Favorite athlete: Serena Williams
Favorite team: Philly Spinners
Favorite memory competing in sports: It was my sophomore year and we were playing in a tournament. It was the final game, a consolation match, and we were down by seven in the last quarter and everything just clicked and the whole team started to work together and we came back and won by four.
Most embarrassing/funniest thing that has happened while competing in sports: My first year on the high school swim team I used sox (drag reducing devices that go on your feet), and while everyone else kicked for a 50, I ended up going backward.
Music on mobile device: Classic Rock
Future plans: Attend an Engineering College and continue to live my life to the fullest
Words to live by: “Knowledge is power”
One goal before turning 30: Graduate from college and start my career
One thing people don’t know about me: I’m trying to learn about hypnosis.
By Craig Ostroff
In winning its first four games on its 2019 slate, the Upper Dublin boys’ water polo team has already equaled last season’s win total.
One of the key reasons for the Cardinals’ strong start is someone whose name doesn’t dominate the scorebook. By his own admission, he’s not the strongest, biggest, and certainly not the fastest player in the water.
But when it comes to intelligent play in the defensive end of the pool, and the ability to teach and inspire his teammates both in and out of the water, Ben Rosenthal has been the engine that runs this squad.
“Ben is the heart and soul of the team,” coach Chris Ianni said of the senior co-captain. “Ben will do anything and everything he needs to do to put the team first in any way.
“We have 14 sophomores this year, and a lot of those guys didn’t play last year. Ben is very good at breaking things down, explaining things, encouraging people to speak up. His communication skills are excellent, he makes sure every voice is heard, makes sure everyone feels valued. If I ever ask him for something or need him to do something, he’s always there to do it, going the extra mile, asking how else he can help. The younger kids see that, and it goes a long way.”
In addition to the sophomore-heavy makeup of the team, the Cardinals entered the season without last year’s three top scorers as a result of graduation and injuries. That placed a heavy burden on the returning players, the small senior class, and the captains.
“The boys haven’t had the success that the girls’ team has had recently,” Ianni said. “And we’ve had some tough seasons. But instead of getting discouraged, Ben is studying the game and looking at how to get better. He wants to go out, play tough, and make this year be the best Upper Dublin’s program has ever seen.”
Rosenthal’s ability to learn and improve has made him a solid presence at defense hole for the Cardinals. His ability to pass on what he’s learned makes him an ideal captain. It’s an honor he doesn’t take lightly, especially after missing his freshman season as a result of breaking his collarbone in a summer league ice hockey game. But even then, Rosenthal displayed his dedication to the team, coming to every practice, keeping the books, helping in any way he could. He was also known to ride his bike to early morning practices during water polo and swim seasons—sometimes through freezing temperatures—before he was able to drive.
A three-sport athlete at Upper Dublin (he pulls double duty in the winter by swimming and playing ice hockey), Rosenthal is gracious almost to a fault, constantly listing names of coaches, assistant coaches, former captains, teammates, friends, and family members who have inspired and pushed him both in athletics and in life. And he’s eager to have the opportunity to do the same for others.
“I try to do my best to pass on the things I’ve learned to the younger players,” he said. “Passing on what you’ve learned is part of the process. If I don’t try to work with the younger players and pass on the things I’ve learned, then it’s going to end with me. I want them to be able to take it with them and then pass it on to the next group.”
For Rosenthal, leading is not simply passing on knowledge. It’s also about creating a positive atmosphere and having fun.
“Coming into the season the way we did was tough,” he said. “We’ve pulled together as a team. I try to improve myself and work as hard as I can every drill, every practice. But I also want people to realize it’s a fun team, we have great camaraderie, and that’s what’s going to make a difference.”
In the water, Rosenthal serves as a veteran anchor on defense. By his own admission, Rosenthal is hardly the most imposing physical specimen in the pool. But part of what makes him so formidable is not only that he knows the ins and outs of the game, but he also knows his limitations and knows how to compensate.
“I’m not a very big guy, I never had very strong legs, and I’ve never been the strongest out there,” Rosenthal said. “I kind of adopted an unconventional way of playing d-hole where I don’t try to overpower the attacker, I just wait for a time to draw a foul or steal the ball. I’m not trying to block as much as I’m trying to slow their progression. I try to think ahead and understand the game and the play rather than trying to muscle through.”
Rosenthal’s thirst for knowledge and constant efforts to improve himself do not end on the pool deck. He loads up his academic schedule with AP and honors level courses, and thoroughly enjoys delving into new topics in hopes of becoming a more knowledgeable and well-rounded individual.
“Knowing as much as you can about everything around you helps in so many aspects of life,” he said. “And besides, I just tend to find learning fun. I never saw myself sitting around in study halls, I always try to stay busy. There are a lot of things that I’m interested in, so I want to explore all the courses that high school offers to see what really inspires me.”
Rosenthal is also very involved in extracurricular activities. He is an officer in the Mock Trial Club, is a member of the Speech and Debate Club as well as the National Honor Society, and is involved in the Friendship Circle, a club that he says helps give him a unique perspective on life and on helping others.
“Friendship Circle is an organization based on accepting kids with special needs into society,” Rosenthal said. “It’s a really good way to help people and also to get a really good outlook on how your life is completely different from other people and how important it is to give back and help others.
“Last year I was on the Leadership Board, this year I’m on the Mentor Board. We’re going to hold a walk fundraiser, a gala fundraiser. I’m excited. I like being able to take a big role in that organization.”
Rosenthal is still in the process of narrowing down his list of potential colleges. He knows he’d like to pursue engineering and would like to find a college in or near a large city. And if that college also offers the chance to play club water polo, that’s certainly a plus.
But that’s part of a future that has not yet come into focus for Rosenthal. For now, he’s determined to do whatever he can to help the Cardinals’ boys’ water polo team achieve its best season ever. Setting a new mark for wins in a season would be great. A berth in the state tournament would be a perfect ending for a young man who has given so much to the team.
Though odds are that Rosenthal’s presence on this team will be felt for years to come. His effect on his younger teammates is obvious, and Ianni fully believes that the underclassmen who are able to look at Rosenthal as a role model will step into the role themselves in the upcoming years. And just as Rosenthal has done, they will pass on what they’ve learned, adding their legacy to Rosenthal’s.
To make the team the best it can be.
“Ben is leaving an amazing legacy, I can see it in some of our younger players,” Ianni said. “Two or three of them are developing, and you can see they’re looking at him and they’re following his lead and they are very close behind him in leadership and motivation and inspiration.
“Without Ben leading the way, the team wouldn’t be as positive. He’s really leaving a legacy. He’s a kid who knows how to joke around and have fun, and he knows when it’s time to be serious. His hard work never goes unnoticed. He does everything to the best of his ability. And the rest of the team sees it and follows his lead. In terms of leadership and effort, we’re going to be in good hands, and a lot of that goes back to the example he sets every day.”