July Motivation of the Month: Leaving Home

As is our tradition here at TopOfTheCircle.com, the July Motivation of the Month is a truly unforgettable first-person account of an actual high-school player as she collected her thoughts in 1999 just before leaving home for college.

This essay, since it can’t fit into the header at the top of this page, is going to remain here for the month; daily posts will appear just below.


A FIELD HOCKEY PLAYER’S JOURNEY FROM HIGH SCHOOL TO COLLEGE

By Jamie Paul
Haddonfield, N.J.

I never thought when I complained and complained about school and all the rules, that when the time came to leave, I would have this empty void inside. People often told me, “Oh you’ll miss this place when you get out,” and at the time, I shrugged them off.

But as the end of senior year neared, I was quite anxious to get out of there. But wouldn’t we all be? Everyone looks forward to a break. But little did I realize that this “break” was permanent and come next September, I won’t be roaming the same old hallways and playing on the same old torn-up fields.

I miss the faces of friends congregating at lockers, I miss the “hellos” from underclassmen friends and senior buddies, and most of all, I miss the teachers, and just plainly the surroundings. Yeah, I was human and I cried at graduation, but that whole “ending” feeling never really hit me. Today, though, today it did.

As I was meandering underneath my bed for my stopwatch — which is still missing in action — I came across my memory boxes from school. And as curious as I am, I just had to open them up and leaf through my collection from these past four years. I pulled out old notes that were passed in hallways, old pictures taken of a field hockey team that was at times a second family, and Christmas and birthday cards, sent from friends that I would have never have come across, had it not been for my times at school.

And then the memories — oh God, the memories! — they haunt me like a ghost. They help at times, but at times, they hurt. Those good times, those funny times, I can’t return to them. That’s the problem: all I can do is remember. But sometimes remembering just isn’t enough.

Maybe it’s the fear of the unknown that is stirring up all these emotions, maybe it’s just looking around, at smiles and at faces of friends, that I know I am afraid to leave. Maybe it’s that fear, that unknowing feeling, that leads me to want only to return to the place that I first learned how to dare, how to dream and how to love.

The ending has ceased though, but that new beginning still awaits me. That door, still yet to be opened, flashes through my mind. At times, I cringe with excitment, and at other times, tears sting the back of my eyes and I know I’m not strong enough. Even with a strong inner faith, I can’t conquer the fear. Even running can’t take my mind off of it.

Every day I arise, knowing we’re getting one day closer. And maybe once I’m settled, once I’ve broken my new environment in, I’ll be just fine. And I’ll laugh at my craziness of wanting to cling to the past, a past of which I said all too often I wanted to forget. But I take one look back and I can’t do it. I can’t bring myself to realize that it’s all said and done. No more. No returning.

And everytime I look at my former coach, who has become so much more than a coach since the day she stepped away from the sidelines two years ago, I am convinced that there’s no way I can leave her or forget her. I stood there tonight as she stopped me, when I was out running, but yet there’s nothing to talk about. And as I ran onward and upward, I wondered if this was the way it was gonna be. Maybe being apart will strenghten our relationship, but maybe it will tear me apart before it strengthens us.

Now I wish only to return, to where there were guarantees, and I wouldn’t have to be alone. But now I’m alone and there’s no one. No familiar face to convince me anymore and maybe that’s why I am scared. Maybe this was all a dream, but somewhere I know I can conquer this. But for now, I wish only to return to yesterday.

Jamie Paul, who graduated from Haddonfield Paul VI (N.J.) on June 6, 1999, would attend Elizabethtown (Pa.) College that fall.

July 27, 2016 — Was it all worth it?

Today, Amare Stoudamire, a 33-year-old professional basketball player, retired as a member of the New York Knicks.

The 6-foot-10 center/forward had a pretty lengthy resume, and has a legacy of being one of the most exciting teams in recent history, teaming with Steve Nash and Shawn Marion to make Phoenix a contender in the Western Conference of the NBA. Injury, however, prevented him from becoming the kind of dominant presence that would earn him superstar dollars, even in New York.

Stoudamire remains, for me, the poster child for what can go wrong when it comes to corruptive dealings in youth sports. It got to the point where shoe companies, colleges, and AAU coaches were pulling at him to play for them, causing a rift in his family and causing him to enroll in six different schools in five states during his scholastic career.

