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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!


  1. Thanks for sharing Amy! Rooting for USA! Love the part about the boy carrying our flag!

  2. Thank you Amy for sharing. It brings tears to my eyes to know you love them and respect them as much as I do. They are amazing and very talented ladies. Go USA ⚽️🇺🇸