Looking down into a 12 to 14 foot deep pool with a broken pipe and only about a foot of water at the bottom, an envisioned coach watches as members of the Afghanistan national army (ANA) hold swim and water polo practice, April 7, in Camp Shorabak, Afghanistan.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jeremy B. Piasecki of Fallbrook, the readiness and reports officer with 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade-Afghanistan, created and coached Afghanistan’s first water polo team in Pol-e-Charki, located in Northeast Afghanistan from June to September 2008, and has been the coach for the national team since October 2008.
His experience in water polo ranges from playing in high school and on a college team to coaching club and varsity high school teams since 2004.
Piasecki had no plans to begin another water polo team when he began this deployment to Afghanistan in November 2009, but after about three months a friend came to him and informed him about the pool that had been built in Camp Shorabak about a year ago. Piasecki moved forward in his vision and created the second water polo team in Afghanistan.
Piasecki said the team was officially formed about a month ago and their first practice was, March 13. He juggled his job and coaching the team at the same time, working hours that no one would want, but the ANA greatly took to him and what he was trying to do.
This is the first team that the soldiers and officers are willing to participate in,” said Col. Said Ahmad, a member of the team and also Shorabak Garrison executive officer with the ANA.
He describes the physical and moral benefits with great excitement.
“At first I couldn’t do more than six push-ups. Now I can do more than 30,” explained Ahmed.
Water polo is gaining popularity around the region, and many more want to join, but the facilities cannot support them just yet. They do, however, attend practices and the spectators line the outside of the pool, all trying to find places to see and take photos of their fellow soldiers playing this Olympic sport.
Piasecki said most of the soldiers have never swam in a pool before, so it is a great experience for them as well as giving others an incentive to train.
“This is a concept they can take back to their local villages and want to start their own leagues; not necessarily water polo, but any sport,” he said.
Piasecki single-handedly created the provincial team in Pol-e-Charki and Camp Shorabak as well as the national team in Kabul. As he is getting ready to head home to Fallbrook, Piasecki has taken care of every pivotal part necessary to keep this sport going without him here in Afghanistan.
Piasecki planned to bring the national team to the United States for about 10 months and coordinated for the Afghan’s lodging, food, facilities and competitions. He has found teachers who will teach them basic classes and how to read and write in their own language as well as other languages of countries that they may visit to conduct their training.
Piasecki plans on taking them to places that they have never seen or heard of before, such as zoos and museums. The team will be able to speak at schools and be able to tell their story to Americans who have never had the opportunity to really see how the Afghan people are. He wants to create heroes, expand worldly education and to build cultural bridges.
Ahmad said that he will keep pushing this sport as well as other programs and is trying to build proper places for training as well as a new, more reliable swimming pool.
“The Marines encourage us and we are very happy,” said Ahmad. “I appreciate the USA.”
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