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Saturday, July 2, 2016

Finally... The Final

USA 4:  Poland 1 -  and just like that the USA is into the finals versus the Russians.

A different version of our national anthem ignited our team. Amanda's hands keeping time to a loud, booming symphonic version had both the hearing and deaf in sync for once.  The players on the bench asked if it was singing or just music... they loved it... whatever it was because they could feel it.

Regardless of the fact Poland packed their defense like sardines in a can; the crew found the tempo that kept time with their desire to put this team away.  I am not a fan of diving.  The WNT is not a fan of diving, and the US Deaf WNT is also not a fan of diving.  I'm all for an occasional professional foul, but all in all I think the diving that we see so often in the men's game is bad for the game.   It begins to have the "big time wrestling" feel to it, which drives me bonkers.  Many teams that play against the U.S. spend more time on the ground than passing the ball, hoping the clock ticks and frustration builds to the tune of the USA losing the plot.  Dive after dive after dive our players barely blinked, set up the wall and played.  Through it all they still managed to keep their tempo which is nearly impossible with so many disruptions.

Another technical meeting was suffered through, Amanda and I (okay, just Amanda) picking up bits and pieces of "International Sign,"  as she whispers in my ear.. "Okay, this is really important information.  You need to pay attention to... bananas.  Bananas, ... I'm sure he doesn't mean bananas but in the US... that's the sign for bananas, there.. he did it again, so make sure that you are aware that and if you make a mistake on the bananas, you will be disqualified..."  We definitely got the gist of the conversation; only missing the very important subject/noun that was the main topic of discussion.

So, to the final it is.  Day off spent stretching, packing, hydrating and meeting.  Tomorrow is an early game,. Our schedule is condensed and the day is long consisting of both the Men's and Women's Final matches, a ceremony on the field followed by a Gala after... and a 2AM bus ride to the airport.  We play Russia.. but screw Russia.. this game is 100% about us.  or U.S.  :)

The meeting regarding departure times, etc slaps me to reality how much I want to win.  I want this team to be champs again... but something else has been nagging at me since the start of this journey.

Warming up for some soccer tennis 

When Joy and I originally met the team, we knew that the 2 main issues were 1) FUNDING and 2)AWARENESS. Equally important we believe those 2 items will help us build a larger pool of players, help bring varying deaf communities and hearing communities together and allow this experience to not be such a burden on the players.

But we have received what the players needed even more than funding and awareness.  This team has received so much support and kindness from so many people, there are too many to count.  People are cheering.  Hope Solo & the full WNT, the Women's Youth National Team staff and coaches. Neighbors and fans of the game, curious onlookers, people we have met at the airport and former teachers.  Old teammates, our dental hygienist, collegiate players from across the country.  An NFL sports photographer, a former UW Goalkeeper that is now one of the most famous athletes of our time :) (Hope.. you are the best!)
Dani , Lexie, Fetlework 
.... pretty much anyone this team has made contact with.  What this team needed was support.  To feel valued. Kindness.  A bit of validation for their struggles and their successes.  Thanks to everyone that has 'liked, tweeted, donated, posted, purchased, followed, cheered' and taken on this team as worthy of US National Team prominence that they deserve... the players are overwhelmed with being noticed.

Overwhelmed that they have spent every inch of their spare time finding ways to say, "Thank you." They walk taller, their smile is deeper.  They know people care.  I think this is what everyone needs in life; and it doesn't cost a cent.  The gift of kindness is the most valuable gift of all; and thanks to you and this team, I will make sure it's a gift I give more often.  I have seen what it has done for these individuals that have genuinely crept deep into my conscience and I am forever grateful.

Yes, we want the Gold and don't want to settle for much else, but before the kick off, before the podium I am realizing that this team has been given a gold from you.

 Mark Twain said,
“To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with.”  The notion that these players have been fortunate enough to divide their story and their passion with so many people has been the gift you have given these players.  

Bus leaves in 10 minutes.  Gotta Go.  With love and Gratitude. 

Amy Griffin 
Coach: US Deaf National Team

Mixing up the warm up 

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