Board Shorts July 2012
USA Field Hockey Board Shorts – July 2012
Hello USA Friends and Family! London Day 4. So much excitement, but the best is yet to come! Riverside Arena is absolutely incredible and the play on the pitch is extremely competitive, fast, and super exciting! The crowds are amazing – first day, first game at 8:30am, over 10,000 people were in the stands. As a member of the International Hockey Federation (FIH) Executive Board, I am serving on the Appeal Jury. My first Olympics in a governance role, which is also very exciting!
I have the opportunity to blog for the New York Times while in London and thought I’d share with you what I have shared with the newspaper. If you are interested in following me around London and Riverbank Arena, here is my recent blog (much of which is included in the latter part of this version of Board Shorts).
I stepped off the plane in London last Thursday evening, only moments later to hear my name being called. I turned around. It was Lesley Kiger. She played field hockey for me at university, graduating in 2010.
It’s a small world, yes, but a big city. My driver and I spent an extra half hour trying to get from Heathrow to The Grange St. Paul’s Hotel, FIH headquarters. It was like the movie European Vacation, where Chevy Chase keeps driving around in circles. Big Ben, Parliament, Big Ben, Parliament. Yes, I had an extensive night tour of the city. But no complaints, I’m in London baby!
After a very brief nights sleep, I was up very early Friday morning catching the Tube to Regent’s Park. I joined The First Lady in her anti-obesity program “Let’s Move!” I had the privilege to spend four hours with the 1,500 children who visited the Winfield House, the residence of the US Ambassador to the UK, on the outskirts of Regent’s Park. We joined three other National Governing Bodies (NGBs) and provided an opportunity for children to “move!” USA Field Hockey’s Youth Development Manager and 1996 Field Hockey Olympian Liz Tchou, did a truly fantastic job organizing the event. It was very rewarding and something I wish I had more time for throughout the year. A special thanks to Tim Hart, Shawn Hindy, Ed Hoskins, Ashley Meunier, and Alli Tanner for joining Steve Locke, Liz, and I for this special event.
One highlight of the day was a visit to our FUNdamental Field Hockey site by Brandi Chastain. She played with the kids, and quite honestly I think we sold her on field hockey! Maybe she’d be interested in a comeback of sorts. Just a different sport. Like Michael Jordan. I am quite sure she could be as an amazing a field hockey player as she was a soccer (aka football in these parts) star. We could make a movie out of if like Rookie, right?
Speaking of soccer icons, we met David Beckham, and had a photo op. Pretty cool! I am not one to be enamored by stars, as my husband played for the 1982 World Series Championship St. Louis Cardinals, but how could I not?! We’re in England and when you watch all the kids chasing Beckham, just trying to get a glimpse, screaming, and pleading for autographs, you just can’t help yourself. I’m now a fan!
To top off the day (yes, hard to believe it can get any better than that) was the opportunity to meet Michelle Obama. What an honor. She gave each of our five USA Field Hockey representatives a big hug and shouted “field hockey.” Very, very cool! We had our picture taken with the First Lady, who hoped to visit our field hockey area and pick up a stick. Unfortunately, she didn’t have a chance, but I am quite confident we will see her again in the future.
As if it wasn’t a busy of enough day, let’s add Opening Ceremonies. Jump on the Tube and back to The Grange St. Paul’s Hotel. A quick shower and off to the Olympic Stadium. An alternate to the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, this was the first time I would see Opening Ceremonies live! I was giddy. Grabbed my tickets and off to the Olympic Park. The show was amazing! Just truly spectacular!! Quite amazing to see all the moving parts come together for one of the greatest shows on earth. Lively, entertaining, humorous, and historical. Danny Boyle and the Brits did a fantastic job!! When Team USA entered the stadium I had goose bumps all over. Tears in my eyes. Wow! We had such a large contingent of athletes and coaches. I just can’t put into words how proud I am to be an American. Moreover, how proud I am of our USA Field Hockey Team for our historic win over Argentina for Pan Am Gold in October and automatic qualification to the Olympic Games. Absolutely incredible!!
The national anthem — it always brings a rush of emotion. Whether it allows me a moment to reflect on my late grandfather’s World War II experience, my playing days representing Team USA, watching highlights of Olympic triumph or defeat, or taking a moment to remember those veterans who have given their life for our country or those in the military who are working tirelessly to protect us right now, I’m a patriot. As proud an American as can be.
Sunday night was special. I watched and listened, holding back tears, as the national anthem was played at Riverbank Stadium. Our USA Field Hockey team was about to compete. Qualifying for our second consecutive Olympics. I looked at the jumbo screen and took note of our first-time Olympians and the expressions on their faces. If I had to pick one word to describe that look, it would be “wow!”
The whistle blew and it took the entire first half to work through some of the “wow” and wonder of being here. It’s a long day for an athlete whose opening game is at 9:15 p.m. two days after the opening ceremony. Germany is much more experienced with this and the first 35 minutes were theirs. I just kept thinking to myself, “Structure. Release early.”
Things always look much easier from the stands. Field hockey (otherwise known as hockey throughout the rest of the world), is – like many sports — a game of momentum. I was confident we could gain this in the second half, and we did, to the point of dominating. Ask anyone in the stands or watching on NBC.
We were quite good! Germany has one of the best, if not the best, defensive teams in the Olympics, and we were pressing hard for those two goals we gave up in the first half. We not only showed our athleticism but our skill in the second half. In the ’90s we always had spectacular goaltending and a very strong defense. Goal scoring was a weakness.
Fast forward to 2012 and you’ll see aggressive attack and goal scoring! Good changes to our game, thanks to our Technical Director, Terry Walsh, and Coach Lee Bodimeade. That second half was ours. Unfortunately we could only put one away. I suspect Germany was quite thankful that we only played half the game the way we really are capable. The game should have been a 2-2 draw. Live and learn. Tomorrow is another day and one to prove ourselves.
Americans are resilient. We have incredible character and fortitude. The Olympic Games are long. An anonymous author once noted, “The race is not always to the swift, but to those who keep on running.” As Americans have generation after generation, I am quite confident that Team USA will keep on running.
The USA Field Hockey Board encourages you to support Team USA in London!
Watch Team USA live on MSNBC starting with our match today versus Argentina at 2:00pm ET.
July 31 at 2:00pm ET: USA vs. Argentina, live on MSNBC
August 2 at 5:45am ET: USA vs. Australia on NBC Sports Network.
August 4 at 2:00pm ET: USA vs. New Zealand on NBC Sports Network
August 6 at 5:45am ET: USA vs. South Africa on NBC Sports Network
Join us as we “Light the Way to London” and support USA Field Hockey from our grassroots to our Olympic Team with a donation of any amount.