Friday, July 16, 2010

Home Between the Painted Lines

I spent 20 of my 25 years between the lines with my sister Sarah. From the beginning, number 4 and 5, me and Sarah, Sarah and Rachel, were stuck in the middle - we were stuck in the middle of a family of 8, stuck in the middle of the painted lines - the painted lines on the dirt, on the grass, on the wooden planks and on the green turf.

I spent 20 of my 25 years in between the painted lines, the painted lines that joined to form the structure of a house that became the foundation of a home - the home of two sisters, Sarah and Rachel, the home of two athletes.

We spent our childhood in between the painted lines building our home. And our home became more than home - it was a place of fierce competition, a battlefield of stubborn wills. Our home was a place of joy and fun; a playground of laughter and dreams.Our home was a place of peace and spirituality, a sanctuary of quiet prayer. And as we grew up, our home became our office, a place of work and diligence.

Home was more than home - it was a battlefield, a playground, a santuary, an office - but home was always home in between the painted lines with my sister Sarah.

And today, Sarah left home. She left our home between the painted lines forever. And when she drove away in her shiny black Murano, a part of me drove away with her. Home will never be the same without her.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Image Redefined - Profile on Keli Puza (Smith)

Image Redefined

United States Olympian, Current National Team Member, and Mom, Keli Puzo is revolutionizing the image of the American Hockey Athlete

Eighteen years from now, Xavi Puzo like many American teenagers will head off to college. He will be a handsome, bilingual young man embarking on his college journey with a fire in his eyes – a fire that is born of his roots, Pennsylvania and Barcelona, and bred of his modernly iconic and vibrant parents, Keli Smith and Inako Puzo.

And if the oracles have their way, the fire in his eyes will set ablaze the teenaged promise land of dorm rooms, late night ‘study’ sessions, cafeteria food, and freedom.
The oracles know, because they, like many in the USA Field Hockey community, have witnessed the very same force of fire in the eyes of Keli Puzo as she has set ablaze the traditional image of an ‘American Field Hockey Player’ and redefined it.

Mother. Wife. Athlete. Determined, Competitor. Who is Keli Puzo?

Before matches, she straightens her blond hair, and accents her do with a pair of silver earrings. Entering the match field before competition, Brine stick and shinnies in hand, her gait is casual, not a blasé casual, but a confident, empowered casual. She wears a smile on her face. And as her earrings accent her hair, the determination of her smile accents the ferocity of her eyes.

Her guise - hair, earrings, smile and gait, don’t fool you – because one look in her eyes and you know - Keli Puzo is the ultimate competitor. She wants to win.
It is her fearless desire to succeed that has propelled her hockey career from the fields of Selingsgrove, Pa to the turf of the University of Maryland, and to the hockey pitches of Barcelona, Spain. Her relentless determination has morphed her into one of the premier leaders and strikers on the American team.

On the field, Keli’s striker role is twofold – one could view them simply as attacking and defensive roles – but a true competitor, like Keli, views her roles purposefully. On the attack, her purpose is to eliminate the opposition. And on defense, her aim is to get the ball back.

In both roles, Keli finds pleasure bringing confusion, chaos and absolute misery to the opposition’s backfield. When in possession of the ball, Keli uses her dynamic change of speed and direction to get in behind defenders. She is a powerful goal scorer who positions herself properly, low and strong, in front of the cage prepared to win any ball in whichever manner the situation necessitates – she will body-up, quick-step, or dive to hear the clang of the ball against the boards.

And when her team doesn’t succeed in hearing that celebrated noise, and instead loses possession, Keli defends relentlessly with one purpose in mind whether in a tackle-back, a double-team, a recovery run, or on the press – win the ball back. And funny enough, she usually succeeds. Keli’s style of play emanates her passion for the sport of hockey. She fights brilliantly because she simply loves the game. And Keli plays hockey the same way she lives - with a resilient passion to succeed and to enjoy life.

So it should be no surprise that she and her husband, Inako Puzo, joined their passion for hockey with the celebration of their marriage hosting a 2 v. 2 World Cup playing exhibition for their guests. The event, might I say, was a thrilling, sport-socializing success.

But that sort of thing is what you have come to expect from Keli Puzo. She takes an idea and makes something of it.

So in the iconic fashion of a revolutionary – Keli Puzo made something new of the traditional image of an American hockey player in May when she made her comeback to the ranks of the Red, White and Blue in a test series against Argentina at American University only a few months after having a son.

Young Xavi Puzo joined his mom and her teammates on tour in the American University dorms, because new priorities and responsibilities didn’t mean, as some may suppose, that Keli had to let go of her competitive passion and talent for the sport of hockey.

Instead, Keli has heroically redefined the image of an American Hockey Player, balancing her new family roles with a role she has played her entire life – athlete.

So eighteen years from now, as Keli hugs her son and sets him off upon his college journey, she will tearfully chuckle at a distant memory - Xavi has already experienced and survived dorm-life - in May 2010 at American University while his Mom made her comeback to international hockey competition.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Logan of Red and The Shadow of Dread

And sail they did, through the night. Through the night by the moonlight.

And when the morning broke, and when the children awoke, it was Logan in Red, who first spoke.

“As you, my comrades, slept, I served my duty, and peace I kept. For in the night upon us fell a terrible fright. A monster, a goon, an alien of the moon, the worst sort of undelight; it was a villain of the most gruesome sight.

Where it came from, I cannot say, but the events unfolded in quite a peculiar way. It had begun in the dream, or so it seemed, for all was well, the sea sat calm, without the slightest swell. For we, the courageous four, had just set sail from the bay’s shore. Traveling for a time, slowly did we unwind, beneath the stars and moon, trusting danger did not loom.

It was I standing at the mast, when a shadow upon me was cast. I thought nothing of it, a shadow of the night; that was it. But then, as I stood by the sail, suddenly, in my right ear, I heard a piercing wail. So to my left I did turn, and a shadow I did discern. The shadow nearer towards me it crept, and into my ear, its voice slowly stepped.

‘Logan of Red, I have come for you, the boy of valor and fast stead. So stop your dreaming, child of red, and come away with me so we can start our scheming. Because this I know, that you my boy, have a powerful glow, and I can give you an arrow and bow, and your strength to the world you will show.

“Come boy. Come.” The shadow eeirily sung. “Now boy Now. Any more time, and you will surely fail.” And what was I to do, I thought. The shadow seemed to have me caught. Oh, the arrow and the bow, how I longed for it you can only know. The choice left me quite distraught, and inside myself I silently fought.

What was I to do? If only the future I could preview. So out to the sea, my eyes projected, and in the water the truth reflected, for suddenly I knew as my eyes perceived the slightest hint of blue what it was that I was meant to do.

The shadow had stood silent waiting for a while, as I, Logan of Red, remained my soul’s pilot, thinking how violent, how vile. What was this monster that came to distract me from my task, and doubt of myself how he had longed to cast.

He had come to destroy the bond of the Courageous Four, so I said to him, “I will hear your words, no more. For, only tonight, have we left the shore pursuing what is right, searching for a cure. A cure to save the baby in blue and to this I, Logan of Red will be true.”

The voice was dangerously quiet. Then the sea stirred, and I sensed the brewing of a riot. Then the voice yelled, I am a soul-less pirate!!!!

That was when I knew that a battle would ensue. So I closed my eyes and thought of the Baby in Blue. And strength he gave me, to defeat the soulless pirate of the sea.

“Now, here I stand, the morning after, thankful that we survived what could have been disaster if I had chosen to serve the selfish master. ”

“And thankful so, are we to you, Logan of Red, for the honor of what you do and the truth of your words said.” Replied Kylie of Pink as Logan let out a tired sigh.

“Now let us make you a bed, where you may rest your brave little head. And strength from respite may your mind find, after surviving such a daunting grind. For on our course, by way of boat, train, or horse, we shall continue, all in the name of the Baby in Blue.

And with that, William of Green gave Logan’s back a soft pat, and Ellis of Yellow tipped towards him the tip of his hat.

And together, for a moment, the Courageous Four silently sat looking out to the serene sea wondering what their destiny would come to be.

But they worried not, for if one thing in the night to them had been taught, it was that happiness, even from a soulless pirate could not be bought. Perhaps, instead, like a book unread, it should be a purpose sought.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Courageous Four

Four pairs of legs dangled over the dock, while the minds of four children were entranced by the ticking tock of the bays clock. Bored and tired these four children had become, because it seemed their great plan was slowly coming undone.

All day long, the four children had sat by the bay, patiently waiting for their ship to come so they could sail away. For today they had intended, to sail to world’s never known, and never pretended.

But the sun had slowly faded, and their eagerness, like month old milk, had become dated.

The youngest Ellis of Yellow leaned upon William of Green who sat nestled, as if in bed, beside Logan of Red. And all of them rested upon, Kylie of Pink who carried upon her shoulders the weight of the kitchen sink.

