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.