Pushing Forward: The Antifragile Identity of Jordan Raney

Jordan Raney

Pushing Forward: The Antifragile Identity of Jordan Raney

In three articles released by both USA Water Polo and On Her Turf, USA Women’s Water Polo athlete, Jordan Raney, has been featured as one of the most dedicated teammates. She has bravely shared her story and provided a first-hand perspective on her journey with the National Team.

Hailing from Manhattan Beach, Calif., Raney shared how water polo was not love at first sight. She is quoted in a piece published by USA Water Polo, saying: “I was being stubborn because my dad was pushing me so hard to try it because he played it, and I just refused because I wanted to be different.” 

However, after an early retirement from youth soccer because of a foot injury, she began playing full-time at the age of 13. Participating in the club water polo scene, playing first for Trojan Water Polo Club and then Huntington Beach Water Polo Club, she played under two 2008 Bejing Olympians. 

Attending Mira Costa High School, Raney was a standout player. She lettered all four years and won numerous championships, claiming the title of league MVP twice. Crediting her high school years with much of her foundation, Raney commented on the struggle of being a young, but talented player, saying: “You gotta earn their respect and show what you can do, and I think that I did a pretty good job of that in all those instances.” She became involved in the Olympic Development Program pipeline in 2011. From there, she only ascended. 

Off to Stanford University

Signing with Stanford University, Raney had nothing short of a historic freshmen season. She earned MPSF/KAP7 Newcomer of the Week honors a then league-record five times. Her immediate impact earned her the title of 2015 MPSF Newcomer of the year. 

This dominance on the collegiate stage continued for Raney. She earned MPSF first-team honors both her sophomore and senior years. Her junior year, she made made the honorable mention team. Also as a senior, she led Stanford in scoring at the NCAA Championships. She tallied 95 goals across four years and had 25 multi-goal games, finishing her senior season in 2018.

Six years after her start with Team USA and college career, the head national team coach called Raney up to the Senior National Team. She made her debut, en route to winning gold, at the FINA World League Super Final in Shanghai, China in June 2017. That’s where it all began: The rollercoaster of Team USA and Raney. 

Since 2017, she has traveled with the Senior National team to various tournaments and countries. She even represented the red, white, and blue at the World Championships. She participated in the first-ever international beach water polo tournament in 2019, where the USA squad took gold. 

Going for Gold

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USA’s Jordan Raney lining up a shot in competition this week in Princeton. Photo Courtesy: Sherie Key/USAWP

In January of this year, Raney shared part of her story as she looked to make the 2021 Olympic roster. In an article released by On Her Turf, she said: “I feel like I’ve always dreamed of going to the Olympics, almost in a way that I don’t know when the dream first began.” 

This dream fueled her passion, and though she affirmed the fact that there was no guarantee she would make the Olympic roster, Raney stated: “Am I afraid? Of course. But am I still going for it? Hell yes.” 

In the same article, Raney articulated how she used her time during quarantine to explore a new concept: Antifragile identity. Raney summed up this idea, saying: “In essence, the moment life becomes disrupted – even chaotic – it can actually be beneficial. Chaos is what you need to grow and flourish because it forces change.

“This is where antifragile identity comes into play. If I view my athletic persona as my only persona, I will be utterly devastated when it is gone. To be sure, I am chasing a really big life goal – representing the United States on the biggest world stage with my best friends – but I also have to remind myself that there is more to life than that singular goal. It is inevitable that – at some moment in the future – it will be time to pass the baton to the next generation of water polo players and pursue other passions. But my life will go on. So then – and now – I will maintain an antifragile identity, aiming to constantly reinvent myself.

Antifragile Identity

Little did Raney know how important this time reflecting on her journey and exploring herself on a deeper level would be. When the 2021 Olympic roster came out, her name was not on it. Raney was the last person to be cut from the roster. She was one of the 19. Then she was one of the 14. But she was not one of the 13. 

In a recollection of her emotions, she wrote in another article published by On Her Turf that she felt “completely in shock.” She stated: “It felt like the floor had dropped from under me. I had been so close, I could taste it. But then, the dream was gone.”

With great maturity, demonstrating just how impactful of a teammate she is, Raney expressed her pride in the group named to the Tokyo roster.

“They are a force to be reckoned with and the world – not just the water polo world – better be ready,” she said. “They are capable of whatever they, as a unit, set their mind to.” 

Addressing the letdown surrounding her own personal goals, Raney said the following: “Looking back on my five years on the National Team, I would do it all over again if given the chance. Without hesitation.” 

Some may question this unwavering commitment, to which Raney answers: “Success is putting yourself on the line. Challenging yourself to be the best. Giving your best day in and day out. Making the best of your God-given talents. Even though I didn’t accomplish my goal, I competed. I still learned a great deal about myself. I discovered how to be mentally tough, develop a growth mindset, express sympathetic joy, acquire an antifragile identity, and cultivate resilience, along with many other attributes that will stay with me throughout my life.”

Continuing to Strive

There it is again: antifragile identity. Raney has truly embodied that statement, throughout quarantine and throughout the trial of missing the cut of the National Team. She continues striving, remaining forward-focused.