She thought, “How has this day become so long? I cannot remember when the sun last met the breaking dawn. Nearer now seems that the sun shall be set. And, oh no, oh no, the goal of our task is not yet met. What, now, shall we do? Will we be able to save the baby in blue?

The growing doubt made her pout. But the day had not always been this way. They had set upon their adventure with the eagerness of four children at play.

In the early hours before noon, they sang songs in the cheeriness of an inspired tune telling stories so true, of the little baby who had come wrapped in a blanket of blue.

But for a while, the singing had stopped. And all they heard was the ticking of the clock.

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. The dock rocked. The children lulled. Their spirits dulled. From each other and the task, they were pulled. Away. Away. Away. With what reason had they started the day?

Then all of a sudden, the voice of the youngest started budding. And like a young flower the voice grew, and the attention of the elders, it drew.

Slowly, the sound became profound. And little Ellis of yellow, with a voice deep and loud, both loud and proud, sang about the quest they knew, the quest to save the baby in blue.

“Oh little baby, strong, strong, strong, in this world may you play, long long long. For it is the quest of the Courageous Four to find the healing cure that will give you strength to endure, dure, dure.

We, the Courageous Four, are sure, that life, for the baby in blue, has tons more in store. So baby of blue, we, the Courageous Four have come to save you.

It is I, Ellis of Yellow, an interesting and artsy fellow, the son of sunshine, who must keep the spirit high in low tide.

And Logan of Red, a boy bold of heart, who has become the protector of peace, defending us from danger right from our journeys start.

And William of Green, a boy curious, wise and smart, is our man of mind, the scientist who will guide us with reason through the duration of our journey’s time.

And last of the four, is Kylie, the lady of pink, a girl bold enough to think without the slightest eye’s blink that we four children can achieve our mission so long as we believe that what we do will save the Baby in Blue.

So trust, trust is a must, as we sit on the cure’s cusp. Little baby in blue, this we ask, stay strong, strong, strong, so long, long, long that we are on our task. For we dream of a day when the Four will become Five. And that means, Baby in Blue, that you are still alive. ”

Ellis of Yellow had uttered the final word, and the silence of night was the only sound left to be heard. And in the silence, the four children found relief, for they found a renewed sense of belief.

So the Courageous four let go of the day, the day they sat by the bay waiting for the ship that had never come to take them away.

And letting go was for the best, because now, quite at peace, on the dock, the children came to rest.

And as they rested, high up in the sky, the moon was shining bright, shining its light down upon four dreaming children sailing away in the night.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Day and Night: The Looking Glass Perspective

The reflection in the looking glass - it is a contradiction of sorts, for how can a thing appear to be completely itself while being the complete opposite of itself.

The looking glass creates, what appears to be, an illusion. The illusion is created by the looking glass’s reflexive, almost magic, properties that enable a person to perceive a clear image of self.

In life, sometimes, we encounter people whose presence provides us with this reflexive perspective. A contradictory perspective, so to speak – of something being the opposite and the same.

If our lives were Shakespearan plays, we would call these people our character foils - a person who is quintessentially different yet remarkably the same as the other. And because of these contrasts and parallels, foils provide a lens for creating a more definitive image of a person.

It was 5 am Tuesday May 11. Sleepy-eyed, and sleep deprived, a mob of blue-Asic clad zombies (also known as Hockey players) slowly trickled their way to the American Airlines check-in desk at the San Diego Airport.

At 5:05 am, the elevator doors open.

In walk, Day and Night. Both stand a little over 5 feet tall. Day’s shoulder length, sandy brown hair is pulled back into a tight, perfect, ponytail. Her shirt is pressed, the collar folded over and the edge tucked into her dark blue jeans.

Night stands beside her. Her long bleach blond hair lies in a tousled mess of a side bun. Her shirt, wrinkly fresh, looks as though it came right out of her travel bag; the collar, like Night’s hair, goes in every direction. I was unable to see if Night’s shirt was tucked in, because I was distracted by her jeans - fade-washed, zipped, frayed, black Joan-Jett skinny jeans.

I look back to Day and her dark blue, simple, jeans. Day and Night are polar opposites, I thought.

Or are they?

At 6:20pm Thursday May 13th, as the USA plays Argentina, two players substitute into the game for their first international cap for the Red, White and Blue.

Onto the field run Day and Night.

Onto the field run Marta Malmberg and Kelsey Kolojejchijck. Only now, their differences aren’t as pronounced.

And it is not because of the uniform.

It is because of the look in their eyes.

It’s the look of determination. The look of pure, relentless determination to succeed. Whether that means defending Luciana Aymar, the reigning best player in the world, or running a fifty yard tackle back to break up a dangerous counter attack.

The same raw fuel burns inside Day and Night. The raw passion to fight – to scratch, to sprint, to dive – the passion to do whatever it takes in order to prove that they belong.

Marta Malmberg and Kelsey Kolejejchijck, Day and Night, on the surface appear to be opposites, but if you take a deeper looker, maybe they are more alike than then they appear.

Or maybe not. Kelsey will continue to wear her Joan-Jett jeans and Marta her Gap-esque ones.

But somewhere, in the counters of their reflection, you see the image of the unyielding, competitive fire burning inside both of them.

Congratulations Kelsey and Marta.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Voice

This is my first draft of a video submission to become the next Nike Field Reporter for Nike Women dot com. Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

What I Learned in the Land of Orange

For one night, and one day, the world turned orange. The people gathered in the small cobble-stoned streets of the city by the sea to hail the queen of the little land. And they all wore her color. The color of her passion, red, combined with the color of her lightness, yellow, to create the symbolic Dutch color of the Royal House of Orange.

And so, on this night, April 30th, as they do every year, the army of orange amassed in the streets of the Queen’s city, Den Haag, smiling and dancing, embracing their freedom.

And for what purpose did the people dance?

Well, in anticipation of the birthday of the Queen’s mother. For, in a time not too long ago, the former Queen Julianna (mother of the current Queen Beatrix) on her “verjaardag” gave her people a gift - she gave them the gift of celebration. And by sharing the celebration of her birthday with the people of her land, she broke the barrier between the Royals and the common man.

And now, as this holiday known as Queen’s Night and Day has become embedded in the vibrant tradition of the Dutch, it seems to have evolved – for there seems to be nothing to celebrate other than celebration itself.

And celebrate, the Dutch do. My own eyes have beheld their spectacular celebration as they swarm the small, cultured, historic streets of their nation with the wreckless, happy, abandon of people content to be alive.

I have seen how, in the backyard of Van Gogh, and before the steps of the Rijks treasure chest, the people cluster to hear the trumpeting beats of a modern day music master; not Bach or Beethoven, but DJ Tiesto. I saw how, as the bass boosted sounds vibrated the ground, the people of orange floated happily through the air.

It was as my body perceived the sensation of the celebration, as my ears trembled to the beat of the dance and as my hues of red and yellow melted into orange, that I realized the people of this little land by the North Sea have let me in on a secret.

The secret of life. The secret of pushing its boundaries by living freely for oneself while sharing the celebration of oneself with others.

For this world, turned orange, is the world that made me become myself.

It’s interesting that one of the most common mistakes Dutch people make when speaking English is in the use of the verbs “to learn” and “to teach.” For example, if I were to teach someone something, they may say, “Rachel learned me that,” instead of “Rachel taught me that.”

On one occasion, I asked the reason, and I was told that there is no equivalent in the Dutch language for the English verb “to teach.” At the time, I took this answer for what it was, and questioned no further.

Now though, as I reflect back on my two year experience in Holland, I find the absence of the verb, “to teach” very significant. For nothing can be taught that cannot be learned. The act of teaching is meaningless unless what is being taught is learned, and only the receiver of the teaching is empowered to learn the lesson of the teaching.

So essentially, teaching is futile unless the individual learns the information. So the word to teach could be deemed meaningless.

(Sorry, if I have confused you with this brief exploration into the philosophy and logic of language, but I found this concept incredibly relevant to my Dutch experience.)

You see, I had been taught many lessons through out my life - wise nuggets of valuable information about how best to live - but since I had never learned these lessons for myself, I had never been able to live by them.

But, learning is a journey and in the past two years I have pursued that journey, knowing that I will never be, as long as I am alive, fully-wise. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t travel the course of becoming so.

In two years, I have learned a little bit more about life, and the importance of embracing it and sharing it. I learned that I had to get to know myself, so that I could live for myself and ultimately, share myself with others.

When I left America for the first time in September of 2008, I didn’t really know myself. And in order to learn who I was I had to explore the limits of who I could be. And that took time, courage, mistakes, openminded-ness, and persistence.

At first, in Holland everyone was a foreigner to me, as I was even a foreigner to myself.

Now, now, though, something is different. I trace back through the last two years. I have danced with them on the streets celebrating their royalty; I have eaten with them in their homes; Shared laughs with them over drinks; Embraced them with American hugs; I have allowed them to see me, at my finest, and my worst.

