Pope Francis met with a water polo team Thursday and shared a message about the importance of teamwork.

“Your sport, water polo, is not easy, but it is interesting. It takes discipline to move forward,” Pope Francis told Pro Recco, one of the most successful water polo teams in Italy, during a meeting in the Apostolic Palace April 22.

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.

The team is made up of multiple Olympic athletes, including an American, Ben Hallock, who hopes to be a part of the U.S. men’s national team in the Tokyo Olympics this summer.

“When I speak with athletes, I say the same thing. I say two things. Teamwork is the first thing,” the pope said.

“In sport, the biggest defeat for an athlete is to work, to play alone.”

Pope Francis said that his second piece of advice to athletes was not to lose the amateur spirit of sport because this is the true source of the “mystique of sports.”

“That little bit of amateur that must always be there,” he added.

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The water polo team from Liguria, northern Italy, gave Pope Francis a pennant signed by each of the athletes. One player also gifted the pope a water polo cap for the Argentine national team.

It was the second papal audience in the team’s history. Pope Pius XII also met with the Pro Recco team in 1957. Team president Maurizio Felugo also participated in that audience 64 years ago.

“It was a historic day that we will cherish forever. We thank the Holy Father for the profound words and affection with which he received us,” Felugo said after the audience, according to the Italian newspaper Settimana Sport.

/ Vatican Media
/ Vatican Media

“In such a difficult period, his figure is a beacon that illuminates our path, which is made up of joy, passion, but also of sacrifice. His testimony will strengthen even more the social values that accompany our commitments, both as athletes and as people, in everyday life."