This summer, Nik Healy, a BlueSky search associate, was able to combine his love and skill for water polo, compassion for youth and affinity for travel in a trip to Herceg-Novi, Montenegro where he helped coach and chaperone a team of 30 teens from the Trojan Water Polo Club.
Drawing upon his past experience and ties as a water polo player for USC, Nik along with his older brother Erik, both coaches for Trojan Water Polo Club, headed to the coast of the Adriatic Sea for 16 days with 30 teenage boys ages 13 to 17 for some intense scrimmages, team bonding and some basic tourist fun.
We got the opportunity to sit down with Nik after his trip and ask him to give us some more insight into the trip and some photos of the fun!
So why Montenegro? Montenegro is actually where the USC coach, Jovan Vavic, is from..His hometown Herceg-Novi is a popular vacation spot for people from places like Serbia and Russia and is famously known for its water polo. A lot of national and club teams from all over the world go to Herceg-Novi to train, and the water polo stadium is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. The sport is so popular there that you can take a walk along the coast and you’ll see water polo goals set up right there in the sea.
What was your favorite part about the trip? We really pushed the boys to their limit and by the end of the trip, it was really rewarding to see the group come together and appreciate the opportunity they had been given. Water polo is a tough sport and is even more physical in that part of the world, so it was great to see the transformation in our playing style and toughness from start to finish.
One of the highlights was when we made the entire team complete a 4-mile swim across the bay and back. It ended up taking about an hour each way and it really gave the entire group confidence in their capabilities individually and as a team. My brother and I did the bay crossing on a pedal boat, which may actually have been harder than swimming!
What did you take away from the trip? I’d say I’m definitely a lot more patient now that I’ve had this experience. As their coach and chaperone, I had the interesting experience of being the authority figure, telling them to finish their meals, be polite or sternly encouraging them to enjoy the historical sights and put away their phones!
It was interesting having to spend so much time with the team outside of the pool. It was a special opportunity to get to know each player personally and bond with them away from our everyday lives at home.
Did you miss us at BlueSky while you were vacationing over there? Chuckles. Of course, I did get to work a little bit when I had downtime. Overall, it was a really fun and meaningful trip, but at the same time, it wasn’t exactly a vacation. It was a lot of responsibility. We had boat trips to different islands, saw a lot of historical sites, tried different food, got sunburned, stayed up probably too late, and played A LOT of water polo, but through it all, my brother and I still had to make sure that everyone was healthy, safe and having fun. We don’t normally get that kind of free time with the team, so it was a great opportunity to coach them on things outside of water polo and get to know them and mentor them on a more personal level. It was a wonderful experience, I learned a bit of patience along the way, and can’t wait to do it again.
The coaches: Nik and his brother Erik
Eating with the boys
The team in the bay
Breathtaking views of the pool with the city in the backdrop
We commend Nik for his extraordinary efforts to be involved with the community, give back, and all while doing something he loves.