Mind over Matter: Co-Captain Kaia Heslin ’23 Promotes Growth Mindset

From swim to water polo in her Junior year, Andover Girls Water Polo Co-Captain Kaia Heslin ’23 always looks to what’s next without dwelling on the past. Prioritizing optimism, Heslin has guided the team through a season full of growth and reflection. 

With many teammates starting water polo for the first time in high school, Heslin finds comfort in the relaxed nature of Andover’s team, which is accepting of mistakes. 

“We don’t have a culture centered around winning, which [is a culture that] can sometimes be stressful. So I think that just being able to be fully yourself and meet people from different grades is something that is so fun. And I’ve just really loved my time on the team and getting close to everyone,” said Heslin. 

Heslin leads alongside four-year teammate and Co-Captain Jessica Guo ’23. As experienced members of the team, Heslin and Guo work to ensure new team members have a smooth transition to the team and sport. 

“We just tried to make sure that every one of all levels are all interacting with each other so there’s not a hierarchy of, ‘Oh, these are the starters, they only hang out together. And then these are other people’… We really tried to make sure that everyone is friends with everyone, or at least gets along well with everyone,” said Heslin. 

For her first time playing water polo this season, Vanessa Fan ’23 appreciated Heslin’s enthusiasm and vocal nature. Fan highlighted Heslin’s ability to articulate feedback and advice. 

“We were in the pool and we first started doing passing. I just happened to be matched up with her, and she was teaching me how to throw the ball correctly. She was pretty strict and honestly, I was pretty grateful for that because I definitely grew so much from the beginning of the season,” said Fan. 

Heslin strives to instill a growth mindset within herself and her teammates. With significantly more losses than wins this season, the team has depended on its Co-Captains for motivation.   

“When we’re down in a game, we try to stay positive and not get frustrated. Just listening and taking feedback very positively and making sure everyone knows how appreciated [they are] and how well they did because we can learn a lot from a loss,” said Heslin. 

Molly MacKinnon ’24 believes Heslin is reflective of her efforts to maintain an optimistic outlook on the season. In games, Heslin’s remarks can often swing the team’s momentum. 

“In our first game, everyone was getting a little bit frustrated that we weren’t performing as well as we wanted to. But Kaia kept encouraging us after the goals that were scored and really made our offense possible… I think that her leadership and her positivity definitely helped us with the mindset of the team throughout the games, ” said MacKinnon.

Heslin reflected on her decision to join water polo during her Junior year, and she highlighted how this has impacted her Andover experience.

“It’s one of the best decisions I’ve made at Andover and genuinely it’s made my spring terms so amazing… It just is a very positive environment and it gives me a lot of joy. Just getting out of your comfort zone and trying new things is amazing, and I think that all the girls are very brave for doing so,” said Heslin.