Many people hear about young athletes that do amazing things. For example, the Olympian gold medal swimmer Katie Ledecky, who broke many world records at the 2016 Olympics.
Recently, Kean University student Reuben Hernandez, an 18 year old freshman majoring in computer science, was able to be part of the first national under-21 underwater rugby team to represent the United States. The team traveled to Norway to compete against other teams for the European Underwater Rugby Championship title.
"I was a little nervous at first because I wasn't too familiar with the team," commented Hernandez as he spoke about joining the team. "A bunch of those players, they've been playing for a while and I was recent to the sport...but the team is very friendly and the coaches are nice as well."
Prior to college, Hernandez used to swim. He eventually became tired of the sport until a friend (and former swim teammate) recommended underwater rugby to him.
"So I went to a couple of practices. [My friend] taught me how to play, and then I just started liking it a lot. After I finished my swimming season, I just [switched sports]."
He currently trains with the club Newark Underwater Recreations (NUWR).
The championship tournament was the first international competition that Hernandez has ever competed in. Although he was nervous at first, he became comfortable when he started playing against other teams.
"We played against Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Columbia," Hernandez commented.
Although the team did not win the championship, they were still able to enjoy themselves while in Norway. The U.S. team, along with other teams, stayed at a high school in a quiet town called Sandefjord.
"The other teams were very friendly...after a game we will shake hands and talk to each other. At the end of the tournament, we actually traded jackets.''
Underwater rugby is a challenge for Hernandez. It is different than swimming in many ways. He stated that swimming is more of an individual sport while underwater rugby is more of a team sport.
"I like the teamwork in rugby," he said. "[Although] you can't really talk to each other in the water, it’s more of reading body language and [being] in sync with other people. Sometimes you may not be looking at them, but you know they're there. It’s just the whole rhythm of the sport. It's very cool, fun and challenging."
Hernandez continues to play with NUWR and, as long as he qualifies for the US under-21 underwater rugby team, he will continue to play for them as well.
But for the future, he has his eyes set on becoming a software engineer.
He mentioned that he would like to get his masters in computer science, and that although working for Google or Microsoft sound nice, "I just want to have a good job, my own place and play underwater rugby."