Gil Gvishi, a senior in Berkeley International High School (BIHS) and captain of the Berkeley High School (BHS) boys varsity water polo team, grew up submerged in the world of water polo. “[My dad] was an Israeli national team player and he refereed and coached all over Europe and in Australia,” said Gvishi. Gvishi began playing water polo himself when he was 8 years old and has been dedicated to the sport ever since.
Since transferring to BHS his junior year, Gvishi has been a strong attacker on the wings, leading the BHS varsity team to a 25-0 season in 2019. He has been able to foster a close knit community among his BHS teammates, and noted that “Being in the water with people you train with everyday and then succeeding, that’s the best feeling.” Outside of BHS, Gvishi has trained with the Contra Costa United (CCU) water polo club since he was 12.
Throughout his youth and career, Gvishi periodically attended University of California (UC) Berkeley water polo games and was able to observe the reality of playing at the Division One (D1) level. “The atmosphere is something that I really wanted to be a part of,” said Gvishi. One of the players on the UC Berkeley team, a family friend of Gvishi, served as a great influence and role model for him. Gvishi said, “Watching him play really drove me to play at the level that he was playing at the time.” From there, Gvishi embarked on the long and tedious recruitment process.
Come August 2021, Gvishi will be attending the University of the Pacific as a new recruit to their D1 water polo team. The first step for Gvishi in his recruitment process was reaching out to schools and coaches that he was interested in. He said, “When I wrote my email to the coach at the University of the Pacific he responded in the first thirty minutes and told me to come out to one of their games.”
Although Gvishi had a variety of schools pursuing him, he developed a strong relationship with the coach at the University of the Pacific. “The coach there believed in me and wanted me on their team,” he said. The two stayed in touch frequently throughout the process and in early May, 2020, when offered a spot on the D1 team, Gvishi verbally committed to the University of the Pacific.
Gvishi said, “The most important quality in an athlete that wants to play at the D1 level is their commitment to their sport and how much work they are willing to put in.” Gvishi encourages aspiring collegiate athletes to truly give their sport their all and go above and beyond all expectations. “Whether it is your diet, your training regime, or how much you are training, always do more than what others are doing.”
Alex Chang, a senior in Berkeley Independent Studies (BIS) and member of the BHS boys varsity tennis team, began his competitive career in tennis at the young age of 8 years old. Prior to Chang’s days as a tennis player, he played soccer and basketball, but he was drawn to the control that tennis offers as an individual sport. When describing tennis, Chang’s love for the game is evident. “It’s like a puzzle and each time you play someone new they each have their strengths and weaknesses,” said Chang.
Ever since, he has been a strong competitor and teammate, making great achievements in his field. Chang’s tenacious strive for excellence has led him to win a United States Tennis Association (USTA) Boys 14 Indoor National Championship for doubles and a career high national ranking of sixth in singles and eighth in doubles under the USTA Boys 16 Division.
This fall, Chang will step on to the UC Berkeley campus and begin his career in D1 tennis as a Cal Bear. Chang explained that he always knew that he wanted to play in college and it just became a matter of pushing himself hard enough to get there. “You definitely have to have that hard work and dedication; there were a lot of times that I almost quit,” he said.
Chang began playing tennis with the BHS team his freshman year and has carried his commitment through all four years, despite some of the unprecedented challenges COVID-19 has inflicted on the 2020 season. Chang enjoys the team aspect of the game, which he is also looking forward to establishing at UC Berkeley. Outside of BHS, he completes the majority of his training with the Berkeley Tennis Club. Chang said, “I practice almost every day outside of school whether it be with my coach, my dad, or my friends.”
As a highly regarded athlete, many schools were eager to recruit Chang to their program and reached out to him as soon as contact was permitted. He had some connections with the UC Berkeley coach prior to the recruitment process, in addition to a few other D1 Ivy League schools that were in the running. Chang explained that the entire process spanned over eight months of being in contact with coaches, taking official visiting trips to prospective schools, and weighing his options. Chang said, “It was really helpful talking to past players who had already gone through the process.”
This long process eventually concluded in March of 2020, when Chang verbally committed to UC Berkeley. He then went on to sign his national letter of intent in November. Reflecting on his recruiting experience, Chang offered some advice to other high school athletes. “Always be proactive in the process; I regret not reaching out to college coaches,” he said. Chang also encourages aspiring collegiate athletes to work towards their goals and dedicate themselves to their sport. “Keep on improving yourself and whatever sport you are playing so that when the opportunity arrives, you can take full advantage of it,” he said.
Update: This article was changed for clarity.