As I sit here writing this, I am icing my leg after taking a couple Aleve and doing what I can to recover from the first Water Polo tournament I’ve played in almost 10 years.

Yeah, playing this sport I’ve played most of my life isn’t the same thing at 30 as it was at 20. Especially when the rest of my teammates were (mostly) born after 2000.

I’m not as fast or as strong as I was before, and certainly don’t have the endurance to play four full seven minute long quarters, but I do have one thing going for me.

I’m way better at reading people.

Years of working in politics and in public relations does that. You learn to look for what voters, donors, reporters want and capitalize, jumping on the exact right moment, right issue to drop a piece of oppo or make a critical announcement that catapults your issue to the top of the discussion.

I felt it in the pool over the weekend. Despite a screaming hip muscle (an old high school injury) and noodle arms that felt lifeless after back and forth sprints, the experience I’ve developed from years of reading people and playing this game helped me push through.

You see it all happening in slow motion – a player catches a pass and immediately looks around (they don’t want to shoot, get in the passing lanes), a player is covered but starts yelling for the ball (player thinks they have a mismatch, get ready to help my teammate defending them), my teammate has a mismatch on a smaller player (get ready to sprint on the breakaway when they get the steal).

It is an exercise in strategic thinking in high stress situations with little time to react, a skill set that, while not unique to campaign work, is honed with each and every campaign. Every late night reporter text asking for a quote, every breaking news story that requires a full court press to capitalize on, and every tough interview question that requires a deft pivot helps prepare the mind to find a solution and find it fast.

And yes, I did net myself a couple goals over the weekend (and didn’t drown in the process).

-Justin Giorgio