As a veteran of two Summer Games and a third as a coach, the Olympic experience never grows old for Heather Moody.

But that doesn't mean each experience doesn't offer its own unique challenges and circumstances for the former standout women's water polo player and current U.S. assistant coach.

"It's a new journey to get there, and each team has it's own little characters," Moody said. "Every Olympics I've been to, I come away with a different feeling."

Moody, an assistant for this year's women's water polo team, will participate in her fourth Olympic Games as an athlete and coach. Even though Moody was born in Idaho, attended high school in New Mexico and played collegiately at San Diego State, Green River has always held a special place in the heart of one of the country's most accomplished women's water polo athletes.

"Wyoming is home," said Moody, whose parents, George and Laurie, still reside in Green River.

For Moody's mother, Laurie, she echoed that each Olympic games has a different feeling. There's no difference in how the family follows the team (they know the all players, they know the staff members) during the Olympics, and Laurie said it's been both scary and exhilarating watching Heather compete and coach.

But the dynamic is different watching her daughter on the sideline, as opposed to in the water. And she admitted to being a little more defensive as the parent of a coach.

"So much of it goes back on their [the coaches] shoulders," Laurie said of the successes and failures of the team. "Coaches get blamed for a lot of stuff they can't control. It's a different dynamic, that's for sure, but it's still pretty intense."

The family won't follow Heather to London this year (they've attended the previous three Olympics where Heather has competed/coached), and Laurie said she almost feels like she's betraying her daughter a bit by not attending. But even as badly as her parents wanted to see her keep playing -- "We just loved seeing her compete and she was so good," Laurie said -- they've also enjoyed watching Heather's success from the sidelines.

Heather Moody said she feel her biggest asset to the team and coaching staff is not just relaying her playing experiences, but also serving as a sounding board for Krikorian, who is coaching in his first Olympics.

"So that's where a lot of my contribution come in, is making sure [Krikorian] feels as prepared as possible," she said.

The U.S. opens pool play on Monday with a game against Hungary. Heather said the London Games will be the first time the tournament will use a full quarterfinal bracket round. While the U.S. enters ranked No. 6 in the world, the team is coming off a 4-0 tuneup performance against Hungary in California and is playing with good confidence heading into the games.

"It's going to be a very, very competitive field on the women's side," Heather Moody said. "But we're feeling very confident and we're trying to take it one game at time."

As a competitor, Moody won a silver medal at the 2000 Games and then followed that by captaining the U.S. to a bronze medal finish in 2004. Then as an assistant coach for the 2008 Olympic team, she helped lead the U.S. to a silver medal in Beijing.

In April 2010, she was named the head coach of the U.S. junior national team and has been a coach at every level of the U.S. women's national team, including a stint as interim head coach at the 2005 FINA World Championships. In addition to being a two-time United States Water Polo Player of the Year (1999, 2001), Moody was also one of the first women to be elected into the New York Athletic Club Hall of Fame, joining 2004 Olympic teammates Natalie Golda and Nicolle Payne in 2007 as the first three women to earn the distinction.

"It's not too often you get the opportunity to hire someone who has international experience as a captain, an assistant coach, and a head coach," USA women's water polo head coach Adam Krikorian said in a statement at the time of Moody's hiring two years ago.

Contact sports reporter Clint Robus at clint.robus@trib.com or 307-266-0615. Follow him on Twitter @ClintRobus

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