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: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yszdWSLoJjk

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.