When Amanda Willson transferred to Cal Poly in 2003, the school’s water ski club team was virtually nonexistent.
It had no boat and only six members.
That year, Willson became the club’s president and essentially restarted the team. She raised enough money to purchase its first boat and watched the beginning of the team’s growth.
Willson’s involvement with the team continued over the next three years and helped lead the team to where it is today.
The National Collegiate Water Ski Association (NCWSA) recognized Willson’s contributions to the team, both on and off the water, by naming her the 2006 NCWSA Most Valuable Female Skier of the Year.
“The award is for the skier who has done the most for their team and the growth of the sport, along with their actual performance,” Willson said.
Willson was given the award because of her impact on the growth of the Cal Poly team and her involvement as the club president for two years, the regional treasurer for two years and most recently the secretary for the national board.
“Amanda has been a crucial part in getting the team to the point it’s at today,” said Cal Poly water ski team president Colin Gibbs.
She was also chosen for her performances, especially in trick skiing, that made her a standout on the team. Last spring, Willson was selected to the Western Region All-Star team.
“It’s hard to separate myself from the team, but individually it was really cool to go to all stars,” she said. “It was a personal accomplishment that I really enjoyed, but when it comes to the moments I’m most proud of, my biggest accomplishment is, by far, where the team is today.”
Willson, who taught lessons at the Coble Water Ski School in North Carolina for the past two summers, also contributed to the team by helping her teammates with their technique.
“She helped us out with her own scores, but she also contributed a lot by helping others improve their scores,” Gibbs said.
The team, which has more than 40 members, has it pretty rough at the moment – it has no coach, no jump to practice on, only one skier who has skied in tournaments before college and little funding from the school.
“I think the reason why our team is so great is because it’s everybody’s efforts that lead us to our success,” Willson said. “Our team would not be nearly as successful if everybody didn’t contribute. We don’t have a coach. We don’t have someone helping us. Everything is pretty much self-taught.”
Despite this, they remain competitive and have improved from 10th to sixth in their region. The team recently made its first appearance at nationals where it placed fifth and became the first Division II school ever to win the Most Spirited Award.
“For me, going to nationals this year was perfect, it was everything accumulated,” Willson said. “We couldn’t have gotten there if we didn’t have the boat to practice. Getting the boat took hours of fundraising and hard work and everybody sacrificing. Instead of being out water skiing, we were doing fundraisers.”
Willson is finishing up her commercial recreation degree with an internship for USA Water Ski in Florida.
“I’ve been so involved with waterskiing for the last four years that it’s hard to imagine not still being involved,” she said. “I wouldn’t have been able to get the job if it wasn’t for all the experience I got with the team. Hands down, the team is the reason I got the job.”