Getting Cut

Photo Copyright © 2013 Micah Tapman/CBMT Creative

The first emotion I felt when I made Team USA was confusion. I got a text from Matty that said “check your email” with a smiley face so I figured it was good news, but then the congrats email had the heading “Dear Alex.” Luckily both coaches quickly followed up to say, “We are SO sorry. That email WAS meant for you.” Also, we didn’t know for a couple of days who else had made the team because the roster was accidentally only sent out to the people who didn’t make it. Overall being a member that kind of group was surreal and humbling.

I felt good about my chances about going to Colombia. I had to. I’d made it that far.

We had a San Francisco practice before the Boston practice and a bunch of people stayed at my house. Several of them got in long after I had fallen asleep so we spent breakfast meeting—and hugging— each other. I’m not sure how to explain it, but there wasn’t any buy-in to be had. We just all were so excited and humbled and honored to be chosen and that was enough to make us a capital-t Team from the start. We all knew how special this experience would be and that it would also be short-lived and so we had to treasure every single moment with each other.

Because most of us had never played together we had this unique opportunity to celebrate all the little things that went right and chalk up the mess-ups to not knowing each other. Everything was fixable. The mistakes didn’t matter. No one got mad or frustrated – we were just so excited when our teammates were successful. I remember the first time we completed cross-gender huck, the whole sideline went crazy. Such a seemingly little thing, but we were like “Hey look! We’re a co-ed team!”

When I received the email naming me first alternate so many negative thoughts ran through my mind. I’m not proud of where my head was. To be perfectly honest, I almost wished I had been injured. It would’ve been easier to explain why I’d been cut. But no, I was in the best shape of my life and playing well. Were all these workouts for nothing? Why keep working hard? How is it fair that some people get to do this two World Games in a row? It was easier to just distance myself and save the inevitable heartbreak.

To play at the elite level you have to be confident. You have to believe you can win your match up. All of the sudden all I could think about were the ways I was messing up and the ways everyone else was better than me. I wish I could say not making the traveling roster gave me a chip on my shoulder and so I started to play like I had something to prove, but really it just took me out of my element. And since Team USA wasn’t getting back together for an entire month, my timid play manifested itself with Fury the most. I stopped believing I could be a playmaker and so I stopped being one. It was that binary. With one email I went from dreaming about the big stadium in Cali to wondering whether I could even cover the open side during Fury tryouts.

Poultry Days, while really fun, was also really hard. It was the first time we were back together since the 13-and-7 split. I remember sitting around in our little USA village and trying not to be sad. I enjoyed my teammates’ company, but in the end I was just going to be left behind. Why get attached? Of course, I did get attached. Looking back, it was inevitable with such an incredible group of people. There are so many people I look up to on that team, from Dylan who made sure I really knew what it meant to him to be my teammate, to Rohre who taught me by example what it means to be a good teammate when you’re feeling bad for yourself, to Ryan who showed all of us what hard work looks like. I learned something from everyone on that roster.

There was a pivotal moment for me and it happened at Solstice with Fury. Cree went up for a jump ball and came down twisting her knee. No one knew how serious it was, but she didn’t get up for several scary minutes. I remember looking at her across the field and thinking – this is not how I want to go Colombia. In that one moment I knew that no matter how much I had wanted it for myself and how much it hurt, the right team was going and wanted them all to make it there and to just absolutely stomp on every other team competing. Luckily, Cree was okay, and two weeks later we were all back together at the US Open, running ourselves into the ground every morning, for each other, before games with our respective club teams. The final huddle at our last practice in Denver was very powerful. The coaches thanked everyone for the work they put in and how special the last few months had been. I think I can speak for the others and say that we all felt that even though the 13 would get to carry on, what the 20 had just been a part of was a once in a lifetime experience and we were super lucky. There wasn’t a dry eye in that huddle.

One of the hardest parts for me leading up to the Colombia trip was that the 7 of us got taken off all of the logistical emails. I understand why they did that – they figured it might feel like rubbing it in our faces. But ever since it was announced that the Games would be in Cali, I had been imagining what it would be like to go there – the stadium, the hotels, being treated like an Olympic athlete, traveling together, who my roommate might be. Here I was SO close to everything I had been thinking about and the last door gets slammed in my face. I don’t even get to live vicariously. It kinda felt like – what happened to “we’re all in this together?” Of course once people realized that we were sad about it, they filled us in. Dylan actually ended up forwarding me all the emails, which was awesome. To him it may have been merely boring logistics, but to me it was a window in, a way to stay connected to the traveling team. Cree printed out all of the alternates’ faces so that we could come to Colombia with them. They sent us fun pictures all week of us hanging out with the team. And in one of the halftime huddles they said, “Hey, let’s do this for our teammates back home,” which was really cool. We did our part to get them there, and in return they were thinking about us.

Being on this team was something I dreamed about ever since I read about the 2005 team as a little sophomore in college. In the end, I was one of 20, selected from a ridiculous pool of players to represent the United States. I don’t, for one second, discount that. I imagine it’s similar to any heartbreak – you hurt, some time passes, and you can look back on it and appreciate that the experience happened. I guess at some point it sunk in that this team is about more than Colombia. Sure, I was extremely sad not to go, and sure, the gold medal was the goal we were all aiming for, but I am so thankful I got to be a part of the process leading up to it. I am so proud of all the work we put in. I feel really lucky to have all those kids in my life now and I feel really lucky to have had the privilege of wearing the USA jersey, even if it wasn’t in Colombia. Overall, being a part of this was an absolutely incredible experience and opportunity. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Issue No. 2 | World Games

October 2, 2013

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