One such school was a would-be superprep team run out of the basement of a church in North Carolina, where there were no other students but the basketball team.

There were all sorts of conflicts of interest, especially when it comes to the wild world of AAU summer basketball. In this transcript, it is disclosed that Stoudamire wasn’t just a participant in AAU basketball, but was a beneficiary; the AAU president at the time purchased a house in which he was living with his coach. His coach was hired as an assistant with a scholastic team for which he was eventually deemed ineligible his junior season.

Despite all this, he was still drafted in the first round by Phoenix, and played in the Olympics just two years later. It made you forget that he only played his first organized game of basketball at the age of 14.

It also made you forget that he lost of development time not playing his junior year of high school and not preparing for the pros playing at a U.S. college.

There were dollars to be chased. He signed contracts totaling some $183 million for his career.

Question is, was it worth it?

July 26, 2016 — USA 5, Canada 0

POSTGAME That’s all for now; good night, good hockey

POSTGAME The U.S. attack was workmanlike, but they were particularly good at jumping on Canadian errors; three of the goals came after Canadian cards and a fourth came after a defensive false start on a corner

POSTGAME Credit the American defense, even without Crandall, for holding Canada at bay, making it an easy day for Kintzer

FULL TIME It’s a result you might have expected; the national programs on either side of the border have gone in different directions the last quarter-century

FULL TIME The siren goes with the USA beating Canada 5-0

52:57 USA PC and GOAL The corner attack does a masterful job in eliminating the three defenders and Katie Bam is at Williams’ mercy on the doorstep; States lead 5-0

52:50 USA PC Canada is called for a false start and now must defend this corner with three outfielders

51:13 USA PC Gonzalez is defensed by Canada’s trailer

48:37 CANADA PC Danielle Hennig’s sweep is stopped by Kintzer

47:39 USA PC Kasold with a sweep that Williams keeps out

46:39 Norlander with a half-chance that Kintzer parries with her boot

END THIRD And with the siren, the States still lead 4-0

44:20 Kolojejchick with a steal and sizzles it through the goalmouth!

37:49 USA PC and GOAL An option-left is swept to goal by Melissa Gonzalez and tipped in by Kelsey Kolojejchick! It’s 4-0 U.S. as they look to take complete control of this game 

37:49 CANADA GREEN Not sure whether this is for dissent or causing the U.S. forward to collide

37:49 Rowan Harris, the backup goalie for Canada, is plowed into and is down in the turf

37:10 USA PC Rachel Dawson’s sweep finds a pile of players and stays out

37:00 The Americans are content to keep the ball and make Canada chase

30:00 The second half is under way 

HALFTIME As lopsided as this scoreline is, it could have been more. Selenski, the third alternate, was playing dominant hockey for portions of the half 

END HALF The Americans take a 3-0 lead over Canada into the break

29:51 USA GREEN Vittese is booked for the bad tackle

24:32 USA PC and GOAL Vittese’s sweep hits a Canada stick and evades a helpless Williams; 3-0 for the Applebees 

19:55 CANADA YELLOW Johansen is off for five minutes for a stick obstruction

19:11 Selenski nearly picks the pocket of the Canada defense but commits the foul 

15:00 Second quarter underway from The Nook

END FIRST One quarter in the books, and the States lead 2-0

13:07 CANADA GREEN It looks like Canada tried to get a player on before the Norlander penalty ended, so the Leafs are temporarily down two players

12:47 CANADA PC Johansen sweeps it wide!

12:23 USA GOAL Caitlin Van Sickle angles a sharp shot that is tipped in by Paige Selenski! States lead 2-0

11:10 CANADA GREEN Stephanie Norlander is off for a bad tackle on Vittese’s 

9:11 USA PC Michelle Vittese’s sweep is defensed by Karli Johansen

7:24 USA GOAL Jill Witmer picks the ball out of a mess of players in front and flips it coolly into the mesh; USA leads 1-0

3:05 But Bam was seemingly of two minds and she shoots right at Canada goalie Kaitlyn Willliams; the States cannot afford to waste chances like this in Rio

3:00 Katie Bam of the USA is able to chop the ball past the Canada sweeper, leading to a 60-yard breakaway!

