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Tuesday, June 28, 2016


May the odds be ever in your favor
CADENCE: the flow or rhythm of events, especially the pattern in which something is experienced.

That's it. The cadence of GAME DAY. The beat of the music in my head phones on the way to the game that continued while cleats were laced up. The tempo of locker room chatter seemed to pick up gradually. Sometimes the music loud enough it tickled my ribs with over amplified bass. Shouts from the loud mouths on the team that pumped up some players and probably scared others to death. The rhythmic march of cleats heading down the tunnel to the field like a platoon ready for battle. The cadence of the 2 lines warming up in sync followed by the ball pinging from player to player. My heart raced to keep the tempo; my internal baton. I was the conductor. I never realized until this tournament how much that cadence was as much a part of my game day experience as the actual game. The sound comforted me and excited me in perfect sync.  I am missing this game's cadence.  I can't hear the beat and am struggling to find what the tempo is or should be.  The lack of sound catches me off balance.

The last time I had that feeling was the day after September 11, 2001. I never realized how many airplanes flew over my house and how comforting that sound was, until it was gone. When the planes were grounded I seemed to hold my breath; everything feels unsettled.

Waiting for the anthems

I wonder if that's how these players feel when hearing devices come out and we head from the hotel lobby onto the bus. The bus ride is quiet, the locker room is quiet & I have to admit I feel a little off balance. Some of the sounds of the game, for everyone but the players slowly return. Cleats march to the field and balls finally get unleashed from their bag.

The national anthems play and the game ensues. It's a much quieter version of what I am accustomed hearing & it makes me more jumpy than I need to be. I can't feel the beat of the game. Am I missing something? I'm sure I am but Joy assures me we are good to go & she is right.

The first 20 minutes of the game was fairly even and good soccer by both teams.
As the match wore on, the DWNT began to string more passes together and generate a stronger presence in the attacking 1/3 of the field.

Casey King fights for position
Great Britain changed formations a couple of times attempting to clog the midfield but the movement off the ball and quicker passing allowed for possession to continue throughout the game.

The score was 2-0 which by all account is a solid lead... unless the opponent scores.  Great Britain fired a laser free kick near the upper corner and if it wasn't for Meghan Maiwald coming up with a fantastic save, the score would have been 2-1.

In the end, Emily Cressy scored a hat trick and Gracie Fitzgerald found the back of the net to end the game    4-0.  Yeah team! Best game for us as far as team possession, a tight defense and solid victory versus a good team.
Starting XI vs. Great Britain

Emily Cressy receives game ball for Hat Trick #2

No time to rehash our day off due to lots of business combined with zero down time.   Lets just say, Chloe Rice was randomly selected to get an Audiogram test which took 4 hours and was with 3 other athletes.  For me, it was the beginning of a joke. Four countries walk into the audiology center.  Russia, Turkey, Great Britain and USA.  4 Players, 3 administrators who are deaf  & One coach who is not and speaks English only and one  Italian committee member who just wants to get a smoke as quick as he can?  Who is in charge of getting the person at the front desk to understand what needs to be done? All of us and none of us. 

The team headed to Agropoli for shopping and sight seeing.  I'm sure you can find some photos here. as the team has posted quite a bit as of late. 

Our match versus Italy is in a couple of hours.  They are currently in 5th place and looking to find a way to represent their country despite a lackluster showing thus far.   

I'll leave you with one photo that I see on a daily basis & it cracks me up.  Players are always getting locked out of their rooms.  They leave to grab a uniform, pick up a snack or say "hello" to family and the door is closed.  Roommate is usually happily inside catching up on rest, texting their peeps, but no one can hear the knock.  And, to make matters worse,  at this hotel, WiiFi is rarely functioning. So no text to say, "Let me in."  So ... it's just one more #deafprobs that they roll with.  Usually they are sitting down with the "My roommate will figure it out eventually," look on their faces and patiently waiting for the door to open.  

Allie Galoob, Meghan Maiwald, Kate Ward:  Anybody in there? 

We are excited for this game!  I am going to listen harder today and seek out the cadence of this team. It is there, I just need to experience it in a different way. It will come to me, and although the song will be different, it will still be one I enjoy listening to.

Thanks so much for continued support!

