This year is a really big one for the GB U17 girls’ water polo squad because 2015 is the year in which our age group holds its European Championships.
Unlike other aquatic disciplines, water polo junior teams do not have a big international championship every year or even every other year, and so for the past three years, since the formation of the National Talent Squad in 2012, our focus has been on training towards these 2015 European Championships.
The initial European Championships Squad was selected in January 2014 with players coming from clubs all over the country and meeting for GB Squad training one weekend per month at the Cardiff International Pool.
The training has intensified since then and every school holiday we have been at training camps at home and abroad.
Our first International experience was last summer when we competed in the 4 Nations Tournament in Germany, beating the Serbian U17s, and finishing runners up to German U19 team.
The training has intensified since then and every school holiday we have been at training camps at home and abroad. We've been in Hungary, London and most recently in Germany, and the squad has been gradually reduced in size in preparation for the final team announcement.
The European Championship Finals are being held as part of the first ever European Games in Baku, Azerbaijan in June but first we have to qualify!
Nineteen teams originally entered the competition with only 12 places available in the Finals at Baku. As six teams had already qualified automatically for the Finals because of the placing of their nation in the previous older age group tournament in September 2013 (Greece, Spain, Netherlands, Italy, Hungary and Russia) that left just six places for the remaining 13 teams.
Those 13 teams have been drawn into three qualifying groups who will play in three separate tournaments on 12 - 15 March in three different countries, with the top two teams from each tournament going through to the finals in Baku.
GB have been drawn in Group 1 which is being held in France. The other teams in our group are France, Czech Republic, Switzerland, and Portugal. This is a tough draw but we are training hard and will certainly be going out to France to try and win.
Before that, we have a tournament in Slovakia from 5 - 8 March where we will come up against other teams who are also involved in the qualifying groups so it will be a great warm up for the following week when the competition starts in earnest.
As there is no funding at all for GB water polo we have had to meet all the costs of training, travel and kit ourselves. So for the past six months the squad, parents and friends have been fundraising by running a raffle, selling homemade cake sales at tournaments, bag packing and car washing and so far, with the help of the water polo community, we have raised over £8000 which is helping towards the cost of our travel and accommodation for the tournaments in Slovakia and France.
After France, regardless of results, all the members of the GB U17 Squad will be returning to their clubs and competing against each other in the National Age Groups Championships.
The first round is being held in Walsall on Sunday 22 March and although we are all close friends there will definitely be some intense matches as we all compete for the National title!