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Team Manager Jo Kirk blogs from the European Junior Champs

10 September 2013

British water polo team manager Jo Kirk gives the inside scoop direct from the GB camp at the 2013 European Junior Water Polo Championships in Istanbul, Turkey.

Good Morning for the last time from Istanbul.

You will have seen our score against Turkey. The girls all re-grouped after the Slovakian game to give a great team performance, and yes we have done the whole shudda, wudda, cudda but what's done is done and we finished on a high.

The girls were looking at what costumes from which team they liked the most. Spain got huge votes. Russia got nil points.We had a lovely afternoon packing, lazing by the pool and the girls started early with negotiations on 'kit swapping'. This involves sending your biggest player to another team to ask for, as the Italians did, a hoodie for a hat!

The girls were looking at what costumes from which team they liked the most. Spain got huge votes. Russia got nil points, almost Eurovision-esque.

We went to watch the final games and some superb water polo. First of all was Italy v Holland. The fans were passionate with big splashes of orange, hooters, wigs and sequins. The Italians were willing their team on with each chant of I T A L I A, there was lots of gesticulating and the game did not disappoint. Holland came out on top, breaking Italian hearts and our girls supported and sympathised as the Italian girls came to sit near us in the stands.

Next up was Greece v Spain - a game of cat and mouse with the girls giving their absolute all. Spain were up-tempo and full of fire but the Greek head coach Georgios Morfesis (the professor) came out on top.

After he had removed his mobile phone and Cuban cigar the team chucked him in. Luckily he can swim...

We headed back to the hotel and our girls waited patiently as each team returned to bargain with kit swapping. Some went well, some not so well. Then there was Morelly Grace (she of the broken mouth).

Me: "How's it going Grace? Did you get anything?"
Grace "Not bad to be honest Jo. Come and look."

There on her bed was the prize Item all staff wanted - a very lovely Italian jacket, a brand new top, a costume and a promise of a trip in a Ferrari.

I panicked.

"Grace, do you have any kit left? I mean do you have something to travel home in....anything to travel in?"
"Oh Jo, don't worry. I just gave her my costume. The one with the stitching coming away. And I've had to spray it as I'd left if damp in my kit bag for a week."

Then I got the trademark Grace chuckle.

There have been many familiar faces here, all supportive of each other, and those teams with doctors willing to offer assistance if needed to those without. Everyone has been approachable, all working for the common good of pushing this wonderful game to centre stage with the respect it deserves.

From that first session in September, 56 girls to the final 13 has been a journey with many ups and downs and lots of hard work for staff and players alike.I have had a tremendous year with these girls, watching them take responsibility, develop as players, and for want of a better word, grow as young adults.

From that first session in September, 56 girls to the final 13 has been a journey with many ups and downs and lots of hard work for staff and players alike.

I would like to thank the wonderful, supportive parents. Having been through the GB system with my own daughter, I know how hard juggling work, holidays, finance and family life can be.

To Tim Kendall, Andy Wilson, Andy Little and "wor" (Geordie) Susan, thank you guys for making it so enjoyable.

To Ian MacCallum or Mcccolllumb as he is known here, he'll hate me for saying it, but he's done a great job being so very organised.

And finally thank you to Beth Betty Bolton, Emily Sutcliffe, Grace Morley, Hannah Patchett, Helen Mockeler, Honor Grimes, Isobel Howe, Kate Read, Katy Andrew, Kathy Rogers, Lauren Tasker, Rhiannon Foulds and Rosie Huck. Also to Megan Gaunt who took the disappointment of not being able to come to Istanbul and showed such maturity and supported our two goalkeepers Helen and Kate. Good for you Megan.

To our brill reserves, Emily Grant, Eve Simpson, Matilda Williams and Joanna Kendall thank you for your support.

 I am so glad to have been here at the start of your journey. However you decide to progress, be the best you can be and have no regrets.

Jo Kirk

6 September

You will have seen the post match review regarding our game against the Greek team, which I feel was our most gutsy performance.

