When Helena Batey puts her mind to something, she usually accomplishes it. Such was the case when the Sobrato High senior knew she would have to unload certain activities to earn a scholarship to play water polo at a Division I program. That’s easier said than done for someone like Batey, who excels in academics, sports and everything in between.
Batey, who recently signed her national letter of intent to play water polo at Cal Berkeley, started playing the sport when she was in the fourth grade. It wasn’t before long when Batey started envisioning playing at a high level. Not surprisingly, she had other interests as well. In her freshman and sophomore years, Batey played varsity basketball, did marching band and served as the president of the school’s Associated Student Body (ASB) Club in her sophomore and junior years. Once Batey started her junior year, however, she realized something needed to give.
“It was, ‘OK, if I want to play D1 water polo, I need to focus on swimming and water polo,” said Batey, whose mom, Annette, graduated from Cal. “It was really hard to let go of a lot of things. I loved marching band and basketball, and this year I had to give up ASB to commit full-time to my dream of playing at a D1 school.”
Batey didn’t waste any time going full bore in the pool. Upon the recommendation of her mentor, Ronni Gautschi, Batey joined a swimming club to get faster.
“She told me, ‘OK, if you want to do this, you have to swim and get faster,’” Batey said. “Swimming transfers to water polo. I had never done an intense swim club before, so I joined Makos to cut my times down. It made a big difference. (Last swim season in high school) we got first in league, had a relay team that made it to CCS and I swam a lot of PRs (personal-records), so it was a really awesome experience.”
Awesome would be one word to describe Batey’s senior season. The standout scored over 50 goals in 21 games, using her athleticism, strength and length—she’s 5-foot-11—to rise out of the pool and unleash hard, accurate shots against the opposition. In picking Cal, Batey will be going to a world-class education institution. With a 4.4 GPA, Batey wants to be challenged in the classroom as much—if not more—than in the pool.
“I know I’ll be getting a world-class education and play for a really high level water polo program,” she said.
Batey gave Cal a verbal commitment on Nov. 7 before signing her official national letter of intent a week later. It capped a long process that began when Batey contacted Cal via email in her junior year. Batey went to a Cal camp last December, and from there the Cal coaches kept tabs on Batey, watching her at high-profile club and national tournaments, including the Junior Olympics, Club Championships and Cal Cup.
Batey was part of the Olympic Development Program and was one of 60 players in the nation selected to play in the National Team Selection Camp this past summer. Her experiences there—along with playing for the San Jose Almaden club program—gave her the necessary match experience to help her earn a Division I scholarship.
“When I get in the pool playing club, it’s a matter of having fun and always looking for ways to improve,” she said. “Playing that way helped me find my joy for the game and helped me realize what I could do and then go out and work hard to achieve it.”
Always inquisitive and ambitious, Batey plans on getting into Cal’s esteemed Walter Haas School of Business, with the intention to combine that along with her love for cultural anthropology and turn that into a future career in micro-financing.
“I want to help people start up and create jobs in the community and help build businesses in third-world countries,” she said. “I’ve always been interested in people and their cultures. My grandma is Danish and my grandpa is Chinese, and I’ve had exposure with different cultures and traditions.”
Batey credits the support of her family as being instrumental in her development in every aspect of her life, especially when it came to her athletic career. The youngest of four children—Batey’s siblings include Nathaniel, 24; Sophia, 22; and Miles, 20—she credited her parents and her brothers and sisters for showing tremendous support throughout her life.
“They would make the commitment to come to my games, and it’s awesome to have a sibling who is like a coach because they were in the same exact position you were years earlier,” Batey said. “When siblings show you love and support, it’s really meaningful.”
Batey’s speed, length and ability to make plays on the 6-on-5 advantage will prove key in the college game, where everyone was the star on their high school team. It’ll be a supreme challenge, but something says Batey will relish every second of it.