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Monday, July 11, 2016

Drop the mic'

I know you are already aware that  the United States took home the gold.  It’s kind of hard to top that on a blog, especially a week late, but here goes.  

A couple approach Casey (#23 - 2 goals in the World Cup Final) while waiting on a plane heading to Cincinnati.  “Are you one of the players on the Deaf Women’s National Team that just won the World Cup?”  (already cool that she is aware of the team!) 
“Yes, “replies Casey. 
“Is there a way I can find out more about how I can get my niece involved in soccer?    She is 3 years old, and she is deaf.” Contact information was swapped to ensure a future encounter. 

Casey King and new fan
The couple waited for Casey and her folks after exiting the plane and took a pic with Casey under a photo of Mia Hamm. 

Drop the mic’ 

Well... I wish I could drop the mic'  because this really is the crux of the story.  Due to the increased awareness (thanks to you) .. the fact that someone's tweet, article or conversation was 'heard' by one parent that normally wouldn't have; a connection has been made from one 3 year old deaf girl to a role model, soccer player and deaf world champ.  

I would like to end it there, but this tourney was too memorable for me to be concise and short.  Not my style.  

World Cup Champs. 3-0 vs. Russia.  Relief.  Expectation.  Joy.  Confetti.  Our National Anthem belted through speakers after the match.  Some players with “ears” back in could hear the anthem with Joy, Stacy (athletic trainer) and I. Others could see Amanda’s interpretation without pre-game jitters but post game tears.  This team loves to experience the anthem. 

I’m assuming I will feel melancholy the next time I hear the anthem; missing the animated flowing translation.  Sad, partly because I know what this means to the team, but I will also assume there is a deaf person in the stands that doesn’t get to participate in the same way we were able to with a translator.  A new perspective.

A beautiful trophy symbolizing the United States Deaf Women’s National Team is the best in the world.  Not many people have an opportunity to shoot for such an accolade, let alone claim it.  What fun to see the U.S. Team hoist it high.  It is more magnificent than I imagined it would be.  I thought it would match our budget, but this cup is heavy and shiny and it's ours.  

In an era when everyone sees replays of amazing events over and over and over and over and over and over and over; it is easy for people of all ages to get a false assumption that everyone wins, everyone is in a highlight reel,  and that championships are a dime a dozen.   But in reality...these moments rarely happen for anyone.
Mia Marin Celebrates; smiles for everyone!
As much as I am overjoyed watching the trophy being passed along from player to player; a bit of sadness creeps in.  I have been here before with teammates of my own. I understand that winning a World Championship is unlike anything else, but it also symbolizes the end; the culmination of something extraordinary.  As players are dancing on the podium and passing around the trophy, I am fully aware that the journey trumps the trophy.   Like your kids growing up, there are moments in your life where you just want time to stop.  To hold on to the same… for as long as possible, all the while understanding that change is inevitable.

I look over at Joy cheering, with confetti stuck on her arm, and immediately I'm back to pure happiness for this moment.  It hits me how lucky I am.  

Twenty-five years ago, a similar journey with the U.S. team landed me a friend for life.  Joy was my ace in the hole, partner in crime, had my back; the perfect wing women.  Overwhelmed with the realization that while my perspective has changed, our friendship is as solid and steady as ever.  Yep, I am blessed.

In true DWNT fashion; the players posted a photo on everyone's door before the final;  Lord only knows where it came from,  as it was taken the night of the first ever Women's World Cup.  Joy and I arm and arm; much like we were as the final anthem played.  Along with the photo the blue and red crayon (I'm not exaggerating when I say our budget is slim :)) reads, "Lets' win this last one cuz it's almost time to party like it's '91"  How cool is it that these players know that Joy and I have a history that we all get to share together once again through this experience.  

"Let's win this last one cuz it's almost time to party like it's '91!!" 
The confetti poppers exploded in our ears, forcing me back into enjoying this moment. Was I the only one that wished this instant would last a little longer than reality would allow?

Annoyed that our night must be spent at a mandatory gala with all the teams and a 2AM bus departure.  Selfishly, I don’t feel like sharing this moment with anyone but the team.  I want to celebrate, but the schedule doesn't allow for it.  

Eight total days of training since the summer of 2013 and they pulled it off in dominating fashion.   It sounds incredible, but it was more than 8 days of training. Eight days of training.. yes.... but.... 

Together, the team collaborated on fitness plans, fundraising,  & finding training opportunities.  They scraped up close to $100,000 to be able to compete (if one player raised more than the $5,000, the excess was donated to another player in need). With the help of families and friends, they designed T-Shirts, printed T-shirts, created a website,  (since the current one thru deaf soccer association wasn’t being updated), came up with a marketing plan, learned how to communicate as one, respected one another’s differences, found their common bond and came together with one focus.  Signing, lipreading, implants or stone cold deaf, a hearing staff and fans of all of the above all came together.  Months of teamwork; separately together.  