I have entitled this blog "A Greek Tragedy". I could have gone with "Beware Greeks Bearing Gifts" but I am pretty sure at least one, if not all delegates, would object to a wooden horse near their bench!

Imagine our confusion when on returning to the bench she is pulling at her mouth and there is blood.Greek Tragedy normally involves blood and lots of angst and funny enough, we had that with one Grace Morley or as she is known in Turkey, 'Morelly Grace'.

I did honestly fill in the form correctly surname first , first name last, but Onur on one of his power naps must have decided that , Morelly was her first name!

Grace had just scored a rather delightful goal, which involved a steal (always good), a difference of  opinion with her Greek opponent (even better), and a sprint leaving all for dead to score.

Imagine our confusion when on returning to the bench she is pulling at her mouth and there is blood.

Grace: "Jo, my mouth's falling apart."
Me "No Grace. It's just a bit of blood. "
Grace, wild-eyed: "Blood? Blood? I hate blood! Especially my own. Are you sure my mouth is in one piece?"
Me: "Yes Grace, you are still talking. Drink this and swill."
Grace: "Jo, there's blood."

I then ask the question which one of the lovely young Greek girls did this. Several moments passed before she gave a big laugh and said: "I know what I`ve done! When I scored I punched the air, gave a big shout, and think I bit the inside of my cheek!"

Yesterday we took the girls on a trip. As time was limited and we do have a schedule, we set off confident to see the Bazaar. The girls had money to spend there was bartering to be done.

I was secretly excited as the only bartering I had done was in John Lewis over a pair of shoes with a mark on. That experience ended badly for me as I bought the shoe cleaner.

We started with the equivalent of a deposit on a three-bed semi in London and ended with me shaking his hand at approximately the cost of two Costa Coffees!Some of the parents joined us for this excursion and I hoped the girls would appreciate the exotic tiling, curved ceilings, ornate drinking fountains....

But all was ignored for a stall that sold "Ice" watches in a rainbow of colours and the Mulberry / Ray Ban stand.

Taking a deep breath, I asked our friendly stall holder Sezgin for four pairs of Ray Bans. We started with the equivalent of a deposit on a three-bed semi in London and ended with me shaking his hand at approximately the cost of two Costa Coffees!

The Blue Mosque was awe-inspiring although we could not enter as it was shut for lunch but we made our way back to our hotel with the girls having tasted a little of the sights and sounds of Istanbul - a great reward for all their hard work.

Tonight is the official finner on a boat. What could possibly go wrong?

Jo Kirk

4 September

Day three was another tough day at the office for the girls, when I say office I mean swimming pool of course. Click here to read the match report.

Let me give you a little background information on how we got to the pool.

We are getting used to the principle that no matter what lane you are in, you can turn across lines of traffic to get to your destination.We have tried to be as organised as we can be here with a daily plan, printed the night before on information received then handed out to our lovely young ladies before they go to bed. Simples!

In Istanbul everything is "subject to change" - the phrase to strike fear into the heart of any self respecting TM.

Breakfast at 8:30 - spot on. Not a problem. All went according to schedule.

Team Meeting 10:00 - all present and correct. Words of wisdom imparted. GB U/17 ready to take on the Dutch.

Bus 10:30  -  erm.... I scanned the congested front entrance but could not spot our bus with the GB Flag. I spot a colleague of Ipec, our interpreter, having proper Turkish coffee and a cigarette watching the world go by.

After exchanging pleasantries, I ask him where the bus is, to be informed it will arrive at 11am. This would be spiffing if our game was at 1pm and not 12!!! Trying to keep my voice at its normal level (I sound Scouse when I get stressed according to some people on the staff) I ask him to ring Ipec. Within minutes we are boarding said bus.

Journey - on a good day, it takes minutes. On this particular day, every car in Istanbul is heading our way. We are getting used to the principle that no matter what lane you are in, you can turn across lines of traffic to get to your destination.

In a funny way this does work as everyone expects it. The constant beeping I have decided is applause for having the chutzpah to pull across five lanes of traffic from the outside lane to hang a left!

