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Home News From garden goalie, to the pools of Chengdu Stephanie Berry’s water polo career grows

From garden goalie, to the pools of Chengdu Stephanie Berry’s water polo career grows

Water Polo 21 June 2023

Stephanie Berry has a comical story of how she ended up between the goalposts of a swimming pool.

“I was exposed to water polo at a fairly young age because I used to go watch my older sister’s high school games,” she tells “But my first memory of playing water polo was in the pool of my family’s home when my sister asked me to be the goalkeeper so that she could practice her shooting! I was probably around 10 years old at the time, and from that moment on, I started playing water polo and haven’t stopped since.”

The 23-year-old now dons the maroon colours of Stellenbosch University in South Africa, where she is in her third year studying medicine – not the easiest of degrees to combine with her sporting passion.

“The balance between training and studies definitely takes a lot of effort and is not without sacrifice,” she admits. “But I think a critical component to making it work is effective planning and time management, like making sure you set aside enough time to get a certain number of swim sessions in during the week. Another aspect is that I am really passionate about my studies and water polo, so that motivates me to make enough time for both.”

Now the mainstay between the poles for the South African student water polo team, Stephanie and her teammates have been hard at work in preparation for this summer’s Chengdu 2021 FISU World University Games in China, where the team will write a unique piece of history as the first female South African water polo team to participate in the global student-athlete competition.

“It is such an honour and privilege,” she says. “I think for any athlete it is a special moment when you are able to represent your country, but for it to be the first time the women’s team will participate in this tournament makes the moment even sweeter. I certainly do not take this opportunity for granted.”

Apart from the competition in the pool, Stephanie says she is looking forward to experiencing a new culture and environment in a country she will be visiting for the first time.

“I have never been to China, let alone Chengdu, so the rest of the team and myself are looking forward to experiencing and learning about the Chinese culture and visiting all the best there is to see in Chengdu. And of course, the amazing food!”

Long-term, Stephanie wishes to make an impact in the medical field, but does not feel she will be lost to water polo forever.

“After I graduate, I plan to set water polo aside slightly so that I can focus on building my career as a medical professional,” she says. “Studying medicine has always been a dream of mine so I really look forward to that chapter of my life, however I do think water polo will always be a part of my life in one way or another, even if that means just playing social club water polo.”

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