0:00 The game is on

PREGAME Canada is in red with a white maple leaf on the front of the shirt; USA is in its navy kit

PREGAME This is a last opportunity to give the team a run-out before the trip to Rio. It is a delicate balance between wanting to work on tactics and new set plays, but not wanting to risk injury to a key player (see Abby Wambach in 2008)

PREGAME The United States remains without its captain, Lauren Crandall. She broke a bone in her foot opening the Champions’ Trophy, and was in a walking shoe 90 minutes before the start 

PREGAME The U.S. is 1-1 in this series, having split games with India

PREGAME Hello, and welcome to Spooky Nook Sports in Manheim Township, Pa. for this send-off field hockey game between Canada and the United States

July 25, 2016 — Sport, priorities, and what can go dreadfully wrong

The Rio Olympics organizers have been raked over the coals the last few days because of the lack of readiness of projects which had clear deadlines in preparation for the Olympics, now fewer than two weeks away.

Roads are unfinished, including a major East-West highway connecting venue clusters. The waters where rowing, open-water swimming, and sailing are to take place are poisonous and dangerous to competitors. And Australia has refused to move into the Olympic Village because of problems with electricity and plumbing.

There have been pre-Olympic predictions of disasters before because of problem with transportation and with venues. But Rio and Sochi — previous hosts of the 2014 Winter Olympics — are on a level all their own.

Olympics and World Cups often oblige municipal, regional, and national governments to build extraordinary lavish facilities which will often be used for a limited period of time. It’s an Olympic (or World Cup) legacy which is not often examined by our myopic sports media.

For every good legacy (a 1994 World Cup which brought into existence Major League Soccer), there are several bad ones, such as Greece, whose white elephants stand as testament to their economic woes.

China is looking to make major repurposing of its 2008 event sites for the 2022 Winter Olympics, but today had to have been embarrassed when an International Champions Cup soccer game, originally scheduled for the Bird’s Nest (the Olympic track and field venue) had to be called off because of unplayable grounds, something which had been plaguing the venue the last month.

It may be easy for one writer on one blog to aim darts at other countries when it comes to how they administer sports. But you also have to wonder about how a professional women’s soccer team can’t even get its secondary home pitch correct in terms of size, it does make you wonder if the United States isn’t immune to management troubles.

July 24, 2016 — Protecting their own

Late last night, the International Olympic Committee fell short of imposing a blanket ban on any and all athletes from the Russian Federation from the Rio Olympics. The decision came on the heels of a number of positive re-testing of samples from past Summer Olympics, plus evidence from whistleblowers in Russia alleging the switching of urine samples in Russian labs.

While the headline in this is that the IOC is barring any Russian athlete from competing in the Olympics if they had ever had a positive drug test (even if the athlete served a previous sentence), the main thrust is that there is not going to be an outright ban of Russia, its flag, and government officials from the Rio Games.

Instead, the IOC is allowing Russian athletes to enter the Olympics under criteria which, if read one way, could be loose enough to drive a truck through.

The athletes are being allowed to enter the Olympics through the filter of the individual governing body of each sport. In other words, it is up to the gymnastics federation of Russia to clear the Russian team to go to Rio, even if the federation acted in cahoots with the anti-doping cheats in the Russian labs.

At the same time, the IOC’s ruling stripped whistleblower Yuliia Stepanova of the opportunity to compete in the Olympics as a non-attached athlete.

That tells you all you need to know about the degree to which the IOC seems to want this situation to go away.

 

July 23, 2016 — A look back, a look ahead

Last weekend, the four teams in the inaugural United Women’s Lacrosse (UWLX) circuit finished their league fixtures in the afternoon heat of central Virginia. In the opening doubleheader, the teams battled 93-degree heat and each other when it came to playoff positioning.

The Philadelphia Force, winless coming into last weekend, may have done the most good for its confidence last weekend, winning both of its matches over the top two seeds in next weekend’s league playoffs. The Force beat Long Island 13-9 and then topped Boston 9-8 on the final matchday. Hilary Bowen, late of Northwestern and the senior player in the league, led Philadelphia with six goals.

Baltimore, which made the biggest splash in being able to draft Tewaaraton Trophy winners Taylor Cummings and Katie Schwartzmann, was able to play well enough to have the league’s leading point-scorer in Dana Dobbie. But the Ride finished the regular season with a 3-5 record.

