After first playing water polo as a seven-year-old in Beaconsfield, Quebec, Co-Captain Neil Simpson ’19 went on to train with several Canadian national team players and developed a strong foundation in the sport. Simpson has been a member of Andover Boys Water Polo ever since he came to the school as a Lower, though the position he played has often varied.
Simpson takes inspiration from the leadership style of last year’s captain, Nick Isenhower ’18.
“As a captain, Nick Isenhower was such a role model for me and for a lot of the people on the team last year. I definitely take what he showed me, kind of his steadfast leadership, just getting things done, and I try to model that and put my own spin on it at the same time.”
Simpson is a captain that leads with concentration and intensity, according to Co-Captain Eric Osband ’19. He consistently works his hardest and leads by example.
Osband said, “Neil is very focused and devoted. Even though water polo isn’t his main sport, he always gives it his all, 100% all the time. He also always tries to motivate everyone else and set a great example for everyone. He’s probably our best player too, so he’s someone for everyone to look up to.”
Max Hunger ’20 added, “Neil just has that aura around him where you look at him and he commands respect. He doesn’t say much, but when he speaks you know he speaks for the entire team, for the good of the team, and what he says is very true and you listen to it.”
In addition to his dedication to the sport, Simpson partners his determination to succeed with kindness.
In an email to The Phillipian, Head Coach David Fox wrote,“Neil presents a unique combination of genuine niceness and deep thoughtfulness with a competitive drive I have rarely seen. He leads by example—never complaining, never doubting—and seizes opportunities to lead warm-ups and drills… Among his great strengths is his ability to read others and situations; he is profoundly empathetic and senses what different people need.”
To strengthen the team dynamic, the captains hold a team dinner every night along, in addition to other bonding activities.
Simpson said “Every day after practice we have a team dinner, which is really special and kind of unique. Everyone is invited, no matter what commitments they’ve got most people take the time to have dinner with each other…I think it really benefits us, not only as friends but in the pool as well.”
Simpson’s ability to receive coaching and implement the advice enhances his strong leadership skills. His determination and offensive skills make him an invaluable player, according to Coach Fox and Osband.
Coach Fox wrote, “As a player, Neil continues to improve, which is exciting for someone who is already capable of growing into contributing to NCAA Division I programs… I am impressed with his increasing understanding of the game and how it is best played. This explicit coachability, for someone the team recognizes as being among the strongest players in the league, is one of his great traits as a leader.”
Wesley Maloney ’22 continued, “If I had to describe his captainship in one word, it would be exemplary. He’s that kid that you want to be as a senior. Him and Eric are both like that. He’s nice to everyone, and no one ever says anything bad about him, but he’s also an animal in the pool. In the pool Neil makes sure everyone is working their hardest but are also having fun. The night before games he’ll always text in our team group chat and say things like everyone go to bed and make sure you get a good night’s sleep.”
Simpson and Osband are also good friends out of the pool, and bounce off each other’s energy in the pool, according to Simpson.
“We have a give and take [captainship]. In practice, Neil kind of takes the lead in leading warm-ups and passing and some shooting stuff. He’ll keep those drills very organized. We only have two coaches, and they can’t control everything, so Neil will take the initiative to do that… During games, he’s always super focused and a little more quiet because he gets into the zone,” continued Osband.
Coach Fox added, “I feel most fortunate that Neil works with Eric Osband—the fact that they are personally such good friends and are both fully committed to being the best water polo players they can be within the context that is life at Andover makes my job much [easier].”
Simpson describes the team dynamic as the best part of the team.
“The best thing about Andover Water Polo is the culture.… We have a great time together since we are such a tight team, and the bus rides home together from away games are a lot of fun. It’s honestly an honor to be chosen to be the captain of such a great group of guys,” said Simpson.
Simpson hopes that for the remainder of the season, the team improves as much as possible, both in and out of the water.
“A team goal is to just play the best water polo we can by the end of the season. That’s just an overarching goal for the whole year. [As captain], I just want to make sure everyone has as good as a time as possible and improves and grows not only in the pool but as friends and individual athletes, and just as great people.”