Water polo recruit Borko Kovacev ’10 had never travelled far from his home in Becej, Serbia—that was until his 12-hour journey that ended with his arrival in the United States, and more specifically, Deerfield Academy, a school that is looking for its 3rd consecutive New England Championship in water polo. However, despite disruptions that come with such a change, Kovacev has already made quite a splash at Deerfield.
Like any new student, Kovacev has had to adjust to an unfamiliar environment. However, unlike most, he has the added burden of an extreme culture change and language that is not his own. In spite of this extra hurdle, his transition has been quite smooth thus far.
The pool is one of the places that Kovacev has had to make an adjustment, and according to water polo coach Mark Scandling, he has done a fine job.
“Everything is coming in a second language,” said Mr. Scandling. “The water polo terminology might be a little different, but he’s been great about making the adjustment in communication.”
As an athletic recruit, Kovacev has faced some additional pressure of performing as an athlete. Something which Mr. Scandling believes Kovacev has also handled maturely.
“Kovacev hasn’t felt the need to come in and prove himself and [say] ‘I’m going to be a star’—instead he has said, ‘I’m going to be a teammate,’” said Mr. Scandling.
The ease of Kovacev’s transition is not exclusive to his athletics—something that he credits to the school community.
“There is a nice team, nice school spirit, and the guys in the school are great,” said Kovacev. “I feel like I’ve been here for a while.”
Captain Randwulf Singleton ’10 added that “the squad has welcomed the addition of Kovacev.”
Although Kovacev has been under a constant state of change, it doesn’t seem to be affecting his play. In the team’s first two games against Andover and NMH, Kovacev totaled four goals and seven steals, helping the team to 10-7 and 17-2 victories respectively.
“He can score almost at free will,” said Singleton. “His knowledge of the sport and feel for the game are wonderful.”
Mr. Scandling said, “Kovacev knows what he wants to do, where he wants to do it, and doesn’t force things.”
Even though he posted some impressive numbers in his first big game, Kovacev does feel that there are some challenges ahead.
There are significant differences between water polo in New England and in Serbia. Kovacev has found that the New England game is based on speed and power rather than individual skill and technique. He admits that he needs to “improve [his] physical shape” because of this.
Water polo is a team sport. That is why Mr. Scandling believes that what Kovacev brings to the team is just as, if not more, important as what he brings as an individual player.
“He’s been wonderful at explaining to his teammates things that they can improve on, without yelling at them or scorning them,” said Mr. Scandling. “He’s a skilled player who’s also a good teacher of the game.”
Kovacev brings a different outlook on the sport, and on the world. Just as he is learning to live in a new culture, his teammates and peers are learning from him.
“I think we’re all going to benefit from having a person from a different country who has been through different experiences,” Mr. Scandling said. “What he shares about his life in Serbia will be just as much an important part of our year as his performance in the pool.”