United States Deaf Women's National Team

Sunday, June 26, 2016

One Step Closer

 DWNT Starting XI vs. Russia

I don't a think 4-1 result versus Russia was a result anyone expected; especially after being down 1-0 early in the game.  Not because the team isn't capable, but the history behind these two teams is thick and heated.  Pre - Game rituals all went smoothly, but as many of you know... when there is a night game, time has a bad habit of ticking slower than necessary.
Syd Andrews wins a head ball

My history with this team is short, but I've heard the stories of the infamous matches and was just as curious as to how the 2 teams would match up.  One of the most challenging aspects for me has been instilling in the players to embrace change as well as imperfection.  The history of success; and lots of it- rides on the shoulders of everyone, gently whispering in their ear that they have not lost a match.   While it's truly incredible, it screams between their ears, regardless of their lack of hearing.  What they don't remember is that with all of the success... there were many missed passes, mistakes, lack of awareness and it still was all okay.  Soccer is imperfect.
Wheeler joins King and Cressy in celebration 

We bravely gave up an own goal.  Part of me said, "Well, shitsticks" but a bigger part of me was hopeful that this was the emotional shake they needed. Not slightly imperfect that it's hidden so the team can pretend we are going to be okay.  So imperfect that we find ourselves down 1-0.  Immediately, if not sooner, the thoughts and pressure that history has laid upon this team evaporated.  Now there was room for thinking in the present.  We are down a goal.  We need to play. Within 10 minutes, the DWNT scored 2 goals.  Ahhhhh, the beautiful game.

Russia was no slouch of a team with some fast physical players up top, the the DWNT began to show signs of what they have come here to do.  Two more goals were scored before the final whistle blew USA 4: Russia 1; Emily Cressy with a hat trick.  I am not a part of this team's historical past, but it wasn't hard to see this victory went deeper than the last 90 minutes.  I have learned that body language speak much louder than words.  And this was a day I understood everyone.

The men's team played a match versus Russia the following day.  I thought it was their best game with an equal amount of chances and 50/50 possession against a fantastic Russian team.  The Bad News: They lost 2-0.  The great news is they advance to the quarter finals with a match against Germany.  The fun of Group Play.
Men's Staff:  Ken Knoll Billy Phillips have had our backs since Day 1

After watching the men's game we attempted to get to Paestum to see the archeological ruins.  We've driven by on our way to the matches a few times and asked the parents to fill the void of no transportation.  Everyone excited about an actual team outing! Except... 1/2 the caravan crossed town before a marathon ensued and the other half was blocked off by barricades, police and spectators.   So a mere 3 hours later, the team merged back into a group of one. So much for that team bonding.

I'm sure there were some parents that had much trepidation passing their kids off to Joy and I as we marched off to Italy.  Our gift of "Life Skills" we've been forced to instill upon the players  (130 Euros for team laundry) will be a small token of our appreciation for their trust in us.  Now that they are well versed in doing their laundry in the sink... maybe we can teach them how to drive a stick shift!  Lack of funding has it's drawbacks, but I do miss the "old school" way for moments like this.  Everyone needs to put a little more "Old School" back in their life.

Laundry Day for Maddie Taylor and Kate Ward

Our team, with 6 points and 7 goals, sits atop the bracket for now.  Great Britain is below us with 4 points and 6 goals.  Normally, our 2 W's would find us out of the bracket with a chance to rest some players, add a new wrinkle, and have time to reset.  The round robin format ensures that we cannot take cleat off the pedal and forge ahead.

We've shown improvement from Game 1 to Game 2 and are expecting to play more effectively today.
I think my sign language is improving and get brave and go for it.  My confidence rises as I learn new words and then catch a glimpse of Amanda the interpreter in a mirror in the hotel lobby frantically cleaning up whatever I am saying into the real version.  Basically, when they look at me, their facial expressions resemble total state of confusion.  Respectfully, that slowly and subtly pan over to her.  Facial expressions turn from squinting, scrunched up, brows furrowed to relaxed and serene; similar to the scary movie music when someone is about to get stabbed and then realize it's just the neighbor dropping off a bundt cake.  Baby steps.  Baby steps.  I am no longer eaves dropping, but "eye dropping" as I pick up a few more words every day.  (Thanks Dr. Becky Clark for that term)

In the women's game.. this might be a universal sign for :  GAME DAY 

Becca Toler is loving the Deaf World Championship 

Friday, June 24, 2016

We have officially kicked off

We’ve been in Capaccio, Italy for 5 days, and I’d love to explain every last detail to you… but that would be impossible because I am getting a good dose of what people that are Deaf go through on a daily basis.  Since everyone in charge of organizing meals, training times, transportation, uniforms and rosters is deaf; I’m pretty sure I’m picking up a good solid 50% of what is actually happening. 