As well as league leaders Long Island (6-2) and Boston (5-3) have parlayed their stellar drafts into their status as having the two top seeds heading into next weekend’s playoffs, neither team can rest easy.

Indeed, you may not ever see the kind of lacrosse you’re going to see this coming weekend at the ancestral home of American lacrosse, Homewood Field on the campus of Johns Hopkins University. Long Island plays Philadelphia in one semifinal, and Boston takes on Baltimore in the other. The championship game is Sunday, July 31 at 1 p.m.

July 22, 2016 — The problem, and the punishment, mushrooms

Yesterday, the Court for Arbitration for Sport turned down an appeal by the Russian Olympic Committee to overturn a blanket ban on the Russian track and field teams.

Today, the International Olympic Committee announced a further 45 athletes who tested positive for banned substances at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, making a total of 98 athletes whose tests were re-examined using new technology.

In the light of these developments, Russia has been scrambling to retain its place in the Olympics. A decision may come before the weekend is out as to whether the entire Russian Olympic team, save for a pair of whistleblowers who pointed out the schemes which circumvented the handling of urine samples, will be banned from Rio.

To this end, current Russian president Vladimir Putin announced the provisional suspension of a number of officials named in the report — although it will not be suspending Vitaly Musko, the chief of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Putin also announced the hasty formation of a new antidoping commission.

On the heels of the enormity of the IOC’s doping revelations, I’m not sure that this the Russian response has been anything but a ham-handed attempt to save face before the world. Indeed, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Russian Olympic Committee engineers a boycott of one and blames the United States and Canada.

BULLETIN: July 21, 2016 — Your Olympic field hockey viewing guide (for printing out and taping to the fridge)

The master schedule for the Olympics was released this morning, and there are going to be 16 field hockey games across four of NBC Universal’s properties. These are available over most cable/satellite entities: NBC Sports Network, MSNBC, USA Network, and CNBC.

Here’s the game schedule, as released today (all games Eastern time; games live except where denoted):

Saturday, Aug 6, USA Network: United States women vs. Argentina, 4 p.m.
Monday, Aug 8, NBC Sports Network: United States women vs. Australia, 9 a.m.
Wednesday, Aug. 10, NBC Sports Network, United States women vs. Japan, 4:15 p.m.
Thursday, Aug. 11, NBC Sports Network, United States women vs. India, 6:30 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 13, CNBC, United States women vs. Team GB, 5 p.m.
Sunday, Aug. 14, CNBC: Men’s quarterfinal match, 4 p.m.
Monday, Aug. 15, USA Network, Women’s quarterfinal match, 9 a.m.; NBC Sports Network, Women’s quarterfinal match, 11:30 a.m.
Tuesday, Aug. 16, USA Network, Men’s semifinal match, 11 a.m.; CNBC, Men’s semifinal match, 7 p.m. (taped)
Wednesday, Aug. 17, MSNBC, Women’s semifinal match, 11 a.m.; CNBC, Women’s semifinal match, 5 p.m. (taped)
Thursday, Aug. 18, NBC Sports Network, Men’s bronze medal match, 11:20 a.m. (taped); CNBC, men’s gold-medal match, 6 p.m. (taped)
Friday, Aug. 19, USA Network, Women’s bronze-medal match, 11:30 a.m.; MSNBC, Women’s gold-medal match, 4 p.m.

The fact that there are going to be 16 games available (12 live), is pretty good. All that being said, we’re not sure whether streaming of the rest of the games is going to be exclusively on NBCOlympics.com, the Olympic YouTube channel, or on mobile; the NBC Sports app now incorporates NBC Sports, NBC Live Extra, and the premium NBC Gold content.

There’s one part of this schedule which is a bit dismaying: Aug. 15th. On this day, USA Network and NBCSN are sharing the load of broadcasting the morning doubleheader from the Olympic Hockey Center at Deodoro. Question is, what if the United States plays during the evening doubleheader? It’s entirely possible.

Of course, I wouldn’t put it past NBC Universal to call an audible in the middle of the Games. They were able to shift its broadcast schedule to get the U.S. women’s soccer team’s gold-medal match four years ago from cable to NBC. The same happened with the U.S. men’s Paralympic ice hockey gold-medal game from Sochi, which was moved to NBC from virtual obscurity two years ago.

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