FEATURE: Constantinides Navigates Unique Path to UCSB

Kenny Constantinides UCSB Facebook

Varsity athletes are an elite group. The NCAA estimates that fewer than one in 10 high school athletes – in general – will make the jump to intercollegiate sports. That daunting figure is likely to be far less ominous to a 25-year-old freshman who’s experienced what UC Santa Barbara’s Kenny Constantinides has. The first-year defender has become a valued member of the eighth-ranked Gauchos six years after earning a CIF-Southern Section D2 championship with Santa Barbara High School. Rather than embracing water polo stardom, scholarship offers from Division I schools awaiting him, he pursued the yet more elite domain of special forces warfare, as shared in detail by Nick Welsh in Thursday’s Santa Barbara Independent:

By the time he was 17, Constantinides was determined to become a Navy SEAL, one of the most elite fighting forces in the [world]. Despite protests from his parents, coaches, and friends ​— ​there were, after all, two wars going on ​— ​Constantinides proved resolute and utterly intractable. At age 18, he signed up. Three days after turning 19, he started Hell Week, the most insanely grueling period of the most insanely grueling training camp of any in the armed services. Of the 280 enlistees to start down this excruciating road, only 33 made it. He was one. After six years ​— ​two dedicated to training and four with deployments in Iraq and Gulf States ​— ​Constantinides decided it was time to go home; to Santa Barbara…

After an eight-year hiatus, Constantinides is back in the pool but this time among much younger players ​— ​not an easy task. But despite that handicap, Constantinides is managing to play for one of the top 10 water polo teams in the country…

Conference rivals Pepperdine and UC Irvine remain on the Gauchos’ difficult MPSF agenda prior to conference championships at the end of November. Santa Barbara has had mixed results in 2014 and will struggle to earn a place in the extremely selective NCAA Championship field. Those hurdles probably don’t appear quite so high to the experienced Constantinides.

“Water polo is a game. It’s fun,” he said. “But there is so much more going on.”