Our interpreter, Amanda, is awesome and I’m sure we’d be sleeping in the lobby if it wasn’t for her skills.   But the combo of being in Italy and knowing American Sign Language has to be… next to impossible.  Stringing together bits and pieces of as much info as we can and waiting for a head to nod “yes” with whomever we are speaking to for a sign of understanding is exhausting.  Later we learned that heads nodding “yes” might simply mean, “I have no clue what you are saying, but I am trying hard to comprehend.”  Which would explain why we almost completely missed the technical meeting AND opening ceremonies.  It may also explain why I misplaced the game rosters and someone from the federation sign and shout a tad aggressively, "Do your homework, we just went over this!."   Unfortunately, Amanda recognized all of those signs and repeated them to me loud and clear in the off chance I did not understand. 
Men's & Women's Deaf National Soccer Teams Pre Ceremony 
The pre-pre ceremony (see how one can get confused?) was the night before and was moved inside due to rain.  The following day, there was a brief ceremony before Italy and Germany kicked off the 2016 World Championship.  When we saw the boy holding the American flag for the ceremony we had a good feeling about the tournament.  He was by far the best.

Not even kidding.  The red white and blue was always the highest and this kid took his job seriously. Some of the boys were having jousting tournaments with their flags and our guy was perfect .
The home team won the battle 2-1, it was our staff's first time seeing a 2 full teams compete on equal playing ground.  The 2 scrimmages we had back in the USA our opponents (Kansas City Courage and San Diego Sea Lions) were able to communicate in ways the DWNT could not.  It did make a difference.

Italian National Anthem

I enjoyed the ceremonies before the match, and soaked in the atmosphere.  While I am here, the aspect I am consumed with and thoroughly enjoy the most is watching everyone interact from around the world.  While I miss much of the content, I am enthralled with the action and visual intensity of a conversation.  Slowly but surely I am beginning to understand sign language, with the right timing and the expression to go with it can be more meaningful than verbal language and much more fun to watch.

TRAINING:  No one wanted to admit it, but it was not the crisp, clean practice we had hoped for.  Jet lagged bodies and a bumpy field made it difficult to allow us that “We are ready for a World Championship” feeling.  Thankfully, everyone knows as much as you’d love to have a sharp training, rarely does anyone pull it off after such a long trip.  Regardless of the quality, it served its purpose as the following 3 training sessions have been back to what is expected.  

While many of the players wear hearing devices, it is required that all devices are removed.  So.. we train like we play.  Hearing aids and cochlear implants come off along with jewelry and that is when things get tough.  A few players rely on hearing aids and lip reading and know little sign language.  Without their "ears" the ability to receive information is extremely difficult.  If a comment is made and they cannot see the face, then no communication occurred.  i.e. if a head turns 15 degrees to show a space where the ball needs to be played, that may be the difference in getting the point across or not.  Some players sign only, so making sure the signs and visual cues are clear is key.  Everyone on the same page with the same message is a challenge.

Joy and I find ourselves excited to share our knowledge and experience but get a bit nervous before we start the training session.  We want to share everything at once, but recognize we need to deliver one message each training, stick to the game plan and be precise.  It should be in every coaches handbook.   As excited as we are, we want players to play relaxed and simple and not get frustrated with the process.

In a matter of minutes the realization hits us that they are used to "figuring it out" and the only way to do that is through qualities we all have within us.   Their non verbal body language, smile, focus and teamwork tell us to "Relax" "We got this.  We are used to this."   They are extremely patient with each other, they are not afraid to ask questions, and almost always give a thumbs up to the person who miss touched the ball.
Syd Andrews, Gracie Fitzgerald, Chloe Rice 

Heading to Training 
 It is extraordinarily clear to me that they have all been there before; missed some information, didn't understand, struggled to fully receive what people have been saying.  This team has a blast together and can be quite noisy and full of life, but when all devices are removed... the focus narrows, the patience doubles and the respect for one another can be felt.   It is a great place to be.

There have been schedule changes, bus chaos, training time issues and other mayhem and through it all, the players are telling us to
"Relax.... just go with the flow."  and Joy in I step in line to match their ability to roll with it.

The Men's Team played the day before us and we watched the live streaming; not sure we wanted to risk the elements before our first game.  They beat Japan 1-0 and hopped on a bus to watch our game the following day.  It was great to have some red white and blue in the stands. But man! These games seem so quiet. It is more difficult for me to feel the rhythm of the game without the voices of coaches, and players to fill the space.  The space is left empty and I feel a bit off balance.
Meghan Maiwald, Sydney Andrews, Mia Marin, Liza Offreda 

Our first match against Turkey was a great first game to have.  The USA clearly the dominant team.
Starting XI vs Turkey
While we struggled to finish in front of the net, we managed a victory and won 3-0.  The organizing committee assumed Amanda would be interpreting the anthem for the fans.  We disagreed.  After the daily argument, it was decided Amanda would sign to the beat of the anthem facing our starters.  For those that know me, I get choked up most times I hear our anthem.  This one was no different, except I did not watch the flag.  Glued to the elegant movements gave more meaning to the song, the words turning into the story I needed to hear.  I'd post it;  but downloading video via the internet would be a frickin' miracle.

