From A Knight to An Olympian

Julia Bonaguidi (‘23) talks about all her experiences playing on the National Team.


Cathy Morrison

“My long-term goals are to continue working hard and continue to make these rosters, and also I just want to try to just stay myself,” Julia said.

Leila Feldman, Editor-in-Chief

Since her freshman year, Julia Bonaguidi (‘23) has been a star on the Bishop’s Girls Varsity water polo Team. This past summer, she had the opportunity to compete with the Youth National Team all across Europe. After taking home the gold, she was officially called up to the water polo National Team to train for a month in Australia. The Tower sat down with her and talked to her about her experience at Bishop’s, with her family, and now, on the National Team. When Julia sat down on January 23rd with The Tower she was sporting two pigtail braids and had a friendly, calm, and lighthearted demeanor. 


Last summer you played with the youth national team: what did that teach you? 

It builds my confidence for future possible tournaments. I think obviously no matter what, playing internationally is going to be nerve-racking, but I think playing abroad is a whole different level. Water polo-wise, to play at that level and with a group of girls that you know work so hard and you get so close with the girls. It gets to a point where you are eating all your meals with these girls you’re constantly talking and having conversations, so you get to know the girls really really well. And then you come home and you’re eating breakfast alone and you miss them. 

When you were called up for the national team, what was that like? 

The craziest thing for me was I remember watching some of the exhibition games against Greece and Italy when I was younger with some of the girls that I just played with. So having that experience to play with actual Olympians, it’s honestly surreal, because I’ve looked up to these girls for so long — ever since I was nine years old. Water polo-wise, it’s just crazy to me that I could keep up with that level, and it’s crazy that I have the opportunity to. I’m very very very happy that I’ve got that experience. Whenever I’m playing internationally, I get texts from my family or my teammates or my coaches from back home. I know they are always supporting me back home, and I’m always appreciating that. It’s also summer [in Australia] so it’s warmer. 

What was the pipeline to your national team qualifying? 

I first started when I was, I don’t even know how old I was, but I started doing ODP [Olympic Developmental Program]  when I was younger, and I made a couple of rosters. Then I just followed the pipeline. When it got to the youth level, there’s something called the Academy which you get an invitation to and you train every other month or so. You train somewhere in SoCal or NorCal and they can roster you for a tournament like, youth worlds, for example. You just continue practicing, and then you practice abroad, and you play abroad. Then from there, you just continue getting invited to these practices and trainings. You get into that email you run into your mom’s room and you’re like “Mom, look at this email!!” 

Throughout my research about the water polo team, Head water polo Coach Doug Peabody has come up a lot; how has he shaped you into the player you are today?

This might get a little personal, but Doug has been there for me since I was like 8 or 9 years old. The reason that we even moved to the house that we live in now is because of Doug because it was closer to La Jolla, Bishop’s. He’s just supported me through all my decisions. Through all my water polo ups and downs, he’s just been there for me all the time, giving me advice and loving me like a daughter. I’ve always told Dougie this, and he knows this, not being a chess piece in somebody else’s game is nice because I feel like sometimes as a player you can feel like you’re just doing something because a coach tells you to do it. Rather, Dougie will encourage you to be your own player and make decisions for yourself. He also encourages all of us like a tremendous amount to be a good person. 

You have a wonderful relationship with your sister (Alex Bonaguidi (‘22)); tell me about that and has that changed with her being at college?

We support each other so much. We’re always on FaceTime together, and whenever she comes home [from college], we always have our little sleepovers. She’s my best friend, and I’m always going to support her at USC. We still talk about water polo all the time, with Alex and when it comes to water polo, it’s more like a check-in and a reflection on what I can improve or what I can do to help my team. So just having those conversations and having a person that has those conversations with is really helpful and supportive in itself. 

In your freshman year, you had many girls to look up to. How do you want to be the girl that the younger girls look up to? 

When I look back on the seniors that helped me through the process, they just constantly reminded me of the Bishop’s culture. At the end of the day, no matter what happens in the pool, you’re going to be family at Bishop’s — it’s not just like a regular team. You go through brutal swim sets, and you go to war with these people, and through that, you create this bond on and off the pool deck. I think I want to be remembered for maintaining that culture, that Bishop’s culture, and just also for encouraging my teammates to put in the work and really get into it.

How has the Bishop’s experience shaped you into the person and player you are today?

You can just see through the teachers and through coaches and like Ms. Shea and advisors everyone on campus is so supportive of each other even just like the students of one another having that support makes any environment so much easier and so much less stressful because it’s constant positive reinforcements. I think having that constantly, those little nuggets of motivation, keep me going. Bishop’s is filled with that crowd and that community.

Looking to your future career at the University of California, Berkeley (Cal) and onward, what are your long-term goals? 

For me, Cal was a school I visited a lot when I was younger, just by accident I guess. And for me, once it came to recruiting, Cal always felt like home. When you’re visiting colleges, you always have that gut feeling at one school and that was Cal for me. It also checked all my boxes — it was perfect. 

What are your long-term goals?

My long-term goals are to continue working hard and continue to make these rosters, and also I just want to try to just stay myself. I don’t want anything Cal-wise or water polo-wise to change me and shape me into a person I don’t want to become. Continue supporting my siblings and calling my mom when I’m gone. And what I’m going to do when I’m older? I have no clue, but I think that’s totally fine. 

Next year, you won’t be here anymore so what do you want to accomplish in your last season at Bishop’s? 

I think just staying positive. Every once in a while, teammates or even yourself can get down on yourself, and I think just continuing to take the knowledge I’ve acquired about mental health in sports from my experience with the national team, and [I want to] provide it and pass it on to the Bishop’s team. We had a mental skills coach with the National Team, and it was really nice some of the practices we did. I think CIF and obviously winning the league is a big thing in the Bishop’s program in water polo. We really want to compete with some of the Orange County teams and just show that we can hang at their level. [Orange County teams] say because we are Bishops in San Diego we kinda fall off, but they’re wrong.