Yes indeed. Now, something has changed. I realize, I realize that these people who once were just foreigners to me; now, now, they are my friends.

Their friendship has changed me. Because neither them, nor I, had to open up. We didn’t have to become friends. But we did. We shared our lives, our thoughts, and most of all our laughter. It is the friendship I found here, in this little land by the sea, that has enabled me to grow into myself.

And in knowing myself, I have learned that we are enhanced not by our similarities but by our differences. So we must accept who we are, share it, and celebrate it. Whether we wear Orange or not.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Lessons from an Earthquake

On Easter Sunday a 7.2 earthquake rocked Baja, Mexico; a few miles away in Chula Vista, California, the reverberations shook the home of six women who had gathered with their teammates, friends, and family to celebrate the holiday.

To these six women the powerful Baja quake seemed like an aftershock - an aftershock to the shattering blow that reality had delivered a day prior to their dream of proving themselves as world contenders in their sport.

Reality stung. They had failed in their conquest. They lost the game.

Two tectonic plates shifted against each other – the tectonic plates of incongruous dreams and realities. And the result was that the ground trembled beneath their feet as the sturdiness of their dream was compensated.

Would the dream buckle under the duress?

Like that home in Chula Vista, they swayed and shook, but in the end, they remained in place. They did not crumble. Because the structure of their dream had been built, like most Californian homes, to withstand the duress of an earthquake.

Now, after a week and a half, the major aftershocks of the quake have subsided. And the time has come to re-assess, re-analyze, reinforce, and where needed, reformulate.

The duress of the quake revealed the weaknesses and inefficiencies of their foundation. Crucial changes would be absolutely necessary to re-strengthen this foundation – and only from a properly re-solidified fortress would growth become possible.

And trust me, as one of those six women who experienced the quake, the aftershock phase has not been easy. While the major, blunt aftershocks have ended, the subtle minor ones continue to creep upon me at the most un-threatening time. These aftershocks force me to scrutinize the deficiencies both me and my country face in the sport of hockey.

Sometimes I wish I could live in ignorance of these deficiencies - in the blissful, excuse-making ignorance of my shortcomings. But the truth is, I will never experience the sporting reality I want, if I don’t confront these weaknesses. So if I, and we, choose to carry forward in pursuit of our dream, we must be completely honest with ourselves.

That is why, in the days after the quake, I scheduled my flight to return to Holland to finish the 2010 competition with the Hockey Club Klein Switzerland.

To tell you the truth, I didn’t want to return. I was tired, disappointed, and angry. And the last thing I could imagine was going back to Holland to face the reality that America was just not good enough to make it to the World Cup. This reality starkly contrasted against the reality of how good the Dutch are, and how strong the Hockey infrastructure (club system) is in Holland.

My mom would say, this is a character builder. I don’t know if this built my character or defined it. But I knew I needed to go back to Holland. And now that I am here, I know I made the right decision. But it hasn’t been easy.

In my first match back, my side, who is still in the hunt for the last playoff spot, beat OZ (Orange Black) 4-2. After the final whistle, exhausted from the battle and my travels, I walked numbly off the field. I went straight into the club’s change room, and sat on my bench. As my chest folded over my legs, my eyes filled with tears. One thought came to mind - I wish I could have helped the USA get this result a week earlier.

The artist in me loves the poetic justice of the situation. I guess this is life. This is sport. And the song will go on, as long as we play on.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Monday, April 5, 2010

A Guest Post Featuring Hannah R. Dawson

I wanted to say Thank you to my sister Hannah for contributing this great piece. Writing must be a family skill because she has composed such a beautiful, funny, and thoughtful piece.

At first, I didn't want to post this on my blog, but blog's are all about sharing, and I want to share with you my sister's moving words. Thank you so much, Hannah.

(Note - as the owner of this blog, I have given my commentary IN CAPS on Hannah's words)

Rachel’s 100th


(Couldn’t think of a catchy title)

Walking into practice, I hear the voice of one of my coaches, “Hey did you hear about Rachel?” In my mind I’m running through the list of sisters, Natalie, Sarah, Rachel. Okay so I keep thinking what is so special about Rachel that I didn’t know? Still I am thinking, her birthday isn’t until August; she’s single (ANY INTERESTED TAKERS??), so she’s not engaged or expecting for that matter. Time ran out, my coach’s voice started pouring out with enthusiasm, “She got her 100th cap yesterday verse Canada and scored two goals!” I mean I knew this, but why didn’t I remember (MAYBE B/C YOUR MIND RACES EVEN FASTER THAN YOU TALK)? I really felt like a horrible sister (THIS BLOG MAKES UP FOR IT).

I am not sure if anyone knows the “real” Rachel, sometimes I don’t think she knows herself (HAHA - YOU HAVE A POINT). When she sits behind her blog she is a writer. When she’s behind her camera she’s an artist. When she is in the classroom, she is a business major. When she is on the field, she is a hockey player. So who really is Rachel?

Although if there is one thing consistent in Rachel’s life it’s that she’s a competitor. She was the only girl allowed to play wiffleball on holidays with all of the men in the family. She challenged her older brothers in football throws and batting practice in the back yard. She helped out in the family business, landscaping, pulling weeds, mowing the lawn, etc (DON'T FORGET DRIVING THE BATCO & PICKUPS). Rach soon earned the name “Ray.(AT LEAST YOU DIDN'T TELL THEM ABOUT MY NICKNAME BOOM)” Through middle school you even caught Rach wearing her brothers clothes (SARAH DID TOO), she now jokes around that she was the third boy.

Once high school hit, Rachel became someone different. Before leaving the house, she at least looked in the mirror ten times. Her brown curly hair bounced off her shoulders with a splash of make-up (THANKS FOR MAKING MY FRO SOUND GLAM). However, Rachel always kept quiet (THATS B/C YOU WERE ALWAYS TALKING). She didn’t really say much, she didn’t have too. She left everything she felt on the court and the field. What she did out there substituted for everything she might’ve wanted to say. She was relentless, tenacious, and gritty, but within her eager fight she remained graceful, fluent, and elegant. These two opposite feelings clustered together explain everything there is to know about Rachel Dawson (SHE IS A CONTRADICTION?).

Rachel is all about being pro-active instead of reacting (BECAUSE I KNOW I DON'T REACT WELL WHEN THINGS DON'T GO THE WAY I INTENDED). She takes problems head first instead of trying to get around them. She does not hide, she seeks (LOVE THE PLAY ON WORDS HANNAH). She encounters life('S) struggles and hardships with a smile. She strives on challenges and feeds off upbeat energy. And in each and every scenario, Rachel finishes on top (HAHA) with no regrets because she knows she has given every piece of herself to that particular moment to make the best of it and due to those efforts, whether it’s receiving an A in a statistics (WHICH I ACTUALLY GOT AN A MINUS IN) class or loosing to Korea in the world cup qualifying match, she does not bow her head instead she looks up for the next challenge that awaits her.

If there is one thing she has taught me in the game of field hockey, which has carried over to the game of life it is, “the girl or the ball.” Which is true about Rachel, this little saying coincides with her everyday life also. (IS THIS SUPPOSED TO BE FUNNY???) There is nothing that’s going to stop her from getting what she wants. Whether it’s that A in her class or the win in any match, she will push, pull, shove, and kick for what she wants until she has it.

So when Rachel is ready to unplug her computer, close her camera, shut her books, and hang her jersey all up for good, she will look back to all of what she’s done and not have an ounce of regret.

This 100th cap is something she will always be proud about and recognize as a great accomplishment, but right now it’s about what and how her team and herself will do to become number one in the world (HOW WILL WE RESPOND??). To many it sounds like a far-reaching goal, but to Rach, it’s just another days hard work on the field.

I may be the terrible sister for forgetting such a milestone in Rachel’s life, and I will probably forget the next one too (AT LEAST YOU ARE HONEST). However, I will always remember how Rachel got to that moment, how she herself has become such an astonishing person that sometimes, no most of the time, she doesn’t even know it herself. (NOW I KNOW IT SISTER, THANKS!!)

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Sara Silvetti Shines

The USA had just tied Korea 2-2 in the fourth game of the World Cup Qualifier. Despite the physical exhaustion of the hard fought battle, an energetic buzz pervaded the air as the team waited, in anticipation, for Lee Bodimeade to conclude a post-game interview.

Purveying the scene, some distinguishable things stuck out - a bottle of wine, a blue Tiffany’s bag, a bouquet of flowers, and a collage of smiles directed toward one special teammate.

The team was eager to celebrate the milestone achievement of their teammate, and friend, Sara “Betty” Silvetti, who in her resilient, determined and cheery manner had earned her 100th Cap wearing the Red, White, and Blue.

And as they waited, Betty shared the joy of the celebration, entertaining her teammates while posing with her massive vase of flowers. And in that action, the essence of Betty’s presence on Team USA is understood.

Sara Silvetti is the ultimate team player. Genuine, trusted, willing and able, she possesses an irrepressible glow that emanates from her and shines on those around her.