Liza Offreda on the attack
 It seems to me many people in the soccer community have wrapped their arms around this team and we are forever grateful. 
With 40 million people in the U.S. that are deaf or hard of hearing, we hope that more become aware of the USDWNT.  The team would welcome more opportunities to pay our gratitude forward. Players would love to be mentors, ambassadors & role models to any in need.  
Between the men’s and women’s teams, the players span the country and have stories of their own to share that may help a younger version of themselves find their way a bit more smoothly. 

Casey King Breaks away From Russian Defense

Our team was excitedly nervous throughout the tournament, even with a marginal lead.  They did not want to lose one new fan once they realized how many fans were following.      Explaining to them that fans cared about what they stood for more than a trophy was a moot point; as to this team the show of appreciation was to bring home the gold.  

Communication is Key

I thought of the players going from the environment where every teammate, ref, organizer, opponent was deaf; immediate understanding.  Was there an adjustment period to deal with entering back to the hearing world of soccer, class, work, etc? I hoped not.  

I thought of Anna, a veteran who tore her ACL and yet, played a key role in helping the team whenever possible and helping me even more.  
Anna Smith, Scorekeeper, manager of rookies, and everything in between 
Already the proud owner of a new ACL, 2 days after her return. 

I look forward to sharing stories when I get home; but I have a feeling much will be lost in translation.  “Ya’ just had to be there” will end up being my ‘go to’ line. 

Like the time I think I’m capable of enough ASL to get my point across.  Amanda (interpreter) asks if she should hop off the bench with me.  We are deathly afraid of mismanaging the coach’s box rule which is:  “If the coach sits down, leaving the interpreter still standing…. The coach gets  a red card.”  The first game, Amanda was glued to my hip.  We looked like we had entered the 3-legged race as we got up and down from the bench in Keystone Cop-like fashion.    
By the 3rd game, I was thinking I could get a quick point across on my own, allowing Amanda’s stress level to dip a couple of notches.  So… off the bench I jumped and began to do my version of ASL (Amy Sign Language). “Pass! Pass! Pass” adamantly with my hands flailing wildly to a player.  

“Move them up!” instructs Amanda while I continue to move my hands gregariously.
“Up! Up! Up!” she encourages more urgently. 
“I don’t WANT her to move up!” I turn on her. Amanda is glued to her chair.  “I just need her to pass the bloody ball and stop dribbling!”
Amanda explains, “Hands up!… Turn your hands up!… You are telling her to ‘move’ not ‘pass’!.”  Which gave reason to why she was running around the field like a wild women.


Stretching? Hiding? Relaxing? All of the above. 

Many moments on the field entailed getting the attention of a player; each with her own sign name indicative to her personality on the team.  In the hotel, I was proud of my ability to remember everyone's name and pictured it being smooth sailing by game day.  But when trying to get your point across in the heat of a World Championship… a whole different story.  Oh, the fun the bench had watching Joy, Amanda and I try and give a tip to one player.

We need to tell “Hair Flip” she needs to defend deeper into the midfield.  “Hair Flip” is not noticing.  Now it is Joy and I with the ‘Hair Flip’ like 2 synchronized swimmers  … and again with a more exaggerated hair flip.  Soon the bench is laughing at us… but also flipping their hair in the hopes “Hair Flip” glances over and they can pass along the info. .   At times I felt like I was being punked… but when I got it right… it was a sympatico.

Syd and Liza keeping score

Chloe and Mia keeping different score
Joy Fawcett the Score Keeper 
 So, that's it in a nutshell.  Sorry for the late post.  A combo of struggling to find how to capture the tourney for all it that it was.  Once I realized that I cannot come close, I put my computer to rest and hung with the best fans of all before heading home.  I'm happy that the Griffins got to be a part of this World Cup.  Nick and Ben were proud, reserved, interested, and PUMPED.  They watched from a distance,  eventually joined in a kick around game ... and then... on the day after the championship, asked, "Can you teach me how to sign?"
Griffins ... and a Walter and Carli Photo Bomb

The Deaflympics are scheduled to be in Turkey next summer. It’s the World Championship all over again; only this time all the other sports will be joining us. We are back to the drawing board.  Similar to the full women’s team who won the World Cup last summer and will defend their Olympic title in a couple of months (minus the ticker tape parade) we will strive to improve, and grow and continue to create awareness.  I sincerely hope you continue to be a fan and bring some others with you.   

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony. - Mahatmi Ghandi