Rookie Makes Mark On Land and Water
For Aisha Price, there is no offseason.
Price, a freshman, competes for both the women’s soccer and water polo teams. Like most fall athletes, she arrived on campus two weeks earlier than her classmates to begin her training for soccer. Unlike her teammates, who had a long J-term break to recuperate from a grueling season on the field, Price’s vacation was cut short by two weeks, as she had to leave sunny Hawai’i for icy Cambridge to begin preseason training for water polo.
Price was a strong contributor on a women’s soccer team that finished a nine-win season with an Ivy League championship. This winter, she has also established herself as a scorer on a Crimson water polo team that has yet to lose a game.
Price’s impressive athletic career began on the soccer fields when she was only three years old. However, it was not until Punahou High School water polo coach Ken Smith spotted her cannon-like arm during a dodgeball game in a P.E. class in seventh grade that she began playing water polo.
“I noticed two things about her before I even knew her,” Smith recounts. “One was that she could really throw a ball, and the second was that she was really athletic. And I thought, my gosh, that’s a great combination. If I could ever teach her how to swim, we’d really have something there.”
Smith, who was Price’s homeroom teacher, began hounding her every morning to come to water polo tryouts, and eventually, she gave in.
“I had no idea what water polo was,” Price admits. “[I] never saw it, never heard of it, but during tryouts, I went out finally and fell in love with the sport.”
Her decision to go to tryouts turned out to be a wise one. Price led the Buff N Blu to state titles in both soccer and water polo, and was named the state co-Player of the Year in soccer and the state tournament MVP in water polo her senior year.
Honolulu’s Punahou School is known nationally for its superb athletic program, as well as its most famous alumnus, current U.S. President Barack Obama.
The school’s athletic prowess led to a Sports Illustrated feature recognizing Punahou as the nation’s top high school athletic program, which prominently featured a picture of Price playing water polo. She even attended her senior prom with Manti Te’o, the Sporting News High School Athlete of the Year in 2008 and a starter on the gridiron for Notre Dame last season.
One of the skills that separates Price from most other soccer players is her remarkably long throw-in, which can reach the far goalpost from the sideline, a distance of almost 40 yards. This unique talent helped her garner interest from college coaches all over the country.
“It’s a special weapon that no one really has,” says women’s soccer coach Ray Leone.
In the state championship her senior year, Price’s long throw-in contributed to the only goal scored in the game.
“When she graduated, one of the opposing coaches said they were so relieved because they didn’t have to contend with all of those throw-ins any more,” Smith said.
“I might need to buy a machine to replicate [her throw-in]”, Leone jokes. “No one on our team can even remotely throw it as far as her.”
Though her arm strength is always in high demand by both of her coaches, even for someone as gifted as Price, it is impossible for her to be in two places at once. The eight-time letterwinner remembers the stress of getting out of water polo practice and immediately heading to soccer.
“During water polo, I would sprint from the pool, [change], put on my soccer clothes and as I was sprinting down, my mom would have half a sub and my cleats and everything laid out,” Price says.
Both her coaches lament the fact that they are unable to have Price participate in offseason programs because she is always in season for another sport. The fact that she is able to devote herself to the two sports is indicative of how mature and well-rounded Price is as a freshman.
“She’s kind of the consummate player in the areas of mind, body and spirit, and she embodies all three really well, and that’s why she’s always going to be a success in whatever she does,” Smith says. “Harvard’s got a good girl there.”