When I asked Maren Ford to describe Sara, she said:

“Sara is flexible. She can be anywhere and do anything. On the field and off the field, she is multi-dimensional. She can play any position or role. She does whatever is asked of her – willingly and ably. On and off the field – she performs her role with a laugh and smile.”

It is this flexibility described by Ford that makes Betty such an incredible asset on the field to the USA program. In the beginning of her career, the young Silvetti played the highly-pressurized center-midfield position. Then, during the 2005 World Cup Qualifier in Rome, Italy, Sara was called upon to play right half-back, a new position for the midfielder. Yet, undaunted by the change, she performed her new responsibility brilliantly.

After spending the last three years of her career in the midfield and backfield, this year, Betty was called upon to perform a new role – on the forward line. Again, she transitioned into her new role with seamless simplicity.

Most inspiring about Betty’s journey, is that the road to 100 has not always been easy. She has persisted through broken jaws, changing positions, different roles, and missed teams. And yet, despite the bumps along the way, Sarah has remained a continual, positive and consistent force within the team.

With disciplined resilience (and a smile), Sara has continually strived to better herself and those around her. So yesterday, it was an honor to celebrate the individual achievement of a teammate who had given so much more to her team and country then 100 games.

So as Betty opened her Tiffiany’s box, and the gleam of a shiny-jeweled necklace peaked out – I thought to myself, how appropriate for the girl whose smile and laugh has shun upon us all.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Enjoy the View

Stream of Consciousness

Let me forewarn you, I am tired. Not too sure why – like most Americans I have been trying to catch up with my debt, my sleep debt that is. And I have been provided with ample opportunity to do so since moving into the Town & Country, our tour mode, San Diegan home for the duration of the Qualifier.

But still, it doesn’t change the fact that I am tired. And although it is a good, victory-filled tired, I am still tired. And if there is one thing I hate more than being tired – its being tired and filled with ideas. Because, let me tell you I have tons of ideas, brilliant ideas (at least they seem to be brilliant right now) running through my head. I have ideas for great posts, for post hockey careers, for exotic travels, for different creations - ideas, ideas, ideas, too many ideas running around upstairs - but honestly, my ideas are just threads right now, tangled up in a big ball in my head. I am too tired to untangle the ideas right now. So, needless to say, I don’t have the focus to write a succinct, meaningful blog.

At the same time, I am also aware that we are three games into the tournament, and I have been relatively mum about the Qualifier experience. Please, pardon moi, my dear, dutiful readers – I have just been distracted. My focus has been on the performance on the field. I am sure you have read about the results on the website, and if not, you can read about them there – I don’t really want to overanalyze the games. I have thought enough about hockey for one day.

So if you are still reading this, I am going to take you through the tour experience thus far in a stream of consciousness exercise. I remember learning this writing technique in middle school English class – it continues to be one of my favorite methods of writing.

So here it is, the 2010 World Cup Qualifier Experience:

Dusk. Sunset. Natural. Sun. Cycle. Moon. United States of Tara. Laugh. America. Buck. Dirty Dancing. White Vans. Photography. Beaches. Cliffs. Tension. Doubt. Fear. Desire. Nerves. Heat. The Now. Salt. Bruises. Outdoor Lunch. Fountain. Bad Coffee. Soccer. Sun. Early Bird Dinner Special. Fashion Valley. Spa. Forgetfulness. Birthday. Cupcake. Red Velvet. Posters. Sign. More. More. Eight. Nine. Twenty-One. Benjamin. Bailey. Babies. Weddings. White. Mountains. Road Trip. Junker. California. Sunshine. Three Squared. Nine. Points. Three Per. Family Time. Mirrors. Everywhere. Mirrors. Portrait of Girl. Victorian. Grandma. Hair dye. Dark. Pet Shop. Green Carpet. Wow. Meetings. Presentations. Cheesy Graphics. Hammer. Screws. Laughs. Bubbles. Sun. Setting. Team. Together. Fun. Win. Win. Win. Play. Hard. Thorough. Eat. Food. Chocolate. Starbucks. Pool Workout. Fast Feet. Rep. Again. Again. Nerves. Opportunity. USA. Embrace. Embrace. Sleep. Tired. Dream.

And heres a little collage of photos. With my Random Words.

Hope the View Inspires You!!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Horse Play

Horse Play

A Horse walks into a bar. Bartender says, “Why the long face?”

That’s the classic ice breaker joke told by Lee Bodimeade when we have extra time on the warm-up clock before a match. (If the joke confuses you, no worries – we usually are too when he tells it. I guess it’s supposed to be funny).

But after the unreal, crazy events of yesterday evening in Chula Vista, I have a new Horse Joke:
11 Horses Run into the Olympic Training Center. Blue-Tooth Front Security Man says, “Sorry, No Horse Play Here.”

So here’s my press release:

Horse Herd Heads to Hockey Event

Wandering Wild Horses jumped the Mexican border yesterday and sought freedom to playfully graze in the Olympic fields of southern California.

Four wild Mexican horses, led by an undaunted leader, staged a successful hoist of a nearby California Coral and stampeded their way through the paved, palm tree lined streets of Chula Vista, California yesterday evening en route to the Olympic Training Center.

In an up-close, post-capture interview, Herd Captain W.E. Stallion gave a statement regarding the hoist and stampede:

“Wellllllllll. Me and my buddies were trotting around the hills in Mexico a couple weeks ago, when we heard about some exciting upcoming events going on across the border in Chula Vista – The Field Hockey World Cup Qualifier. Now, me and my fellow Phillies are avid hockeyers – I mean, Philly is the hockey hotbed. So the four of us, myself (White Ed), Philly Phred, Little Red, and Sanchez decided we wanted to join the competition.

So we started training, and we trained really hard for days. But a few days into the training, I had a revelation - we would be a bit out-manned (or out-horsed) when we took the field in the competition. All the other teams played with 11 on the field. So despite our physical prowess and beauty, we needed to find some new recruits, and fast. The tournament was only a couple days away.

Luckily, Sanchez knew a few horses at a local coral over the border. I actually think Sanchez was sweet on one of the Mares, Phyllis the Philly from Philly (who was a descendant of Constance Apple-trot, the founder of Horse Hockey in America).

Anyhow, the coral was only a gallop and a half away from the training center, so we planned to pick up our new teammates on the way to training. All went relatively smoothly. We hopped the border with ease, ran to the ranch, riled up the troops, hoisted a herd, and then headed full steam ahead down Olympic Parkway.

The adrenline rush was amazing. The mares and stallions were pumped to play. Lights and sirens from animals of steel guided us as we giddy-giddy upped our way to the competition venue.

I was incredibly proud as I led the troops up the hill towards the OTC Visitors Center. We were prepared and ready to taste Olympic Glory. We came upon the hill and stood atop the threshold, in awe of our Olympic Destiny. I saw the soft shining green of the artificial turf. Oh, how my hoofs longed to trot upon that sacred surface. My eyes twinkled as our gallop gathered speed along the Asic-lined Olympic Walkway. Giddy-giddy-giddy. My heart skipped to the beat of a giddy-up.

We pushed onward, descended the hill, heading towards athlete check-in to get our dining hall passes. And that’s when my heart deflated. That is when I saw the American girls. Led by Katie O’donnel and Katie Evans.

I saw it in their eyes. The eagerness. The confidence. The discipline. The focus. I knew then, that we didn’t stand a chance. No horsing chance.

Just when I realized the futileness of our efforts, a cowboy encroached upon us. A border patrol helicopter circled toward the ground. My dream of Olympic Glory slowly fizzled out. I was captured. As we headed out the security gate, the guard with the blue tooth and the two finger wave yelled, No Horse Play Here.”

This story is based on credible news worthy events. We, the members of USA field hockey, witnessed these events as we left the dining hall of the Olympic Training Center. Luckily, no one was injured by the horse stampede.

If you don’t believe me, or for more information check out this link:

Sunday, March 21, 2010

How Alice Got Her Muchness Back?

It’s the month of March. The Month of Madness. And much madness is brewing between the painted lines of the wooden court, as mockery is made of the meaning of ESPN’s Master Science, Bracketology. My Kings, the Tar Heel Kings of the year past, shall be dethroned, and that I doth bemoan but the mission of the Madness remains the same – determine the kings who will sit upon the throne of Hoops - a 1, 2, 4, or maybe a 10, could claim the fame.

Ok. It doesn’t matter much to me. My bracket is toast – stale toast, Villanova was my chosen King, and Kansas his heir. Both were beheaded by the axe of lower seeds.

So before I lose my cool, lets talk about another type of Madness, The Madness of the Mad Hatter in the world of a girl named Alice. Last week I saw Tim Burton’s version of the Lewis Carrol Classic, Alice in Wonderland.

As a child, Alice had it sorted out - she was all that and a bag of chips. But chips don’t age like wine, and Alice must have left her back of chips open too long, because like my toast, her chips went stale. Her “all-that-ness” became “a whole lotta-notta-ness.”

