Getting to know: Bayu Herfianto (Part II)

Here at AddedSport, our consultants make the magic happen – but how much do you know about them? We’re back with Part II of our interview with Bayu Herfianto from our Jakarta, Indonesia office – this time, let’s get a better understanding of why he chose to pursue the College Water Polo Student-Athlete life in the U.S., and his experience!

You mentioned that you attended  a university in the U.S., can you tell me a little bit about it?
Of course! After I graduated from high school, my former swimming coaches, Albert and Felix Sutanto (Directors of Millennium Aquatic Swimming Club) who earned a swimming scholarship at California Baptist University in Los Angeles, strongly advised me to continue my studies in the U.S and play college water polo. That idea was very new to me and it was already later stages of the U.S. college recruiting timeline – most of the college coaches had already finalized their rosters for the upcoming season. Going abroad to play water polo and attend university was never really an option because I did not know of any Indonesian water polo players who’ve pursued that path – I was the first one! I was torn between 3 options:

  1. Attend a local university in Jakarta, stop playing competitive water polo
  2. Become a full-time athlete, represent Indonesia in the SEA Games and Asian Games and receive a monthly stipends and bonuses for earning medals and podium finishes. Postpone plans for university.
  3. Attend a U.S. university and earn a water polo scholarship by representing the university in a full season of competitions – aka U.S. college water polo

After a long discussion with my family, I decided to pursue the U.S. college water polo path. Fortunately for me, Albert and Felix were ex-college swimmers and former Olympians – so they managed to get me in touch with several college coaches through their connections. Although my options were limited because I  started the recruiting process after my the peers in the U.S had completed theirs, I am still very grateful for the help and support that I received, because I thoroughly enjoyed my time as a college water polo player in the U.S.

Did being late in the process disappoint you?
Yes it did. I definitely regret not having the foresight for early preparation. As a young athlete, I “went with the flow” and did not question if there were alternative pathways for me to pursue my passion in water polo whilst achieving a university degree, as education is very important in my family. In hindsight, I should’ve started researching and preparing for the U.S. college water polo recruitment process in Grade 10. I was lucky my former swimming coach had a connection. Otherwise, I would’ve missed out on this life changing opportunity.

Why the U.S.?
The U.S provides the only university system where sport is highly valued. Sport acts as a GPA booster when you apply, so it helps your application significantly, and provides a better chance at admission into the top universities. In addition, the resources and level of coaching in the college sports system is heavily geared towards structured athletic development, so almost all college student-athletes are guaranteed to improve as long as they put in the effort to train.

Can you not do that in Indonesia?
Perhaps.. you could, but it’s very unlikely that you’d improve as much as if you went to the U.S and trained there. Before I decided to go for U.S universities over the local universities, I realized that some of my water polo teammates who studied at local universities, tended to either sacrifice water polo for their education or vice versa. Their university system wasn’t structured to provide a balance for them to compete in sports at a high level whilst maintaining good grades. Unfortunately for my friends, they felt the need to choose between water polo and getting good grades. Several of them chose to divert their efforts towards water polo, which took a negative toll on their studies – some of them ended up failing classes, some took more years than the average student to graduate, and some didn’t even graduate at all. Meanwhile the others who chose to focus on school were not able to further develop in water polo, thus sacrificing their chances for selection into the National Team.

What do you think the cause of that?
Well, first of all, the facilities and the resources are simply not available in our local universities to support students who want to attain a balance of competing at a high level, and graduating with a top degree. To be a college student and an athlete at the same time in Indonesia, you’d have to spend more time in a day traveling from your home, to your class, and to your practice. Whereas in the U.S., everything is located within the university campus. Going from your dorm, to your class, and to your training will only take a few minutes by foot or bicycle. I used to have 2 practices a day during my  years in college, but I could easily get home and be done with my daily activities by 6 pm. Compared to the daily routine in Indonesia, when 6pm is when you start your only training session of the day. Also, U.S universities provide you with the top notch coaches and athletic trainers. So, even though you are considered amateur athletes, you are still given the professional treatment. That’s not even mentioning the amount of gear that you receive every year, on top of the scholarship money the university provides you to cover tuition. So, really, the whole system enables you to balance both sports and academics.

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