go before we get in. Then three times a week, on a Monday, Wednesday, Friday, we’ll do a gym program, which is about an hour and a half.
I do 30 minutes of rehab on top of that, so it ends up being about two hours. So that’s every second day. We often do explosive movements, but also high strength repetition. So, two hours and one hour in type stuff.
But then there’s a lot of unique as oppose exercises to replicate what we’re doing in the pool. So with our shooting action, we’ll do internal rotation exercises or with our legs doing egg beater, we’ll do some abductor holds. Water polo has a unique skill set, so the gym needs to replicate what we are doing in the pool.
Probably two or three times a week, we’ll have a video meeting and we will go through other teams’ tactics or our own tactics. Sometimes the players are expected to say what we did good and what we did wrong. So there’s a lot of the team learning from each other.
That’s basically the training for the day and for the week. You obviously have to be nutritionally focused. So before our pool session in the morning, we’ll have breakfast, a snack straight after, and then also Gatorade and electrolytes during the session as well.
Then lunch is about 12 and then a snack before training, then the nighttime session and then dinner. Or if we’re not going to be home for a while, a snack and then dinner and then probably a snack before you go to bed. So essentially, my life involves training, watching video, and eating.
Essentially, my life involves training, watching video, and eating.
Christian: And sleeping.
Keesja: And sleeping, of course. Sleeping is very important too.
Christian: Considering, you have to get up at 4:00 in the morning, I think you need to be having high-quality sleep.
Keesja: Yes, exactly.
Does gender influence the skill of throwing
Christian: I saw a video of you on Instagram, where you did some throwing in the gym, and out of curiosity, I’ve always been into sports, I studied Sports Science and one of the discussions that always come back is about gender and the skill of throwing.
Girls and women tend to have problems with the skill of throwing, in terms of coordination. Is it something that came to you naturally or is it something that you really had to train for?
Keesja: I’m not a scientist, so I don’t know if there’s a correlation between females throwing, is not as good or the fact that potentially they didn’t play as many ball sports growing up. So I think because I was always around balls, I was playing water polo or I was playing netball, which is a ball sport or basketball, I was always around ball sports when I was younger.
I never thought it was anything special to have both skills. For me, I always like to improve my shooting because there are so many different types of shots. So if you watch men and women play, they can all shoot. Everyone has their own type of shot that’s natural to them.
But then there are also ways where you can diversify to trick the goalkeeper or to trick the opposition, so you release it a certain way or you fake a certain way. So there are always ways to increase your shooting and passing technique.
But I think it’s just a matter of the fact that I grew up so young playing ball sports and it’s just a skill that you learn over time. The more girls are getting into water polo or ball sports at a young age, it will improve that dexterity in their hands, because it is just a skill, like you don’t know how to walk initially and then you figure it out, just like that.
I was always around balls, I was playing water polo or I was playing netball, which is a ball sport or basketball, I was always around ball sports when I was younger it’s just a skill that you learn over time.
Christian: Yes, I have my own theory about it, but I think it’s very close to what you just said. I think it’s not a gender difference in the sense of genetics or something. I think it’s because girls don’t grow up throwing and catching balls as much as boys do. Probably you’ll see younger generations also being less able to throw and catch as older generations because they don’t play that much anymore.
Keesja: Yes, so we got to get them playing water polo, right?
Christian: For sure.
Her interview nomination
Christian: Do you want to nominate someone to be interviewed?
Keesja: I couldn’t think of anyone non water polo related. My best friend in the national team is Lea Yanitsas and she is a Rio Olympian.
She has a one-year-old baby and she had a break in 2018. She had a break to obviously have her baby and now she’s back in the national squad and trying to get to the Tokyo Olympics. So her story is a pretty incredible one.
There are not too many Olympians, let alone Olympians who’ve just had babies. So I will nominate her to be your next interview.
How she became an ambassador of the sport beach water polo and what beach water polo is
Christian: There’s a new kind of sport beach water polo or something like this and you are an ambassador for it. Can you tell us about the sport and the competition format, how it works, and your work?
Keesja: At the Water Polo World Championships, there was the beach water polo tournament, it was actually held in a pool, but beach water polo has different rules to regular water polo.
In Australia, we have beach water polo fours, which I’m the ambassador for. Essentially we set up inflatable goals and inflatable fields in beaches, all around Sydney, all around Australia, and basically it’s a continuous game.
It’s meant for people of all levels and there are only four people per side. So fewer players and basically a few different rules and really high speed and really fun way to play water polo on the beach, which as Aussies, we just absolutely love.
It’s meant for people of all levels and really fun way to play water polo on the beach, which as Aussies, we just absolutely love.
So yes, it’s a relatively new sport in Australia and we’re just loving it here. We’re loving it in the summer and so there’s a couple of events this year that I’m really excited to be a part of and to join in the fun.
But yes, that’s what’s new in the water polo world and it’s similar to rugby sevens is to rugby. Do you know, rugby sevens? It’s like what basketball threes is to basketball. So it’s just fewer players, faster pace, a lot of fun and yes, it’s great.
Christian: You said, four players? Are that three players and one goalie?
Keesja: Three players, one goalie.
Christian: Yes, that was my question. Okay. So three players, one goalie. Another question that’s just out of curiosity, a lot of people have difficulties controlling the body in water, so do the people have contact with the ground on the beach or is it floating?
Keesja: They’re floating as well, but this is a tip or not a tip. This is science. The saltwater makes you more buoyant, so it’s actually a little bit easier. We actually did an event in winter, so everyone was wearing wetsuits.
This makes you even more buoyant. So normally, you’re sitting here in the water with your chin, but everyone was sitting up like this. It just made it so much fun because it was just a little bit easier to stay afloat.
Christian: Really cool.
Where can you find Keesja Gofers
Christian: Where can people find you?
Keesja: You can find me on all the social media. I’m on Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
Keesja Gofer’s social profiles
You can follow Beach Water Polo Fours, which is also on Instagram and Facebook.
You can follow the Aussie Olympic team and Australian Water Polo Instagram pages to see the entire team and to see the entire Olympic squad on our journey to Tokyo. Yes, and that’s about it. That’s all the pages you can follow, pretty sure.
Aussie Olympic Team
Australian Water Polo
Christian: Keesja, thanks a lot for your time.
Keesja: Thank you very much. It was great chatting with you, Christian.