Props to the Mad Hatter for calling her out – Muchity, much, much, much – you seem to have lost your Muchness.

And seriously, who likes to be called out for their lack of muchness? I for one hate being challenged for not giving all my much at training. But it happens. And, sometimes you need someone to call you out - spark your fire, ignite your madness. Just ask North Carolina Coach Karen Shelton, she used to always call me out. Muchness challenged is muchness ignited.

But can you really blame Alice? We can’t really expect her, or anyone for that matter, to live by their muchness, all the time. So maybe Alice didn’t lose her muchness as much as she just let it go dormant. So she needed to find the key that unlocked it – she needed to hear the alarm clock to awaken it.

But in order to reawaken and rediscover her muchness, she had to encounter a bit of madness. So she tumbled down a massive hole, entering a world where nothing made sense. All was madness. Alice lost herself, she lost her mission. She confronted doubt, evil, and her fears. She was challenged to find herself by traveling through the Madness.

Like Alice, we USA F. Hockeyers have been encountering Madness. The Madness of a Slippery Sand Hill three times a week. The Madness in the voice of our coaches challenging us to move our feet faster, lift our knees higher, and to dig a little deeper. The Madness of exhausted bodies, and tired minds. The Madness of knowing the feat that we will face, the Jabberwalkie, named the Qualifier. Its the Madness of the unknown – will we find our Muchness in time?

Alice did. She rediscovered her muchness, just as her muchness was called upon to serve her. It was her muchness that allowed her to accomplish 7 impossible things before breakfast. And that gave her confidence to slay the Jabberwalkie.

And after she won, Madness danced. Madness danced the Futterwacken because Alice got her Muchness back.

(I just read this post to Maren Ford. Her reply was, “Rachel, you are weird. Mad weird.”)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Land of the Pursuit

On Monday morning I arrived at Amsterdam Schipol Airport way too early for my flight back to the USA (I missed a flight back to the States last year, and since that experience, I have become incredibly diligent about giving myself ample time before flight departure).

So with an hour to spare before the check-in counter opened, I decided to post up at the Schipol Starbucks with a coffee. (Where else could be better to reacquaint myself with America??)

So for those of your who don't know me, here's a fun fact - A good cup of joe is one of the prime motivating forces in my life. Coffee taps into my soul, and powers my mind to understand the world's most perplexing mystery's(ok, I'm exaggerating, only a little though).

So, as I sat over my coffee, I started to reflect on the past three weeks of my life which included a 13 day tour through Argentina and a 10 day excursion to Holland. Yes, the travel was a bit intense, but also incredibly eye-opening.

In my reflection, some enlightening ideas dawned upon me. The most profound of which falls under the headline, "Why I Love America."

Fast-food chains, open land, and general American massive-ness, aside, what I value most about America is that good ole American spirit.

This is what I recorded in my notes.

Why I love America

America celebrates the courage of the individual who pursues his own greatness. We don't respect the coward who sits behind his shield of comfort; instead we love the man who goes in search of his own destiny; the man who is told he cannot, and he ought not, but despite the discouragement, he follows the voice of his heart and seeks his vision.

We admire the rebellious of spirit, who proclaim that they are inspired by the vision and the pursuit of greatness.

America celebrates those who pursue their dreams - those who journey with boldness and courage as failure stares them in the face. We celebrate those who smile back at the failure with a rowdy grin, and say, you will not prevent me from making my attempt. America respects and values the man who in earnest tries. And often times, it is in this attempt, where the full essence of a man is realized.

For True Greatness lives in the Pursuit of Greatness.

So here it is: I love America because man is free, his spirit for greatness is untamed. Because man is not confined to a box by life; instead he is encouraged to break the binding of the box and use the material to sail the open sea, until he lands upon his destiny.


So the question is, how does my reasons for loving America relate to USA Field Hockey?

Its simple. There are no guarantees for success in the upcoming Qualifier. Our reality is simple, we have to win it, we have to beat talented opponents.

But, I (and I can speak for my teammates as well) don't just want to qualify for the World Cup, we want to pursue greatness.

I don't want to be the person who is held back and discouraged by the reality of what is; nor do I want to be the person who pretends that reality is not what it is; instead I want to be the person who sees reality as it is, envisioning what it could be come, and strives to make that vision real.

We sit around #10 in the World right now. What number is Greatness?

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Cliche American

The USA Women’s Field Hockey Team resumed training today in Chula Vista having enjoyed a short respite after our tour to Argentina. Unfortunately, much to my dismay, I am not with my teammates at the moment. Instead, I am a few thousand miles away, in a small European country called Holland (also known as the Netherlands).

Before I delve into this blog post, I need to preface you with a bit of my personal story. Post 2008 Olympics, I pursued an opportunity to live and compete overseas at the Hockey Club Klein Switzerland in Den Haag, Netherlands. So the past year and a half, or so, I have been living between America and Holland. I joke that I am 1/3 feline, seeing as I live three lives; one in Holland, one at home in New Jersey, and one wherever the National Team requires.

Anyhow, after the tour to Argentina (and a 25 hour trip back to America), I spent 2 nights in my former life (in North Carolina), and then hopped a plane over the Atlantic to my Dutch life. The second half of the Dutch season resumed yesterday, and I arranged to be here for the first two matches of the competition.

So now you know why I am here.

Now comes the exciting part of this post.

When I first arrived in Holland, the team called me the cheerleader (it was even written on my water bottle). You see, the Dutch have this clichéd idea that all Americans are the spirited, jumpy, cheerleading type. In my time here, they have learned that I am far from that.

So anyways, in Holland, I have developed a simple weekly routine. Monday mornings are reserved for recovery at the gym. The gym, called The Max (think Saved by Bell) overlooks the Hockey Club Klein Switzerland. In a way, it has become my home, away from home, away from home.

So this morning, out of ritual, I found myself wondering op de fiets (on the bike) toward the Max. I landed at my destination swiped my Max card through the reader, listened to the Body Jam Class rock out in the Dance Hall, watched a couple men play squash, then with a smile on my face, made my way to locker room to prepare for my workout. After discarding my winter coat (yes my body is in temperature shock) I made my way upstairs to the second floor workout rooms.

As per usual, I say my hello’s to the friendly trainers (who always ask if we won on Sunday) and then I go about my tasks – I warm up, stretch, run, lift some weights, etc.

Today, I was going about my business, doing some hamstring exercises in the open room (where people do core workouts, jump rope etc) and in walks this lady. She starts setting up her workout station, and then, she turns to me, and asks, “Do you mind if I put on my Ipod.”

Without looking up, I say, “Oh yeah, no problem.” And then a light bulb flashes in my mind - she just spoke English to me, with an American accent. Now, I am intrigued, so I finish my set, and look up.

As I do so, I catch a glimpse of her cut-off Arizona Rugby T-shirt. Yup, she’s straight up American, I thought to myself.

Naturally, excited as I was to run into a fellow American, I strike up a convo, and asked if she was from the states? Indeed she was, she replied with a big smile. Then after offering a few niceties, I continued with my workout, and she went to put on her Ipod. Since we were BFF’s by that point, she yelled with a bubbly grin from the other side of the room, “I need some bouncy music for this workout.”

That’s when I saw it. Yup. The mini-trampoline.

Oh man. This ought to be good, I thought, as I threw myself into another set of hamstring curls. I didn’t realize how good it would be.

That’s when I heard it. Oh yes. Simple Minds had returned.

“On the Catwalk, gonna do my little dance on the catwalk.”

The music is blaring; the trampoline is making melodies like its on the catwalk strutting its stuff, and Arizona Rugby Lady is jamming out, springing around, little dumbbells in hand making Y’s, T’s, and L’s with her arms. The whole time she is staring in the mirror smiling the happiest, most free, childish smile I have ever seen.

Immediately, I pick up on her American groove and I start curling my hamstrings and rocking my hips like I am on the catwalk. I lose myself in the dance. Then, suddenly, the song cuts off. The room goes quiet; awkward silence ensues.

“Whooooo let the dawgs out? Who Who?”

Not uh, no she didn’t, I think. This is my jam!!! But obviously, this song was too 1990s for her, because she switched it to some 80’s melody. And since Flash Dance isn’t quite my style (it was the era before me), I knew it was my cue to get back to my workout.

So again, I went about my business. But I constantly found myself looking into the room to reassure myself that the bouncing American on her trampoline, grin in place, was real.

And sure enough, there she was, The Cliché American.

And here I am now, writing about the Cliché American with a grin on my face and a laugh in my soul.

Maybe the Cheerleader nickname wasn’t so far off.

I cannot wait to rejoin my teammates in California and RAH RAH SISH BOOM BAH the USA all the way to the World Cup.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Missing Piece - How to Solve a Puzzle

Terry Walsh stood at the easel at the center of the hallway (which served as a makeshift meeting room). On the easel sat a large blank sheet of crisp white paper. 18 pairs of captivated, curious eyes stared at the Hockey Master, Walsh, waiting for him to reveal yet another secret, magical, and simple key to sporting success.

