Goalies in water polo don’t often get a chance to score goals because, well, they are goalies. They are there to stop goals, not score them. But when it happens, it’s a pretty special feeling for the goalie doing the scoring – not so much for the goalie at the other end of the pool.
When goalie Lauren Batra scored a goal for the Pioneers varsity team it immediately became part of her high school water polo highlight reel. But so did what came after – and this is what makes Batra something special outside of the water.
Let’s let her tell the story.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed everything surrounding the water polo seasons at Pioneer, but one of my favorite highlights was scoring a goal in the final seconds of a quarter from the other end of the pool,” she says. “Goalies don’t have the opportunity to shoot many goals, much less make them. The former goalie at Pioneer, Emma Packard, was amazing at scoring goals and I really looked up to her. She was so proud of me when I told her I had scored a goal, and I felt so happy to contribute to the team on offense.
“I was so proud of not only scoring that goal but also having Emma congratulate me.”
There is nothing more powerful or important to a young person than having someone you look up to, acknowledge you and your efforts. And Batra earned the accolades then, and is now the leader her teammates have come to appreciate – and acknowledge. She is showing that leadership in these very different and difficult times.
“I know that this situation is only temporary, and staying away from my friends, and social distancing is only helping,” she says in a big-picture sort of way. “I miss school a lot, but most of all I miss seeing my friends and going out to eat with them. I also miss being in the pool, surrounded by my teammates.”
Batra isn’t sitting around feeling sorry for herself or watching the days and her dreams roll on by. She is keeping busy.
“I am doing a lot of online assignments that my teachers are putting up through Google Classroom,” she says. “I have started a few crafts, specifically a friendship bracelet I started a while ago and never got to finish. I am constantly texting and calling many friends and staying in contact with them.
“While we aren’t able to train in the pool right now, I am doing dryland training at home every day and working on ball-handling skills so when the time does come for us to get back into season, I won’t have much catching up to do,” she says, in an optimistic way.”
When/if the water polo season at Pioneer and around the state splashes off, Batra will be a team captain along with teammates she calls, “three other amazing leaders.”
“I have always looked up to the upperclassmen on the team, and now I am honored to be a leader to help underclassmen, like myself freshman year,” she says. “We have had winter conditioning since December and our season officially started the Monday before our season was put on hold. Because we have a very new team, we were looking to train everyone and develop good communication skills.”
Last season with Batra in goal, the Pioneers had a strong season, finishing fifth at Regionals but missing a trip to the States.
And she was so looking forward to this season.
“I love bonding with the water polo team, and I really feel like we are one big family, and I love that dynamic to our team,” she says. “Another highlight was going to states with the team my sophomore year. This was the year I became a goalie, after playing field my freshman year.
“In more of a team aspect, I am most proud of how the team has grown over the last three years and what we will (hopefully) do in my last season on the team.”
Batra’s first season in the water came at a very young age in a “pool” very far away.
“I was born in New Zealand and swimming is a very important skill for children to learn there, as so much of life revolves around the ocean,” she says. “I have been swimming from a young age, being in the water since the age of six months.”
Before her sixth birthday, Batra’s family moved to Ann Arbor and she brought with her a love for being in the water. And then she discovered a new sport – that was played in the water.
“Just before I turned 6, we moved to Ann Arbor and I joined the swim team at Buhr Park over the summer to continue swimming,” Batra said. “Because I had swam for pretty much my whole life, I knew I would continue with it during high school.
“With water polo, I was hesitant to join because I didn’t know much about the sport. When all my freshman swim friends joined, and were telling me how much fun it was and how great Coach Will Hart was, I decided to try it out and I have never looked back.”
She also was on the Pioneer swimming and diving team but wasn’t a star – and that never mattered to her. “Some highlights from swimming include making the top heat at SECs in my 100 freestyle event and bonding with the team,” she said. “I always loved going to away swim meets because we get to know each other better.
“My main sport is water polo, but I swam to stay in shape for the water polo season.”
Batra also has had success outside of the pool. The daughter of Adrienne Syme and Peter Batra, Lauren has a 3.9 GPA at Pioneer. She is interested in a career in the health field and even joined the Red Cross club, and has helped out at blood drives.
And she’s getting ready for the next chapter of her life.
“In the fall, I plan on attending Michigan State University in the Lyman Briggs Residential College,” she says. “I am very interested in something in the health field and I fell in love with their sciences residential program, and immediately connected with the campus.”
She also plans on joining MSU’s water polo club team because she just feels at home in the water.