Pool - we arrive later than we would like but all is well  and we head to the warm up pool. Holland are in as expected but so are Spain! We are shown the area at the back of the goals in the main pool, we are allowed to swim BUT NO BALLS.

We finally get into the main pool and I spot Onur, the sleep deprived Turkish organiser who is looking much better.

This of course meant TM and Physio ripping off the tape as quickly as possible. I think the girls have forgiven us!Game - five mins before the game, the referee informed both teams that any girl wearing tape had to remove it as it had been decreed (love that phrase) that from that moment and forthwith only flesh coloured tape could be worn.

This of course meant TM and Physio ripping off the tape as quickly as possible. I think the girls have forgiven us!

Well you may all know the result by now and they did give it their all. As I said to them, leave nothing in the pool apart from maybe your hat.

The support from parents with their flags and shouts of encouragement were heart warming.

So another day has dawned and we face the Greeks..........

Will keep you posted.

Jo Kirk

2 September

Good Morning All,

The serious up to day report is under the News section but here is a behind-the-scenes look at how things are going; the whole duck analogy .

Yesterday dawned bright and sunny with the girls all in good spirits and after a calm and positive team talk we were off to the pool. I meant to mention we have an absolutely lovely interpreter called Ipic and I have to try harder to remember her name as she did not respond to Ipac or Imac for that matter!

We arrived at the swimming pool on day one for the first game and there is a hint of panic in the air, mostly emanating from the "Organisational Communication Staff" or one called Onur, a man seriously sleep deprived.

We know this because "Good  Morning Onur" is greeted with "I have not slept now for three days." Awkward pause. The suggestion of camomile tea went completely over his head.

A man on a Turkish tea break sprang to his feet, hitched up his pants and strode down a corridor to return triumphant with a tray and two glasses of water!Being British we kept our requests to a minimum, stiff upper lip and all that, and just went for the basics.

"Erm can we have some water please? So sorry to ask. Sorry again."

This request was passed down a chain of approximately 10 people to a man on a Turkish tea break who sprang to his feet, hitched up his pants and strode down a corridor to return triumphant with a tray and two glasses of water!

As you know, under normal circumstances, we Brits would have said "that's fine, thank you," but this was day one and our team were thirsty so in my non-existent Turkish I mimed a large pack of water.

The crestfallen hero of the minute shrank under a barrage of criticism, think Fawlty Towers, Manuel and Basil. A woman produced three large packs of water, looking with disdain at her colleague and then I tried to help her carry them. She insisted she was fine, in the heat in her many layers of clothing, to struggle behind me carrying the water.

Mission accomplished, I returned to the warm-up pool. Coaches happy, players happy, then IM (Ian MacCallum, head coach) looked me straight in the eye and said quite reasonably: "balls Jo?"

With a heavy heart I returned to Onur whose right ear was stuck to a mobile phone and the other was being permanently bent by Mr Birri.

Giving my most reassuring smile I asked for some balls. Think rabbit in the headlights. The balls needed were being used by two teams having a training session.

I had deliberately kept my tone light with no sudden movements as his sleep deprived brain struggled with the next course of action.

At this stage I was joined by the lovely Susan Dale, our brilliant physio from Newcastle and who, like most Northern lasses, can smell trouble at three paces.

Susan and I did what any self-respecting pacifist would do - stepped quietly back into the shadows to await the outcome.Mr Birri spun so quickly it would have made MJ proud, to face Onur, who tried to argue the case that the balls were in use. Mr Birri has a voice that does not need a microphone to project.

Susan and I did what any self-respecting pacifist would do - stepped quietly back into the shadows to await the outcome as Mr Birri insisted with gusto, drowning out the practice runs of any of the National Anthems, that balls had to be given to the teams waiting to compete.

A negotiation on how many ensued before we struck a deal at seven. My heart went out to Onur as we waited for the last two balls to float to the side, a bit like a half-deflated lilo almost reaching shore to be pushed back out.

Result! We reached the warm-up pool with our seven balls, three smiling coaches and 13 smiling girls.

Just the match to contend with next - click here for the report.

That`s all for now.

Jo Kirk x

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