Terry paused, in the dramatic way of a stage performer, inhaling deeply – his lips curling together in confirmation of the potency of the information he was about to disclose. He exhaled, and just as we thought that he was about to reveal his magical wisdom, he held the silence a moment longer.

We held our breaths, daring not to break the growing suspense of the silence. Then, Terry turned his back from us, moved his pen to the paper, and wrote one word boldly across the paper’s face.

Stepping back from the easel, Terry whispered his magical word . . . CONFIDENCE.

A shiver rushed down my spine. This was the missing piece.

The missing piece to puzzle started long ago.

Here’s the lesson, in the form of an analogy.

Imagine our journey as a process of building a puzzle. How does the puzzle-building process begin? When does it begin?

It starts in the store, before you even purchase the puzzle, before you open the box, before you see the individual pieces. It starts with image of what you want to achieve – the final construct. It starts with the inspiration derived from the vision of the achievement.

It is only once you have been motivated by this vision that you decide to purchase the puzzle. So you check out of Target, go home and you open the box with your mind wrapped around the concept of where you intend to go. And when you open the lid, abandoning the image of the achievement, you see one thousand tiny, unconnected, individual, intimidating puzzle pieces.

If you are anything like me, you ask yourself, where do I even begin? You feel overwhelmed by the intricacy of the puzzle, of the minute details that depend on you to find their place.

Its moments like these, when I put the lid back on the box, glance at image, smile and just shake the box. Making a little music, I dance to the jingle of unconnected pieces, and embrace the process that stands before me.

With this relaxed relief and regained composure, I develop my plan. Step number one: sort the pieces based on simple distinguishing characteristics – color, shape etc. This step is essential to providing me a structural, compartmentalized view of the puzzle – a way of accomplishing the task section by section; separating the big task into a bunch of small manageable tasks.

Next, I chose to focus on one section of the puzzle. Usually I decide based on which part I feel is most essential, and easiest to begin with. I decide to start simple, build a foundation from which further growth can occur. This decision, I hope will give me a framework for progress.

Slowly, but surely, the sections begin to evolve, until eventually I see how the different sections will fit together. The picture, little by little, detail by detail, begins to form.

At this moment in puzzle building, I usually get really, really excited. I can see the finish the line. My adrenaline starts to rush, and I am ready to give it a final heave and sprint to the end.

So I decide to truck forward with such ambitious intensity and enthusiastic vigor that I lose a bit of my perspective. The finish line isn’t as close as I thought. And this is when adversity strikes. My mind says, “We are in the homestretch, the puzzle is nearly complete, all should be easy smooth puzzling at this point.”

Reality tells me otherwise. I cannot find the proper fit for a few silly pieces - the explicative pieces that would complete the puzzle.

So the impatient competitor in me gets frustrated. She wants to throw in the towel; she wants to give up, call the task impossible, she wants to quit.

But the voice of the resolute, wise achiever tames the driven competitor. Be patient. Stay strong. Persist. Persist. Persist.

And so the achiever takes a step away. She breathes. She smiles. She envisions herself toiling with her task, persisting through the adversity, and ultimately achieving her mission. She allows her creativity and passion to flow back to her. She rests; she stops forcing the issue. She relents, and decides to trust herself, and her abilities.

In this relaxed, poised state she discovers a new openness in her mind, a new dimension of her abilities, a new limit to her mental capacity. She feels as though she has expanded toward a new boundary of potential, expanding her achievement threshold.

Through this growth, she discovers a peculiar sense of self-belief – a belief and trust in her abilities to overcome adversity and to accomplish her task.

She seizes the empowerment of the lessons of her journey. Enlightenment descends upon her, and intuitively she knows how to complete the puzzle. She finds the solution sitting inside her mind. She feels it growing inside her soul, pulsing inside her heart.

She finds the fit of the final piece. She finds her CONFIDENCE.

So, she completes the puzzle. She admires the achievement, frames it, and hangs it on the wall to collect dust.

Then, she goes back to Target to get inspired again.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Children of The Rain

Childhood. Where is that place - that place of freedom, of imagination? Where lies that open field of fearlessness where the uninhibited state of innocence invigorates the soul’s astute awareness of the limitlessness of life?

The rain was falling like grand pearly pellets from the sky, breaking their form only when they collided with the ground. The team sat huddled under the protection of the dugout, gazing upon the flooded turf wondering whether practice would be or would not be.

They watched the rainfall from behind an invisible vale of separation – a vale constructed from some unconscious fear of rain. Crowded together, the masses waited for someone to tell them what to do.

Waiting. Watching. The torrential rain continued to taunt the team. “I will not give you respite. I will not stop. I will continue to pour upon your playing field, pounding it with my pearly, pellets of power.”

The team heard the rain’s message. They started to grow restless.

And then, in a courageous stand against nature, a few brave soul’s relinquished their fears, and broke through the vale, stepping cautiously, at first, into the submission of the powerful rainfall.

And what they found when they stepped to the other side of the vale was an empowered sense of freedom – the freedom to run, splash, kick, smile, and laugh.

They became the Children of The Rain. They found childhood, again. And one by one, inspired by the grace of those who had already decided, each individual embarked on the journey back to childhood.

“I felt like a kid again.” Barb Weinberg reminisced with glee. “I haven’t felt that young in a long time. I used to love playing in the rain when I was kid. I felt so free. Uninhibited. Just happy.”

So the team played soccer. They bounced on the island-like bubbles of turf sending ripples thru the soaked green field, that had become an ocean.

They pounced from puddle to puddle as white played blue in powerball. They had a synchronized slide session. They played wiffle ball.

They dove.
They slid.
They ran.
They jumped.

And when the rain relented and the sun shined again, they sat. They sat still in exhaustion. The exhaustion of an exhilarating return to childhood.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Tension Force

Tension is a powerful force. In my 10th grade physics class, I had to build a model rubber band car. Unfortunately, (unlike my older brother Andrew) I do not possess the gift of mechanics, so my first attempt at rubber band car building failed miserably. The car was supposed to travel down the length of the hallway (at least 25 meters) – and if I remember correctly mine went about 4.

The idea behind the rubber band car was simple – the rubber band was attached to one end of the car. In order to move the car forward, the band was coiled around the axel of the wheel on the opposite end (I can’t remember specifically which axel, front or back, but that is insignificant to my story). The car was supposed to move on the principle of converting potential energy (in the form of tension) into usable energy – when the band was released, the tension created a force that was supposed to propel the car forward. The key was to coil the band as tightly as possible around the axel, creating as much tension as possible without making the band snap.

Now, you may be wondering why I am talking about my 10th grade physics project (although those of who know me wouldn’t be surprised if I was just being random Rachel with this story). Well, (surprisingly) it is actually incredibly relevant to the trials and tribulations of the USA field hockey team. You see tension can be an incredibly powerful, albeit uncomfortable, force in the world of sport.

There is the obvious physiological use of tension in strength and explosion training. You know that feeling when you are in the gym, pumping the heavy iron, and before you powerfully explode to lift the weight (roughly 120 kgs over your head Olga style) you contract your muscles in order to create a source of potential energy.

Ok, Olga aside. Tension is obviously ridiculously crucial in movement-based activities like hockey. But beyond the physiological tension of the body, there is yet another powerful tension force in sport.

The tension of being really close to where you need to be, but not quite there . . . yet. This is the predicament we have found ourselves in recently. We have been playing some really consistent periods of quality hockey in the past 10 matches; unfortunately, we have very little to show for it. 2 and 8 isn’t exactly what I call a winning record.

So losing has been strenuous, especially since our desire to win is so intense. This desire is juxtaposed to the reality of the situation - we haven’t been able to find a way to get more wins. We are on the cusp, but not there, quite yet. We know we are playing well, and competing at a high level. We know we have made an important progression in our game, and we know we have learned invaluable lessons from the difficult losses. But we also understand that our rubberband is awfully close to the edge of snapping

We feel the tension. We are coiled pretty tightly around the axel of our wheels. However, with a 4-0 win this evening against Belgium, you can rest assured that our rubberband will not be snapping. And there will come a time, in what I expect will be the not so distant future, when the tension in our rubberband will release, and we will be moving forward, fast and with force.

At that time, I will have successfully redeemed myself for the failures of my 10th grade rubberband car.

**This was not a lesson in physics. Most of the ideas on tension were constructed from vague memories of learning physics. Some of the notions included above were total fabrications of my imagination.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Kayla Joins the Century Club

Kayla Bashore saw the large bouquet of beautiful flowers when she stepped off the team bus at the Club de Campo Hockey Club in Cordoba, Argentina. When she came to Argentina last week, she knew she was in the 90s; but upon seeing the flowers, she realized tonight was her night – tonight, she was to join the Century Club.

