Gladiators Score at Sunshine State Games

by Charity Thalacker

The YMCA of Central Florida coed Gladiators, a youth water polo team competing out of the YMCA Aquatic Center on International Drive, completed the 2016 Sunshine State Games in Coral Springs. The 12- and 14-under teams received the silver and bronze medal, respectively.

The young athletes are led by coach Randy Walters, who teaches both water polo and character-building skills. His team fosters respect for others and resilience in times of uncertainty. The Gladiators witnessed true resilience and adaptation to challenge when coach Walters was taken to an emergency room for heat exhaustion due to the blazing temperatures in South Florida.

080416SportsSpot01The YMCA of Central Florida Gladiators 12-under water polo team wins silver at the 2016 Sunshine State Games.

Although several coaches offered to step in to provide support, coach Walters never quit. Hooked up to an IV, his heart was still with his athletes and team. In what seemed faster than the blink of an eye, coach Walters was raced back on deck, leading his 14-under team to the bronze medal, never once quitting or handing off the baton for someone else to pick up the pieces.

As famous football player and coach Vince Lombardi once said, “It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get back up.”

080416SportsSpot02The 14-under Gladiators water polo team brings home the bronze from the 2016 Sunshine State Games.

Coach Walters’ leadership style is why his team is committed. With the rise and attention given to the lack of youth sports offered in school and the increase in head trauma of popular youth sports, many Central Florida families are pleased they found youth water polo with YCF Gladiators.

“I am so happy that my 12-year-old, who just joined the team, has a coach that demonstrated true character by returning back to the pool, back to his team, after falling down,” said one parent at the Sunshine State Games.

080416SportsSpot03Coach Randy Walters (far right) fights through heat exhaustion to root for his water polo players.

People may doubt what you say, but they believe what you do. That is why coach Walters’ teaching style and character-building have enticed families of Central Florida to check out the hype.

“You know you have a good leader when people join the team and follow you out of curiosity,” said another Gladiator parent.

Although the bulk of the YCF Gladiators are in the developmental stage of their water polo careers, they are certain that with a coach like Randy Walters, the team is sure to make a big splash, not only in Florida, but on the national stage in the years to come.💓


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