Morio Saito, a 15-year-old from Los Angeles, CA, has been playing water polo since he was six years old.
He currently attends Harvard Westlake High School where he plays on the Varsity team. Morio took an individual AWP 10-day trip to Kotor last year and was accompanied by his Mom, Erika.
1) What made you want to travel overseas to train?
I recognize that water polo is not a big sport in the United States. There are countries in Europe that are better than the United States at water polo and I knew that if I put myself amongst the best I could one day maybe become one of the best.
2) What was your first impression of Kotor and Montenegro?
Montenegro is a very beautiful country. It used to be a part of Yugoslavia before it split into many other countries. Montenegro is full of scenic locations and lush greenery. Kotor has a beautiful gulf that shines in the afternoon from the sun breaking out between the mountains surrounding the area. At night the city lights turn on and everything is illuminated.
3) Where did you stay while you were in Montenegro?
I stayed in a little house directly on the bay of Kotor in an area called Dobrota, which is a few minutes walk from the Old Town.
4) What did you think of the Montenegrin lifestyle? The people?
The lifestyle is incredible. The people of the city are always active even late at night when you expect everyone to be asleep. I remember clearly that at around 11 o’clock PM when my mom and I were eating outside, there were people walking along the water outside of our house. I would also always see fishermen hunting for squid and octopus right outside of our house.
5) Where did you train and who did you train with? What was the pool like?
I trained with the two teams located in Kotor, Primorac and Cattaro. The pool was very unique because it was indoors. The pool was not in the greatest condition, but the whole facility was full of history.
6) Describe a typical day while you were living in Kotor.
I would wake up, eat breakfast, and relax until I had practice. I had two to three practices per day depending on when the teams were training.
7) Did you get to travel anywhere from Kotor? What did you learn about the country that most impressed you?
I was able to visit the monastery of Ostrog. It was amazing to realize that Montenegro used to be a part of Yugoslavia and that it split apart due to a war. Within the town of Kotor there is an area called the Old Town. There are also walkways up the mountain to the Cathedral of Saint Tryphon. These walkways stretch for about three miles and when they are lit up at night they are beautiful.
8) Did you like the food?
I did enjoy the local food. My Mom cooked for me a lot, but we also got to go out and eat in the city and I enjoyed trying the local food there.
9) How did water polo in Kotor differ from what you were used to in the states?
The water polo was much more advanced. The kids that I got to play with individually were very talented. The play was different because everything was very fast-paced and their style of play relied on 1 on 1 attack, which included great outside shooters.
10) What was the most important thing you learned while you were in Kotor playing-wise?
While I was there I was able to perfect certain aspects of my game such as being hyper-aware of the things that are happening around me. I was also able to take in all of the incredible styles of shots and fakes that these amazing shooters had, and then incorporate these things into my own tactics.
11) What else did you learn while you were abroad? Were there any aspects of staying abroad that were especially hard?
I was able to take in a little bit of the language. The aspect of being away from your family is very hard. And even though my mom was with me in Kotor, I was able to experience traveling alone when I took another AWP trip to Camogli, Italy.
12) Do you see yourself eventually playing water polo professionally overseas? If so, what are your favorite teams?
I would love to be able to play overseas professionally. This is one of my main goals as a water polo player. It would be great if I could play for either Pro Recco, Edger, Camogli, Jug, or Primorac.