Jesus Villafranco Perez
Taylor Brooks’ day starts at 3 a.m. when the moon is still out, on their way to work at Starbucks in Goleta. From the look of it you would not be able to tell that the lead the state in goals is brewing your early morning coffee.
“Growing up going to swim practice was my getaway from life, the same for water polo,” said Brooks.
Brooks first heard about water polo from their high school swim coach and decided, like so many of their teammates, to give it a shot.
They began playing junior year of high school after the swim coach mentioned that everyone who does swimming does water polo.
“My junior year is when I actually started playing. I quit swimming and decided to play water polo full time,” they said. “I had never heard of it before and I had just moved to Hawaii. I wasn’t really super interested because my main focus was swimming at the time.”
Brooks, a sophomore from Honolulu, was named this year’s Western State Conference most valuable player, first-team All-Southern California and first-team All-American. They also hold the sole possession of the state leader in goals as well as breaking the City College record of 134 goals in a single season. They join Emma Fraser, who held the triple crown and City College record last season.
“In Hawaii, there isn’t club [teams], only high school so you only practice polo 4-6 months a year,” said Brooks about their previous experience. “Water polo in Hawaii is so much different. My high school pool was shallow which made it difficult to practice.”
Coach Brian “Chuckie” Roth is in his sixth season as the Vaqueros water polo head coach. He led the Vaqueros to their sixth consecutive Western State Conference title this November.
“Taylor’s improvement was tremendous. They were like a sponge with a bucket full of water,” Roth said. “I have to give a lot of credit to my assistant coach, Makenzy Fowler, who got in the water and taught Taylor how to be more physical and aggressive.”
“I’m lucky to have Chuckie, not all coaches have your best interest in mind,” said Brooks.
Brooks made the trek to Santa Barbara with one goal in mind: break records.
“When a player is as widely recognized as Taylor, you know the performance in the pool was really amazing,” said Athletic Director Rocco Constantino.
Brooks also leads the Vaqueros in most ejections (67) and steals (71) this season.
“They were arguably the best defensive and best offensive player in the state,” said Roth. “To beat the school record was amazing, I did not see that coming going into the season.”
They were unaware of the triple honors until meeting with The Channels, saying how it was a really cool honor and their hard worked felt noticed.
“It was really exciting, pushing myself, challenging myself, going to school full time, working full time, and water polo full time. Being able to accomplish these things are great,” Brooks said.
“Taylor had an incredible season for SBCC and deserved all of those honors,” Constantino said.
Brooks felt accomplished knowing that they could do everything that they wanted to and succeed.
“Taylor held down a very rigorous work schedule and supports themselves,” Roth said. “I was very proud to see their hard work in and out of the pool pay off.”
After the semester, Brooks will be hanging up their suit and will be moving to New York. They will be continuing their education online with Arizona State, through a program offered by Starbucks to its employees. The Starbucks College Achievement Plan assists all eligible U.S. partners, giving them the opportunity to receive 100% tuition coverage to Arizona State University.
“It’s kinda like ‘whoo, I did it’. I can really do anything, I proved it to myself,” Brooks said.
Taylor Brooks prefers to use they/them pronouns.