Friday Feature: Beth Harberts

Injury. Injury. Injury. That is the one word that Spartan women’s water polo player Beth Harberts had heard too much in her collegiate career. While one might never want to think about that word again, Harberts tells a story of overcoming her injuries and actually becoming a better player of the game from what she learned sitting on the sidelines.

Harberts got her swimming legs after watching her four older sisters swimming in grandma’s pool. Her interest in water polo began when her older sister Kari played in high school. Kari then played at CS San Bernardino from 2000-03 and is the fifth all-time leading scorer there with 120 goals and was someone Beth looked up to in deciding to play the sport.

“Women’s water polo was just starting in high school when Kari played,” said Harberts. “Because I didn’t play any organized sports or have a competitive swimming background, I thought this would be a good sport for me to at least try out. Water polo is so intense and aggressive that I was attracted to it instantly once I learned how to play”

Water polo gave Harberts the challenge she was looking for athletically. Because the sport is relatively young, she was able to be successful in her high school career at Redlands High School while still learning the intricacies of the game.

“The sports is just so intense and aggressive that it just attracted me to it instantly once I started playing and learning how to play,” said Harberts. “The challenge itself was fun. Not only do you have to have your swimming conditioning down, you have to be somewhat coordinated to move throughout the water and be able to handle a ball and another person hanging on you. Going from base zero to building my skills was the challenge for me.”

After her four-year playing career at Redlands, Harberts made the choice to come to San Jose State. Two people were key in persuading her to become a Spartan – head coach Lou Tully and current teammate Angela Riddle.

“I really liked Lou out of all the coaches I met when I was recruited,” stated Harberts. “He is more concerned with the holistic approach to his athletes and really cares and is concerned about family issues and wants to help you. I just felt like I was a Spartan after my recruiting trip. Angela and I knew each other in high school and helped push me to come here.”

Once she reached the San Jose State campus, things changed for Harberts. She wanted to develop her two-meter skills and become quicker in the pool. She wanted to be thought of as a good player first and a freshman second. Harberts also found out that playing collegiate water polo is much different from playing in high school.

“My first game, in a scrimmage against Stanford during the preseason, I tried to get position and move my defender, and it felt like I was trying to move a wall. I knew at that point that I needed to make the transition on my own and not just let it happen. I started lifting weights and worked on swimming which would help my conditioning and increase my playing time.”

Harberts then started her journey through injuries and rehab. Her freshman year, Harberts was third on the team in scoring 25 goals despite playing with pain in her wrist that was later diagnosed as a stress fracture. She had to play the season with a pad taped to her hand. That bothered her a lot because it hurt to catch the ball, and she didn’t get to make the impression she wanted her first season.