Water polo has a history in Australia as one of the most exciting and anticipated water sports at European tournaments and the Olympics. Its thrilling energy attracted people like Sam Cocokios at such a young age and has been the pathway for Sam’s involvement in the junior Australian national team and current role as captain of ACU Cronulla Sharks.
Sam grew up near the beachside Sydney suburb of Cronulla and, similar to many others in the area, swimming is more than a hobby. It’s a passion. For Sam, this passion began when he was just nine years old.
“I started in the shallow water polo pool, so I was able to stand up, throw the ball around and just play some summer sport,” Sam Cocokios said to The Greek Herald.
Sam’s ‘summer sport’ turned professional at the age of 18 when he was invited to join the Junior Men’s Australian National Team as a goalkeeper, taking part in three Junior World Championships.
“The first one was in Perth, which was really cool because it was a home ground advantage and my friends and family could all come and watch. Then I did one more in Hungary and then another one in Kazakhstan.”
Travelling the world and representing his country at a junior level, aged between 18 and 21, Sam said his exposure to the world was “incredible”.
“It’s a completely different culture,” Sam said.
“You don’t realise how lucky we are in Australia until you travel and get those world experiences.”
Yet, with great life experiences comes many hard sacrifices. While having a great junior career and a strong opportunity to progress further, Sam felt the need to take time off and focus on his personal life.
“I booked a big Europe trip for five or six for five months… then I actually got invited to the Australian Men’s National team,” Sam said.
Sam heartbreakingly declined the offer to join the Men’s National Team, justifying his need to take a break and to enjoy the “social side of Europe”.
“I’ve committed so much to water polo. So I think I made the right decision then to say no to that opportunity in 2017, and I’ve really given myself this four year Olympic cycle just to relax, recharge, study, work and do all those things to balance your sporting commitments.”
Graduating from a Bachelor of Accounting at university in 2017, Sam is looking to begin his career as a chartered accountant next year.
While he may not be training for Olympic glory, Sam’s love for water polo remains intact with National Water Polo League side ACU Cronulla Sharks, being named captain of the Men’s First Division Squad.
“I’ve been in this club for more than ten years and the club has given me so much, just going through and supporting my water polo,” Sam said.
“And I think being given that captaincy role is really rewarding because now you realise you have to step up into that leadership position and there’s people underneath you now that are looking up to you.”
Sam is supported by his family during every water polo match, holding a strong Greek familial bond through his father’s side. He revealed that his yiayia continues to be one of his biggest supporters, as he carries out his captain responsibilities at the club.
“She’s so supportive and loves it…. I think even having this interview and having her read through, and even my dad, would just make him so proud.”