Teammate, and good friend, Lauren Crandall walked up to Bashore, gave her a squeeze, and offered her congratulations. It was then that Bashore, more casually known as KB, was overcome with the significance of the night.

Emotion overwhelmed her as her mind traveled back to a time 5 years prior.

The scene was similar. There was a buzz of excitement in the air; loud Spanish music pumped vibrantly through the venue – the light of day was giving way to the darkness of night as the stadium lights shun upon the reason for the gathering, the green hockey pitch. A roaring, enthusiastic, and patriotic Argentine crowd filled the stands in eager anticipation of the match between Argentina and the USA.

Twenty-one year old Kayla Bashore heard the announcer call her name. She felt her heart swell with pride as she listened to the National Anthem. She felt for the first time the exhilaration of representing the United States of America in a foreign land.

Now, travel five years forward in time, 373 km down the road from Rosario to Cordoba, and you will find Kayla Bashore in a remarkably similar situation. Only now, the twenty-six year old Bashore, wearing her lucky number #26 is about 99 games more experienced.

In her first 100 games for the USA, the 5’4, fast-footed center midfielder has established herself as one of the team’s most premier and dominating players.

“Its amazing to see the progression, both with the team and within myself, in 100 career caps. It seems like just yesterday I was playing in my first matches against Argentina,” Bashore reflects. “Its funny though, it doesn’t matter if its your first game, your 26th or your 100th; that feeling you get when you put on the uniform and hear the anthem never changes.”

Bashore admits that she felt a heightened sense of emotion on February 16th, the evening of her 100th game for the USA. But that is understandable for the passionate, hard-working, detail-oriented yet laid-back Bashore. When asked to describe herself, she said with a grin, “I am a bit of an oxymoron. I find myself being extremely laid back in a lot of situations, but when it comes to ‘work mode’ I can be quite Type A.”

Maybe, though, her personality isn’t as much of an oxymoron as it is a testament to her detail-focused perspective on life. The Korean born hockeyer came to the USA when she was 3 months old, and spent her youth in the small Pennsylvania town of Shoemakersville.

In 2001, Bashore was a member of the first-ever recruiting class in the history of the Indiana University Field Hockey program. When she arrived in Bloomington, the team was composed of mostly club players.

“You should have seen us that first year. I was extremely realistic about our team and our capabilities. I never set goals; instead, I focused on the process – on the details of preparation knowing that when the opportunity presented itself, I would be fully prepared to take advantage of it.”

That opportunity presented itself in Kayla’s senior hockey season when her Hoosiers earned (for the first time in Indiana history) a bid to the 2005 NCAA Tournament and faced the historically strong University of North Carolina Tar Heels.

Bashore’s Hoosiers fought brilliantly and fiercely in the match (I can attest because I was on the field for UNC). Despite being out shot by the Tar Heels, Indiana capitalized on their opportunities, and advanced to the NCAA second round with a heroic 1-0 victory.

To Bashore, this was an exhilarating success: “That was our National Championship –from where we came from in my first year to where we got in my final season – that is what I consider progress and success.”

Bashore feels empowered by the perspective her experience at Indiana gave her. She employs this perspective as she travels a similar road of upward progress with the USA.

“I don’t focus on what lies too far ahead of me. I don’t get lost in setting goals or a having distant vision of success. I keep my focus on the details – how I warm-up for games and trainings, how I prepare myself, how I recover, how I spend my free time on weekends, how I fuel my body, etc.”

When speaking about her USA team, she says: “We have all the pieces to accomplish great things. But honestly, I don’t know where we will end up; but I do know that if I take care of all the details along the way, we will end up where we are meant to be.”

And with all her details covered, Bashore has ended up exactly where she is meant to be, a member of the Century Club.


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Traveling Book Club

The advent and commercialization of the internet, specifically the recent growth of social media networks like facebook and twitter, have challenged the hierarchy of tour leisure activities undertaken by the members of the USA field hockey team.

Facebooking, which falls under the more general category of internet play, is closing the gap on the team’s number one tour past-time, good ‘ole, traditional r-e-a-d-i-n-g. Yes folks, believe it or not, book reading (and by book, if you have forgotten what they are, I mean those long stories composed of related words on touchable paper, bound together in either paperback or hard back) still has a stronghold on spot number one. It makes me proud to know we are a team who values substance.

I have taken it upon myself to perform some research into the “substance” of which we are reading. My research has led me to some interesting questions and conclusions regarding the relationship between who you are and what you read.

Remember that saying, “You are what eat,” (in which case I would be a combination of beets, corn, beef, bananas and peanut M&Ms). Well, what if we rephrased and said, “You are what you read.” Who would Lauren Crandall, Kayla Bashore, Katie Evans, Barb Weinberg and the rest of Team USA be?

My findings are intriguing. Here are the characters / players (or readers) in what can, from now onwards, be known as the Traveling Book Club.

We have the Searchers for Soul / Self, The Fantasy-Fiction Faction, The Mystery Mongers, The Money-making Mogels / Success Seeking Sect, The Ready for Romance Readers, The Open Occulters and the Miscellaneous Remainders.

Three books belonging to three readers comprise The Searchers for Soul / Self: The Power of Now by Eckardt Tolle (Barb Weinberg), The Virtue of Selfishness by Ayn Rand (Kristen Holmes), and Eat, Pray, Love (Lauren Crandall). Are these readers in need of spiritual healing?

The Fantasy-Fiction Faction is spear-headed by Claire Laubach, reading Alice in Wonderland, Katelyn Falgowshi reading The Lord of the Rings, and Sarah Dawson reading Oliver Kitteridge. What type of relief do these readers find in the wordy world of fantasy fiction?

The Murderous Mystery Mongers group is quite large, here’s the list: The ScareCrow (Matt Soto, Team Videographer), The Sixth Target (Michelle Kasold), The Lost Symbol (Maren Ford and Lauren Phieffer), Beat the Reaper (M. Ford), and The Girl Who Played with Fire (R. Dawson). Is the mundane ness of life in a hotel room in Argentina not exciting enough for this group of violent, secretive thrill seekers?

And then we have The Money-making Mogels / Success Seeking Sect (who needed two titles because they are too ambitious for just one). Kayla Bashore, co-owner / CEO of KaPow hockey ( took some useful tips (hint, the mention of the company in this blog) from her book The Girls Guide to Owning your Own Business. With the reading of Outliers by Malcom Gladwell, Steve Jennings and Katie Evans are seeking to join the ranks of the extraordinarily successful, business elite. Meanwhile team trainer and recently engaged Jamie is reading the 7 Habits of Really Effective People. So what drives these already successful readers toward further greatness? And can I get me some of whatever genius you get from your read?

My heart goes out to the next group, the Ready for Romance Readers (Valentine’s Day away from their loved ones must have been especially difficult). Nicholas Sparks has edged his way quite strongly into the group; Katie O’donnell is reading At First Sight while Maggie Giddens (USA Referie) reads The Last Song. Carolina Nichols meshes love with law in the dramatic Jodi Piccoult novel Change of Heart. Betty Boot (Sara Silvetti) rounds out the group with her reading of the historic and tragic love affair known as Atonement (yes, she has already seen the movie but insists that she will see herself thru to the end of book – now that is persistence if I’ve ever known it). Now I wonder if these ladies translate the romantic passion of their reads into the game they love? **Please note that I have refrained from mentioning Kate Reisinger ‘s (Team Manager / Mom) book of the moment, Broken Little Heart at her insistence**

Now the Open Occulters have fallen for Andre Aggassi in his Autobiography Open. Jesse Gey, Carrie Lingo, and Maggie Giddens have all been mesmorized by the captivating, formerily undisclosed, story of Agassi’s life and career. I wonder if their personal sporting tales can in anyway relate to Agassi’s story – I have heard it is a must read.

The last group, the Miscellaneous Remainder is made up of three people, two of whom could be called the most miscellaneous members of the group, Lauren Powley and Lee Bodimeade. When asked what she was reading, Powley said, “Nothing at the moment.” She quickly rescinded her first answer, and replied, “Fast Track.” To which Kayla Bashore replied, “We aren’t talking about your EZ pass.”

Miscellaneous #2, Lee, provided multiple answers – the truth and validity of which is anyone’s guess – Sport’s Illustrated, USA Today’s Sports Crossword, and How to Coach a Winning Field Hockey Team (which I assume is written by Terry Walsh). I wonder how Lee feels about sports.

Miscellaneous #3 has a quite intriguing and informative read. Doc (the team Doctor) rounds out the Traveling Book Club with Horse Soldiers, an account of the special forces operation in Afghanistan after 9/11/2001.

