Uncommon bravery

Ingrid Gunnell, a GUSD board member, had a unique experience playing on the Hoover water polo team that consisted of only boys.


By Ryan Avakian and Lyova Piloyan

What would you feel like to be on a team made up of the opposite gender?

Well, that’s a question that no other than Ingrid Gunnell, a mother of two Hoover students, Gianni and Frank, and a GUSD board member, can answer. 

Before all of the accomplishments she had after highschool, Gunnell was one of the only female students to be in the water polo team at Hoover High.

“It wasn´t called the boys’ team, it was just called water polo, it was just that there were only boys on it, so it wasn´t called the boy team, they didn’t have a distinction like it does now,” she said.

Being the only female on the team in theory must have been hard or distinct from the way teams are split now. 

But in her opinion, “I was a swimmer for my entire life, so I already have the swimming skills, but that was my first time that I had played water polo, there was nothing negative about it, it’s just that to me it was an exception of my swim team.”

Title 9 was a law that stated “no person be excluded from participation in, denied the benefits of, or subjected to discrimination on the basis of sex.” This law was passed in 1972. 

So I think that the people of my generation and the people of this generation are taking Title 9 for granted, because it was there when we wanted to play and we didn’t have to fight to play,” she said.

After knowing this, Gunnell still chose to play on a water polo team (that only consisted of boys), at Hoover High School. 

Her bravery was something that would be uncommon for most people.

Gunnell set the perfect example of always being confident in everything you do. 

Instead of fearing the fact that she was the only female on the team, she managed to make friends during her experience too.

“It was just a fun experience, a lot of comradery and the ability to make friends and hang out with people of your own age, and all of the grades 9s and 12s but it was a fun experience,” she said.

“I think I was more confident because my older siblings had already played and swam, and so the coaches knew our family, and it wasn’t an issue because it was just something that my mom expected us to do.”