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.

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