Now, in assessment of the Traveling Book Club, I must admit, there is quite a bit of variety going on in our team. I posed the question earlier, are we what we read. And if we assume, for the moment that we are, then Team USA is quite an interesting and assorted bunch. We have quite a bit of substance and depth to our character – you see there is a lot more going on with us besides being just hockey players. We are self-searching, romance-loving, mystery-needing, money-making (or not), fantasy-finding, free-thinking wanderers, trying to relax with a good book before a big game.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Meet Jacki Kintzer - The First Capper

Jacki Kintzer stood in the elevator with USA National team mate Katelyn Falgowski after the team’s pre-match meeting. As the elevator doors closed, Kintzer turned to Falgo and said nervously, “Lee (headcoach) told me I was in green. I don’t have a green jersey; I only have a yellow one.” Falgo smiled, and reassured her teammate not to worry.

Falgo, a young veteran on the national team, knew her University of North Carolina teammate Kintzer would be formally presented with her Green #31 jersey in due course.

On February 14, Jacki had earned her stripes with the National Team, getting the call as starting goalkeeper in the team’s match against Argentina. Accordingly, she would be officially presented her USA uniform shirt prior to field departure.

The first international cap (first match) is a celebratory moment in the career of a hockey player. It is both a triumph and a reward for the talent and hardwork of years dedicated to the sport – it also marks the start of a new journey representing your nation.

In a perfect world, the first cap would go off without a hitch, but that often is not the way in the sporting world. Imagine the nervous, anxious, excitement of the unknown awaiting a first capper in her first match.

Kintzer heard the loud, rowdy, enthused South American crowd. She was enthralled by the environment – unfortunately the Argentine spectators had reason to celebrate early in the game, as Argentina scored in the first minute of the match.

This didn’t rattle, the focused and confident Kintzer. She maintained her composure despite a rocky team performance in the first half and in the second half, Kintzer was determined to keep a clean slate. With two minutes left in the game, the Argentines earned a penalty corner – the resolute voice of Kintzer rang proud in the goal cage, “They haven’t scored yet this half; they aren’t scoring now.”

Her words proved true; the Argies did not score. Unfortunately, the USA was unable to convert on their opportunities at the other end of the field.

So, in Kinzter’s first cap, the States fell to Argentina 3-0, in what otherwise would be considered a dominating USA performance. Unlucky is the most unfortunate and pathetic word in sport.

But for Kinzter the experience of her first cap was invaluable and memorable. “It was the most fun I have ever had while playing. I feel connected now with my teammates at a different level – a level of being in battle with and for one another. It was a natural high, despite the result.” Kintzer reflected.

Her first cap culminates a year of incredible success and achievement for the modest, artsy Kintzer. Two years ago, she was a back up GK at the university of North Carolina. This summer, she got her first taste of international competition as the starting GK for the USA at the Junior World Cup. This fall she led her Tar Heels to a National Championship and caught the eye of USA coach Lee Bodimeade, who asked Kintzer to join the squad in California for the World Cup build up. The eager Kintzer seized the opportunity, dropped all of her Spring semester classes, re-enrolled online, and moved out to California in January.

Kinzter, an art major at UNC, enrolled in a Digital Photography class this spring – so when she is not playing hockey, she is capturing the memories of her first tour with the national team. If it isn’t her stick extending from her arm, you can be sure that it is her camera. Kintzer is intrigued by the relationship between art and sport.

Yesterday, Kintzer earned her first cap. Who knows what the future will hold for the talented hockeyer who is inspired by the artistic beauty of the game she loves.

Mendoza Update

My name is Rachel. I am a procrastinator. Its one of my major pitfalls. You see, right about now, I should be packing (and by packing I mean randomly stuffing) my clothes into my travel bag, but instead I find myself writing the blog report.

In our first match against Argentina, we fell short of victory - 2 goals short. We played well, strong defensively, but could not get on the scoreboard. So we did not play well enough to earn the W. Tonight we have an opportunity to earn what we left on the table last night. We will play our final match in Mendoza (the home of the Malbec wine) this evening at 7:30 Argentine time.

After the match, we have a late night barbeque, followed by a red eye bus trip over the mountains to Cordoba. I am envisioning the bus trip to be "league of our own" style. I could see Lee doing a great rendition of Tom Hanks as Jimmy Dugan, manager of the Rockford Peaches. Growing up it was always one of my favorite movie - the whole sport / sister theme always struck a chord with me.

In Cordoba, we will play four matches, 2 more against Argentina and one each against Belgium and Chile.

Hockey aside, life's been grand. A few of us rendez-vous'd to the Winery to make a few cheeky wine purchases. As early stated, Mendoza is renowned for the Malbec grape that grows in the region. Today, as we know, is Valentine's Day. One lucky gal on the team, M. Ford received a special delivery of red roses from her beau in Michigan. They look beautiful on our coffee table.

Sara "Betty" Spagetti, M. Ford, and myself have taken up watching a new Showtime series, United States of Tara. We have found ourselves in hysterics laughing over the different states of Tara (she has multiple personalities). The show is a real gem if you enjoy a bit of outlandish, crude, dramatic humor. I need to hop to my packing...its almost game time. Can't wait.

GO USA!! Stay tuned for more. . .

Friday, February 12, 2010

Training Center Departed; Mission Argentina Started

Life was swell. The ease of routine seemed to have resettled upon the members of the team as the return of Tuesday training was welcomed by the shining California sun. The rays of that sun peaked through the 8 am morning haze as the hockeyers ascended the hockey hill (the hockey field sits in the valley below the hill). And it seemed that all was well in the world; the entire squad was reunited for a competitive game of powerball and training.

But we knew, in the back of our minds, our impending fate. The fate of untimely, teamly separation – the fate of tiresome travel to a foreign land in the lower hemisphere – the fate belonging to the pinnie, tanned hides of those who would endure the hot, humid temperatures of long Argentine days. A fate (un)welcomed by the return of swollen, plane-cramped legs.

It was Wednesday, February 11. The day that the training center was departed – and a new journey started. We met at the San Diego airport at midday. The number one topic of conversation - the variety of the new Asics Tiger travel shoes – they came in all shapes, all sizes, and all colors. Everyone was quite pleased, except for one minor glich. Barb Weinberg was paranoid about the off-white of her shoes clashing with the pure white stripe on the Navy travel polo. But Barb persisted and found a way to manage despite the severe nausea of the clash. She diverted her focus from the color of her shoes to the white-snowcapped peaks of the Andes.

And so it was, we journeyed 22 hours through the sky, from San Diego to LA to Santiago to Mendoza, until we landed upon the bumpy, dry green of the hockey pitch. And then, we found ourselves at home again, in the routine of hitting a hockey ball. Trap, pass…bump bump….trap, bobble, bump, settle pass.

Training number one wasn’t a beauty. But we survived, and in the words of Coach Lee Bodimeade, we will be better for it. Now, with the setting of the summer sun, the time comes to tuck our beet-filled tummies into bed. Good night.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Dining Hall

The USA Women's Field Hockey Team resumed preparation for the 2010 World Cup on January 11, 2010 at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California. The first order on the menu is earning World Cup Qualification (the WC Qualifier will be held in Chula Vista, CA in March). And lets not fool ourselves, earning Qualification will be no casual stroll in the park; the team will face Pan Am rivals Canada and Mexico, European contenders Belgium and France, and Asian power Korea. So it should be no surprise when I say the team has been served a full plate, both literally and figuratively.

Speaking of full plates – you ought to see the OTC Dining Hall. You have to understand, the dining hall at the OTC is a special place – it’s a hub of daily activity with the primary purpose of fueling the bodies of focused, hard training athletes. Its secondary function is purely social – let me tell you, there is nothing like coming together over a good meal after a long day at the office.

Recently, the array of sports represented in the Dining Hall has been as varied as the daily salad bar – the assortment bobsledders, hockey players, rowers, jumpers, throwers, runners, soccer players, and more. It’s an interesting combination, and the dynamics of the interaction can be quite hysterical at times.

Typically, you walk in thru the left side doorway, casually scoping out the scene gathering and assessing essential information – seeing whom you know, whom you don’t, and where you can sit. After taking a quick peruse of the food bar, you make a decision on course number one. After setting your plate down at the round table of choice, you head to the drink bar. And man oh man is there a variety of drinks to choose from.

The rowers, for whom I have a developed a great affinity, introduced me to my new favorite dining hall game, Guess the Drink (over-taking the Top Five Game). Here is how the game works – one person, known as the drink maker heads to the drink bar and makes a drink by combining four ingredients. Curdling is not allowed in the drink, and sometimes, on the occasion of a late dinner, caffeine is prohibited.

Upon returning to the table, the maker gives the drink to the drinker. The drinker must identify all four ingredients without getting three strikes (a strike is given for each wrong guess). For the drinker, the decision-making process can become quite strenuous, especially in the event of well-blended combinations. A rule of thumb is to always check for carbonation.

Actually, my success rates are not as high as I would have hoped – as the drinker, my taste buds have not developed the acute and precise awareness of the separate ingredient tastes, and as the maker, I rarely stump astute taste buds of others, particularily Wes the Rower.

Individual success rates aside, the game is a triumph – it epitomizes the social energy of the dining hall. What is not to love about beautiful, healthy, fun, competive people enjoying one anothers company over a meal and a drink.