The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

Transfer Student Grant Beall Finds Success on Water Polo Team

While the biggest challenge for most water polo players is waking up at 5:30 a.m. for morning practice, junior Grant Beall’s biggest challenge is simply trying to stay above the water while facing opponents. Grant has an amputated leg, a disability that he has lived with since the age of five as a result of low white blood cell levels. When an infection that began to give him severe pain in his right leg resulted in an amputation, Grant’s life changed dramatically.

Grant’s earliest memories of his childhood are of the hospital where he lost his leg; he doesn’t remember life before the disability or the things that the absence of a second leg prevent him from doing.

“[If I woke up one day with two legs], I’d get up, put on some pants, and just run. I’d skip school and just run because… I don’t remember [how to run],” Grant said.

In spite of the difficulties that come along with his disability, Grant says that it hasn’t had an extraordinarily negative effect on his life. The occasional look and others’ initial note of his disability are inevitable, but Grant says that people hardly ever give him trouble about his leg.

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“The only time I ever remember someone being mean to me about my leg was in first grade,” Grant said. “I don’t know why I remember it; it wasn’t even that bad. No one’s ever bothered me about it. They’ve never really made fun of me.”

Grant’s positive outlook on life has helped him focus on an activity he really loves: water polo. He began playing water polo during the summer of 2010 after a suggestion from his friend, and has since been playing the sport competitively despite his disability. Grant’s love of the water, however, dates back to when he was much younger.

“I grew up swimming,” Grant said. “It started when my brothers would be picking on me in the water… That is how I adapted to water polo pretty well, it’s because of my brothers.”

When deciding whether or not he should pursue the sport of water polo, Grant was skeptical because of his limited athletic abilities. However, his past swim training provided him with the mindset and skills necessary to find success in the sport.

“I had to be very open-minded…to compete and adapt to scenarios where…I can’t use two legs,” Grant said. “It’s all a mental thing.”

Through experience, Grant was able to develop the mental fortitude required to thrive in water polo. This mindset helped him develop a better appreciation for water polo.

“When I play water polo, it just feels like I am in my own area,” Grant said. “It’s the sport I feel the most comfortable with and it’s the sport I can succeed the most in.”

Grant was unsure of what to expect coming in as a new member to the school’s team. However, upon joining and meeting the other players, Grant was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the program he witnessed.

“It was really eye-opening to see the quality of the program here,” Grant said. “Coach [Johnny] Bega expects you to try 100 percent and give it your all, and that’s what people do. We always have each other’s backs, and if one person is struggling, everyone is just there to encourage them.”

Grant’s teammates have been there to support him in all of his athletic endeavors. One day at practice, the entire team was doing a particularly hard conditioning set. Grant was the last player to get out of the pool and still had to do 12 push-ups in order to complete the workout.

“The entire team…just started doing the push-ups with me,” Grant said. “That motivated me a lot. That showed me what a great team you guys have here.”

Grant’s presence on the school’s water polo team thus far has been both a mental and physical asset to his teammates.

“It is quite a feat…that Grant has a physical disability and is still one of the best players on the varsity team,” junior Sean Nguyen said. “Grant’s determination and spirit makes everyone around him push their limits. If he can finish a hard set given by our coach, everyone on the team will do anything they can to finish the same set.”

Grant’s dedication to water polo has lead him to find great success in the sport. He cites the moment his junior varsity water polo team discovered that they had gone undefeated in their league as one of his proudest moments in the pool.

“I was one of the head guys on that team in my freshman year,…and that was great,” Grant said. “It was a big moment… I remember that very well.”
Although water polo is an important part of Grant’s life, he maintains that academics are his number one priority.
However, Grant wasn’t always able to reach his academic potential. Grant felt that he was “just not doing something right” when his academics started to suffer at his old school, Washington High School in Fremont, so he began to place a bigger emphasis on his grades.

“I felt like I could do better in school… [but after my grades] still weren’t where I wanted them to be…I started to think that, hey, maybe I’m not being provided with the right environment,” Grant said.

Grant transferred here this year to find an environment in which he could reach his full potential. So far, the switch to the school has proven to be successful. Satisfied with his new academic and athletic environment, Grant has been able to continue to succeed in both school and sports.

While many of us see Grant as an inspirational student and athlete, he too has specific role models that have inspired him throughout his life. In particular, he derives inspiration from professional football athlete Neil Parry. Parry is a leg amputee who, despite his handicap, continued to play Division I football and is currently a coach of San Jose State University’s football team.

“I met Neil Parry after I lost my leg and that was a real motivation,” Grant said. “It was really inspiring to just watch him compete against able-bodied guys in a sport like football, which is brutal.”

Like Parry, Grant does not plan on letting his disability stop him from achieving his goals. In the future, Grant hopes to go to a four-year university and play water polo at the college level. In addition, one of his loftier goals includes competing at the Paralympics, which is an international athletic competition, similar to the Olympics, consisting of only disabled athletes.

“If I keep training for solely swimming…I would probably have times to compete in the Paralympics, which would be really cool,” Grant said. “But they don’t have water polo in the Paralympics… I’ve heard of a lot of other disabled people playing water polo, so I think it could be possible to start that.”

Whether Grant ends up being a gold medalist at the Paralympics or a top-tier college athlete, one thing is for sure: swimming and water polo will always be a large part of his life.

“I’ve really adapted to the water,” Grant said. “That’s where I feel strong.”

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