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.

No comments: