Growing Together

Recap of Games vs. New Zealand & Finland

Often you can learn as much from a loss as you can from a win. There are always lessons to be learned from sports that pertain to the game and to life. How hard can you push yourself, how do you respond to adversity or making a mistake, how deep can you dig, and what are you willing to sacrifice? Sports challenge us to face our inner critics and to push our mental and physical limits to be successful. And whether you win or lose, there is always something to be gained.

Of course, everyone prefers to learn from winning rather than losing.

Our two games in the past two days have taught us a lot about our strengths, areas for improvement, and how to grow as individuals and as a team. The first game we lost, but in many ways it felt like a win. The second game we won, but it definitely felt like a loss. It came down to execution and playing as a team for 60-minutes.

Our first game against New Zealand was physical and intense. New Zealand is a talented team with good size and speed. We seemed to get a bit rattled at the idea of playing New Zealand and came out tight, making rushed decisions to get rid of the ball. In terms of skill, the game felt much closer than the final score of 13-4. We played with them, causing them to have more turnovers than we did. However, our shots weren’t finding the back of net, which is the way it goes some days. The team hustled and worked until the final whistle. The girls left it all on the field. Even though the score didn’t end up the way we wanted, it was clear to see that with a few adjustments, both mental and tactical, we could take a great deal away from the match.

The Finland game was a slightly different story. We came out strong, taking the lead by eight goals early in the first half. Then we got comfortable. We still hustled and worked hard, but we did not play Ireland lacrosse. As Finland started a solid comeback, we became a bit frantic on the field, making small errors that resulted in big plays for Finland. The team was visibly frustrated, as was the coaching staff. We ended the game 13-9, and everyone appeared a bit dejected. As the team walked silently into the locker room, Meg, Jackie and I reflected on what can be gained from this type of game. How can we use this experience where we focused outwardly instead of inwardly to draw a new level out of the team? What is our learning moment from this win that feels like a loss?

Meg is a great motivator and student of the game. She sees it through different lenses and knows what buttons to push when needed. She is a true competitor and looks to draw that out in each player. We had an excellent team meeting tonight where we discussed facing challenges. Every person on the team shared her perspective, allowing the team to get on the same page and to understand what motivates each other. The mood over the loss to New Zealand and the win over Finland provided the perfect climate to discuss essential lessons that will help us be more successful as a team in the future. I walked away from the meeting excited for us to play tomorrow. I think the team realized that it doesn’t matter who we play as long as we bring our passion, fire, confidence, work ethic, trust in each other, and PRIDE to the field. If we do that, we will be successful no matter the final score.

We are 3-1 in our bracket, which puts us in second place behind New Zealand. Although the win over Finland felt bittersweet, Bernie, Caroline’s grandad, made the point that “an ugly win is better than a beautiful loss”. True enough. Our game tomorrow against Germany is a crossover game and will not affect our place in our bracket. That will not stop us from coming out strong from the first whistle and playing OUR game until the final whistle. I know that we can do it, and I’m excited to see us in action tomorrow morning.

We had a great trip to Niagara Falls today, as well as Irish night at Trinity Pub last night for our incredible supporters. We have the best fans any team could imagine. Thank you to our many supporters, friends, and family who are cheering us on in Canada and from afar! I will write more about our fun excursions tomorrow.

For now, I’m off to visualize coaching our team to a victory tomorrow.

COME ON YOU GIRLS IN GREEN!

GO IRELAND!

 

Fearless

Day 4: Ireland vs the Netherlands, Tie 6-6

Today, I had my first draw since little league soccer. Our game was neck-and-neck, trading possessions, fouls, and goals with the Netherlands. We were evenly matched, and it was a fun game to play. It was the first time that we really looked like a cohesive unit all over the field.

We were up by three goals after a heroic effort by the attack, with Caroline leading the charge. A stick check call after a goal changed the momentum a bit, disallowing the third goal and opening the window for the Dutch. We allowed the Netherlands to get two quick goals to tie it up with less than a minute to play. With less than thirty seconds on the clock, I pulled a charge against the Dutch, much to my great relief. My girl was like a bowling ball on feet, with a fierce shot to boot.

When the whistle sounded both teams were fired up for overtime. We wanted to end it. Knowing for sure which team would claim third place in our bracket. Excited and energized, we ran to our huddle awaiting information about overtime.

But that was it. The end of the game. No winner or loser, just a draw. In the European Championships?!? Talk about a let down. We were at the boiling point and then we were taken off the burner, frustration brewing beneath the surface.

Tomorrow will be a day of truth. If the Netherlands lose to Germany, we will be tied in our bracket. This is assuming we win against Switzerland. If we win and they lose, then it comes down to point differential. We have the first game of the day, so we need to score, score, and score some more to put us in the best position possible to vie for third.

I played straight defense today to mark out their main scorer. It was fun to be on d, but I missed the action of attack. I have no clue where I will play tomorrow, but I will do anything the coaches want if that means we will win. I would be the water girl, play goalie, or dance the Macarena if needed. Actually, the Macerena would be an added benefit.

Our phrase today was “no fear”. We played fiercely, with much more control and composure than in prior games. We played with heart and pride, but we never gave up or let down, even when calls did not go our way. We dug deep, and I believe that we would have come out with another W if we were allowed to do overtime.

At the end of every game we sing “Ireland’s Call” to the fans. Even though I was frustrated with the tie and a sore hamstring, I am transformed by the song. We sing with so much soul, and the song in itself makes you bleed green pride for Ireland. I am trying to get a video of us belting out the words with our supporters joining in for the refrain of “Come the day and come the hour. Come the power and the glory. We’ve come to answer our country’s call, from the four proud provinces of Ireland. Ireland, Ireland, together standing tall. Shoulder to shoulder we’ll answer Ireland’s call!” Ahh, gives me chills just writing it. Such a powerful song.

And what supporters we have…

I’m off to bed. We have an early AND important match against Switzerland tomorrow. I cannot express my gratitude for all the support from the states, especially from my amazing boyfriend, family, clients, and friends. THANK YOU! It gives me so much energy and you are here with me in spirit. Keep sending those good vibes. We can use them!

GO IRELAND! And good luck to the men who play a BIG game against Germany tomorrow!

 

 

And so it begins…

Day 1 of 8: England vs. Ireland

Yea…about that…

The match did not go as well as we had hoped. We lost by a significant margin. It was a very physical match, and judging from my photo, the fouls were flying both ways. I have two massive bruises on my head and let’s not even talk about my arms. The fact that a major foul of mine was caught on film is not a plus, but I consider us even after the bruises my teammates walked away with. Well, maybe not completely even…

While it is never fun to lose, I know that the team made major strides today. Considering the fact that it was our first time ever playing as a team, plus the fact that we are playing the fourth ranked team in the world, I think we handled ourselves a bit better than what the score reflected.

I have a laundry list of things to work on (guess I will add “no cross checks” to the list), but mostly I need to remember to have fun with this amazing group of girls. I get in my head and frustrated when I really play better and enjoy myself more when I’m not calculating all of my mistakes. Who benefits from doubting myself? The other team. I certainly don’t.

We are getting prepared to face Austria tomorrow at 5 pm. Hopefully, I will have good news to report. It won’t be worse than today, so that’s already a plus!

After the game I spent some time with my mom and dad in downtown Amsterdam, the city of crazy bikers. Cars trump bikes and bikes trump people. Basically this translates to watch out.¬†Pedestrians do not have the right of way, and a bike may hit you because you’re moving too slowly. No joke. When I took a team here last summer two of my girls were hit. I think it has gotten worse.

My dad arrived today in time for the game. Such a trooper. He arrived at the field, bags in hand from the overnight flight, ready to cheer on his team. Exhausted, my mom and I got him settled into his apartment after the game. I was starving, so my mom and I went in search of food, one of my favorite things in the world. My experience with the food so far has been subpar, at best. We were recommended to try a local Dutch restaurant called Moeder, “mothers” in Dutch. How fitting. We had a great meal for the second day in a row. Success.

Yesterday the team went into Amsterdam, and I stole away for a little over an hour to have lunch with my mom. Instead of hitting one of the tourist traps, we asked a local man where the best place for pasta was in the area. We ended up at a cute Italian restaurant off the beaten path with loud Italian waiters paying tons of attention to us and shouting undecipherable things to each other in Italian. Felt pretty authentic.

After another good meal tonight, I met up with the team to cheer on the men against the Netherlands. They gave it a good go, but lost the lead with one quarter to go. Hope that the luck of the Irish will kick in for both teams tomorrow!

One of my favorite things about wearing green and playing for Ireland is the camaraderie. The Irish bleed loyalty and teamwork. After every match the men’s team goes over to their fans, clapping to the fans in appreciation of their support. The women’s team sings “Ireland’s Call” to our supporters, which chokes me up every time since the song drips with country pride. Mine grows daily.

Off to bed to rest up for our big game tomorrow. I think that we will come out fighting from the first whistle. GO IRELAND! BEAT AUSTRIA!

 

Getting Into Full Swing

2012 European Championship Ireland Team before the Opening Ceremony

I have been a busy bee.

We woke up yesterday a bit sore and energized to run the mile. I got a personal best of 6:05, and the entire team cruised in with good times. After two hours of practice following the mile, I couldn’t believe that I was disappointed we were done for the day. I enjoy playing with this team so much and being coached by our coaches that I would have been happy to stay on the pitch for hours more. Pretty unusual for me.

We traded our training shorts for khakis, revealing that there were actually attractive people behind the goggles. We loaded the bus with the men’s team and headed for the opening ceremony for the tournament. Over 2,000 players lined up, chanting their country’s song, and sporting brand new gear splashed in their colors. We waited outside the arena to be called, bantering with the men’s team and snapping photos in line.

The ceremony was held in the arena where the 1928 Olympics were held and will be again in 2028. The Olympic rings covered the entrance, making us feel like we had entered into a new threshold. Many hope and expect that lacrosse will be an Olympic sport by 2028, if not way before. Fingers crossed.

Today was another great day. We did team stickwork this morning and I led everyone in a modified version of yoga sun salutations. I’m not giving up the stick for the mat anytime soon. My yoga skills could use some work.

We headed to the pitch for lunch and practice, giving us a chance to scout some of the other teams. I am impressed by the overall level of competition and athleticism on each team. I’m a tall girl, but there are some talllll girls on other squads. Massive.

I am officially playing midfield, which is exciting and bit intimidating since I have not played it before. However, I love playing on both ends of the field, so I’m sure it will work out. And work ME out.

After practice we watched the men’s game versus England. I have been on many teams in my life, but the support and unity that the men’s and women’s teams have is unparalleled. I felt so overwhelmed to be part of this amazing group of players, signing at the top of my lungs supporting Ireland and the men.

My mom arrived today and my dad arrives on Saturday for our first match against England, our toughest competition. I imagine that it will be powerful to put on the green and orange uniform knowing that I’m representing my dad’s entire side of the family, especially my grandparents who have both passed away. I’m sure it will be quite a moment for my dad as well.

Well, I’m off to bed. Tomorrow we have an early practice and then will head into the city for the first time since we arrived. It has already been a whirlwind, and I already consider my teammates dear friends. I can only imagine how much closer we will be after this. There is a special bond we share and an energy that each girl possesses. Our coaches all played for Ireland in the 2009 World Cup, and they share the same passion and enthusiasm that we do. It is a great group and I am blessed to be part of it. GO IRELAND!