Senior goalie Kim Hockett is a leader in and out of the pool for the 2008 UCSD Women’s Water Polo team. Ranked 15th nationally, the Tritons play their home opener Thursday against No. 10 Hartwick and then host the 16-team Triton Invitational over the weekend. After splitting time in the cage as a redshirt freshman and sophomore, Hockett owned the starting position as a junior, recording 221 saves for a club that wound up ranked No. 15 in the country. Back for her final season in La Jolla, Coach Larry Sanders knows that the 5-foot-8 Lake Elsinore native has a key role on his team. “Kim’s strength is that she’s extremely competitive and an extremely hard worker,” says Sanders. “She was given an opportunity at UCSD and made the most of it. As a senior, she’s also an outstanding team captain and our team wouldn’t be nearly as competitive without her leadership.” Hockett recently spent time talking about her unique position and what’s ahead for the Tritons.
Q—What’s it like having a ball headed towards you at 30-plus mph?
HOCKETT—Ha ha. Well, it's a rush. You have to face your fears and put as much of yourself in front of that ball as you can, whether its your arm, your body, or your face, and you can't turn your head or close your eyes whether or not you are scared. I love it!
Q—Is there ever any fun for a goalie in water polo?
HOCKETT—Oh yeah, every time I make a block its fun. There is nothing better than being in a big game when the score is close and making a huge save such as a one-on- nobody or a five-meter. I love being able to be there for my team like that. Also, a big part of the game as a goalie is intimidation, and well, playing head games with the shooters. I must say that tricking someone into taking a bad shot, or scaring them out of shooting at all, is pretty fun as well.
Q—Besides keeping balls out of the net, what are some of the responsibilities a goalie has?
HOCKETT—The goalie is also in charge of running and directing the defense. We have a better vantage point then the rest of the players in the pool, and so we help tell our players where they need to go to shut down the other team, and force them into taking the lowest percentage shot possible. Additionally, we are the quarterback of the counter attacks, and are expected to find and pass the ball to the person who is in the best position to create an offensive opportunity.
Q—How did you become a goalie?
HOCKETT—It's actually interesting because I am left-handed, an OK swimmer, and not very tall. Looking back, probably should have been a field player. When I began to play in high school though, I was a junior and the only person to graduate from the varsity team the year before was the goalie, so basically, if I wanted to be on varsity with the rest of my friends, the best opportunity was in the cage.
After I made the team, the coach did play me out in the field every once in a while, but it was already too late, as I quickly realized that I loved and was addicted to the pressure, the adrenaline rush, and the position of leadership that is unique to being in the cage.
Q—Do you ever have the desire to score a goal?
HOCKETT—Oh my gosh, yes. It is so hard sometimes to sit at the other end and just hope that someone will put the ball in the cage, because really all that I can do is keep us from losing, but I have to leave it up to everyone else to win it for us.
Q—You’ve played the last three years at UCSD with your sister, Natalie. What was that like? Does your playing relationship differ from your personal relationship?
HOCKETT—It was great playing with my sister. She has the same passion, drive and love for the sport as I do, and we have a great unspoken connection in the water that really helped us as teammates. As for whether or not our playing relationship differs from our personal, I would have to say not really; we have our times both in and out of the pool that we get along great, and times that we don't, but we are always competitive with each other and push each other, and ultimately are very supportive of each other.
Q—Give us an overview of the 2008 team (strengths, weaknesses, key players, etc.). How has UCSD gone about replacing the 166 goals that departed with graduation?
HOCKETT—Though we lost some big players, this team simply wants it more than last year's team. We knew going into the year that there were some big shoes to fill, but instead of there being one or two people playing the main roles on offense and defense, so many people have stepped up their games. It is now an overall team effort, which I believe gives us a lot more depth and a greater opportunity for success this year. We are closer than ever, very supportive of each other and hopefully those connections will translate over into our games this season.
Q—How would you handicap the WWPA race? Where does UCSD fit in?
HOCKETT—UC Davis and Loyola Marymount have been our long time competitors and WWPA rivals. Those are the games that we live for. Last year we beat LMU for the first time in 17 games and ended up losing to Davis in overtime at conference tournament, only to see them get beaten by LMU.
I know this year the competition will be as equally competitive. Ultimately though, I don't think that it is up to anyone else to determine how we do in conference this season. Our team has the talent and ability to win conference and as long as we go in focused and play our game this will be our year to win it.
Q—In your mind, what is the key to winning water polo?
HOCKETT—Like any other sport, preparation and passion are important, but more than anything, winning is about confidence in yourself and in your team. You have to believe in yourself no matter who you are playing or what the score is. Too many players let themselves doubt or get discouraged, and the second that you let those thoughts in, the game is lost.
Q—Is there a particular athlete(s) that you admire or would like to pattern yourself after?
HOCKETT—There are a lot of athletes that I admire and try to resemble: Lance Armstrong with his endurance and perseverance, LT (Ladainian Tomlinson) for his heart, humble spirit, and how he always acknowledges God's role in his success, but over anyone I'd have to say Michael Jordan.
My freshman year I was cut from San Diego State's water polo team, and was left with a choice—to give up and let someone tell me I wasn't good enough or to believe in myself and know that there was much more to me than that coach saw and try again. Being able to look at Michael Jordan and his being cut from his high school team only to go on and become one of the best basketball players in history, was really inspiring and ultimately helped me to keep playing. In addition to helping me believe in myself, Jordan is also known for his great leadership and being a team player and therefore I try to emulate those qualities as well.
Q—You’re a history major and have said you want to be a history teacher. What’s made you gravitate toward that subject?
HOCKETT—Well, I have always really enjoyed history, and see a lot of value in learning from the past. It is through good history teachers though, and their ability to share their passion, that I have gained an understanding of how history can be used as an avenue to challenge people to use knowledge and education in order to aid the search in figuring out who they are and what their place is in the world, as well as help them gain compassion and understanding of others as well. That is what history and my history teachers have done for me and that what I hope to show others as a history teacher.
Q—What do you consider the most fascinating era in U.S. history? Who do you view as the most interesting American historical figure?
HOCKETT—That's a difficult question as the U.S. is not my main area of study, but I do find the transition in American thought and popular culture from the 50's to 60's to be really interesting. America went through a loss of innocence with the civil rights movement and the beginning of Vietnam among other things, and those 20 years drastically changed our country.
As for the most interesting American historical figure, I'd have to go with Martin Luther King Jr. as he was passionate to his cause, was a great leader and speaker, he embodied true American spirit, I can relate to his idealism, and he was truly an inspiration and maker of history.
Q—What kind of history would you like to make before leaving UCSD?
HOCKETT—Two things, one, I would like to be a part of the highest-ranked UCSD women's water polo team in 10 years, the team that finally reaches the potential we have had all this time, proving to everyone what UCSD really is all about. Second, I am a co-founder and leader of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes on campus, and I would like to help that group get established, expand and develop.