The US Deaf Men's Team as well as many parents from both teams came in full support. Even with the fans, it will be awhile before I get used to lack of sound sound on the field.

Three points usually allows a little breathing room into both players and staff; however this World Championship is different.  Due to the fact a couple of teams dropped out, we are forced to play a round robin.  5 games… top 2 play in the final.  As a fan and a coach, I have enjoyed following the management of getting out of your group first.  Instead, the team competes against Turkey, Russia, Great Britain, Italy and Poland.  Russia has been the USA’s toughest competition as of late.   Like a few other teams that are here, they are funded and train on a much more regular basis. They beat the Italians 5-0 and will be more than ready to play the team that handed them the silver medal in the last championship.

In order to be one of the top 2 teams, it is full speed ahead with as many goals as possible because 3 points doesn’t ensure getting to the next round.  THE NEXT ROUND is in the final.. or it’s not. 

I'd love to tell you about the Russians, but they are tough to find.  We have seen them one time.. at opening ceremonies.  In and out like clockwork.  

What do we have?  Our skill, our patience, our trust, and the fact there is no other place this team would rather be.  I like our chances.  Wanted to post before kick off so will "publish" now in the hopes of photos being able to download in this century.  But if not, just go with the flow like this team does; it seems to work just fine.  After all, it is GAME DAY!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Setting the Scene...

Five days ago, I had an opportunity to watch the Seahawks train. Before our small group even hit the field we could hear music keeping the beat of well-rehearsed drills.  The sharp staccato of a whistle to stop the play with their upbeat chatter added to the song.  Noise crescendoed when everything was in sync, followed by high-5’s, encouragement and cheers.  All the while, Pete Carroll directs the group with animated precision; a kaleidoscope of moving parts that match this symphony of sport.    The vibe was incredible. 

To hear Russell Wilson egg on a teammate, Baldwin encourage a rookie or a coach demand one more rep’ was awesome.  What made the experience even more real was all the other stuff; plain and simple.  From listening to Jermaine Kearse talk about Copa America, to catching conversations of injured players, journalists and photographers on the sidelines was as valuable as watching training. Overhearing (some call it eaves dropping) a sports psychologist's angle on how to handle pressure moments,  listening to a sports writer’s conversation with Pete Carroll on selecting players and joining in on a conversation regarding “grit” made for an inspiring afternoon.  

Fast forward to one day later:  I was watching USA vs. Ecuador game at a restaurant at the airport before boarding a plane.  Hearing the national anthem gets me pumped! The vivacious crowd made me proud to be from Seattle.  As the game heated up, the patrons did too. Gradually, more and more scootched their chairs to face the only screen with the game on.  The 6th game of the NBA Finals was ignored.  There was a woman from Ecuador cheering like crazy.  She bought tickets months ago… in the hopes her home country would land in Seattle; and they did.  Unfortunately her friend also decided to get married that weekend.   The simultaneous uproars and sighs made both of us get into the game as if we were competitors.  Immediately, Andrea, an engineer at Boeing and I (soccer coach J) seemed to have lots in common.  When one cheered, the other gasped simultaneously. What a great way to kill some time before boarding. 
“Attention please: There has been a gate change.  Alaska Airlines Flight 18 will now be leaving out of Gate 11” 

Why on earth am I writing about this?  Because Joy Fawcett and I are coaching the United States Deaf Women’s National Team. We are headed to a World Championship.  Since 2013 The team has only been together 8 days total; and in that short time,  I am hooked.  Hooked mostly because of who they are and what they represent.  I find myself thinking what life would be like as a deaf person.  Imagine how different the 2 brief snapshots of time I just mentioned would feel to a person who is deaf.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know what you are going to say, “Some wear hearing aids… so it’s not that big of a deal… blah, blah, blah.”   You try it.  See how fun it is at a noisy restaurant with Chatty Cathy in the booth next to you, or at practice when you still can’t decipher what a coach is saying without looking directly at her face.  Pick any venue and give it a shot.  And they are called “hearing aids” … not ears.  Sounds are distorted, batteries go dead, the sounds are either amplified or muted. It’s more challenging that one would initially assume.

Okay, so I had to say it because they don’t.  They don’t complain or whine or mope.  What they do is get after it.  These players smile, they work,  and above all they are patient (thank goodness) and they absolutely love soccer.  

WE are headed to Italy and our first game is on the 22nd.  Go USA. 

That gives you a couple of days to learn about the team if you'd like to ; and then.. it's LET THE GAMES and the stories begin.  I'm not sure how often these posts will come because the internet is poor.

United States Deaf Women's National Team Players waiting for opening ceremonies