Adam Parkinson didn't feel it was his place to speak up with veteran leaders guiding the team the previous three years.
As a senior captain this season, he felt the timing was right to lead his Kearns boys water polo teammates.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Parkinson led the Cougars to their ninth consecutive state championship with a 12-8 victory over Cottonwood at the Kearns Oquirrh Park Fitness Center.
"I've been quiet about [leading] up until this year," Parkinson said. "I didn't want to be the talker when there were players older than me. You have to know the plays we're running and make sure we're all on the same page. You react to what the defense is doing. I'm pretty comfortable taking control."
That's exactly what Parkinson, 18, did for the Cougars this season. He was named the boys state MVP. Playing the point position on offense, his responsibilities included calling out plays and seeing the entire field of play. He also was a center defender, tasked with guarding the opposing team's top scorer.
"He definitely helped everybody get better," Kearns coach Brad Peercy said. "They'll be better players for having played with him. The last couple of years, he was a more defense-focused player. We had other guys who could score. This year, he stepped up on offense and became more of a scorer.
"There was more opportunity and a need for the team to be a scorer. He got himself more involved. He's an all-around excellent player."
Parkinson, a nine-year veteran of the sport, began playing water polo in third grade after watching his older brother, Matthew, play with his friends. He loved the sport so much that he quit soccer and track to focus on playing it.
"I like the fact that it's challenging in every possible way," he said. "It's the toughest part of each sport all put into one. I'm honored to represent the sport."
By the time he was a freshman at Kearns, the winning tradition already had been established. Parkinson and his teammates sought to maintain those high standards of excellence each season, and he ended up continuing the tradition.
"Honestly, Coach Peercy is the best coach I've ever had," Parkinson said. "He starts with teaching the fundamentals to young kids. That's how the program has done so well. Each year had its own special part to it. It's a lot different from when I was a freshman, not starting with the team and still learning to play."
Parkinson, who has played and trained with youth zone and national teams over the years, has enjoyed sharing his knowledge of the sport with others. A multiple-time all-state player, he is someone others look to for support.
"He's got a very smart awareness of what's going on a lot higher than other players," Peercy said. "This year I was most impressed with his leadership."
Parkinson plans to serve an LDS mission beginning this year, then play water polo at University of the Pacific in California after returning.
"At first, I thought it was kind of cool," Parkinson said about the MVP honor. "But now I realize that coaches voted on it, and they see that I'm a good player. It builds me up but at the same time humbles me."
UtahWaterPolo.com all-state teams
First team • Jackson Greene, Murray; Nate Peercy, Kearns; Branden Johnson, Tooele; Brendan Nguyen, Cottonwood; Tristan Spoerri, Kearns; Curt Simons, Cottonwood
Second team • Kyle Darling, Hunter; Jayden Beardal, Murray; Jarom Chamberlain, Olympus; Jacob Jones, Cottonwood; Koji Aoki, Cottonwood; Mitchell Walker, Kearns; Jordan Dahle, Cottonwood; Mason Dial, Kearns
Honorable mention • Bryce Pearson, Kearns; Andy Anderson, Cottonwood; Michael Herzog, Cache Valley; Peter Imlay, Tooele; Tyler Nielson, Murray; David Amirkhanashvili, Olympus; Connor Holt, Murray
MVP • Adam Parkinson, Kearns
Co-coaches of the year • Brad Peercy, Kearns; Brandton Ferrin, Cottonwood