World Cup time: spectator style
Many months (okay, over a year) have passed since I last wrote a blog. I think it's time to breakout the creative writing skills and share some new hockey adventures with you.
As I pack my passport for a new adventure, my heart is once again racing with anticipation. Only now, I am not putting the shin guards and stick in my bag. In fact, I am only taking one piece of luggage... that's a first. On this adventure, I can kick back and enjoy the view as a spectator and coach.
It has been quite some time since I put on my USA jersey. I will forever be grateful of those incredible experiences with Team USA. But, believe it or not, I am just as excited this time around. I am looking forward to experiencing the World Cup in the stands waving my American flag with my team, comprised of 16 teenage players. I want to share in the jaw-dropping excitement with our country's next rising stars, a group of young women that have never seen the game played quite like this.
It's going to be a new adventure and we plan to bring all the exciting details to you. Myself, along with our athletes and 10 family members will explore Belgium and Dutch cities, watch World Cup and Master's World Cup hockey, participate in private trainings with Dutch coaches and compete in a youth tournament.
I think there will be plenty of amazing things to share with our friends and families back home. So, please be sure to check back here each day for a new blog from our group. The athletes will be writing about the experiences here for you to read.
We will be back next week!
Stay tuned and GO USA!
final farewell to chula vista
Goodbye palm trees! Goodbye mild weather! Goodbye Pacific waters! Goodbye surfboards and sun bleached hair! And finally, adios Olympic Training Center, Chula Vista, CA!
After many years of training in Chula Vista, it’s now time to pack-up for good. There is no leaving behind a suitcase at a teammates house, a bike locked up onsite or a mattress in storage. This time, it all has to go!
It’s a bittersweet moment; a little sad and also invigorating. After all, how could I feel anything but excited when the Olympics are nearing and my moment to be reunited with my family is just around the bend. Both events get my blood pumping.
As I sit and look around my empty bedroom, I think about all the hours spent in Chula Vista over the course of a decade. Yes, I said it “decade”… oh, how I hate to date myself.
I started coming to Chula Vista as a member of the U21 National Team when I was just 18 years old. I remember my first rode trip out west, all alone and extremely nervous about what was ahead.
I was in college and flew into the San Diego Airport late at night. Around midnight, I was transported to the Olympic Training Center by a blue shuttle bus and prepaid driver. He started heading south on the freeway and I anxiously peered out the back window. After all, I had never been in California before. I wanted to know if it was just like in the movies.
Ten minutes had passed and we exited onto a two lane, very dark road. I could no longer see anything out the window. I thought the surrounding seemed strange and could not imagine where this training center was located. We continued down the pitch-black road for nearly fifteen minutes and we were still nowhere near any sign of habitation. Now my heart was racing and I was sure the driver was taking me to Mexico to abduct me. I was beginning to sweat.
Sure enough, around the dark roads we traveled and eventually pulled up to a beautiful gate that read “Olympic Athlete Entrance”
It is still the same gate I go through today. But, now the scenery along the way is much different. The two-lane road has turned into a four and sometimes six-lane freeway. It is illuminated with bright lights and packed with homes and numerous shopping centers.
This part of the world has grown ten-fold over the last fourteen years. I hope to one-day return with my family and show the boys where Mommy spent her years on the hockey pitch.
Until then, I wish everyone at the OTC all the best. And, thank you very much for creating such a wonderful training environment for so many years!
Once every four years, people around the world gear up for the Olympics. Sports enthusiast or not, you cannot ignore the commercials and advertisements that continually use Olympic athletes to promote their brands during this exciting time.
It’s only this one time in each quad that the world comes together to celebrate, not just sport but also humanity.
I can clearly remember sitting on the family sofa with goose bumps filling my extremities as I watched the USA delegation march into the Open Ceremonies. The truth is that I didn’t fully understand why I was so excited as a child during this moment but I could feel the power through the television screen.
I believe that you have to give some credit to the broadcasters, who do impeccable work creating energy around the event and telling the stories of so many amazing athletes.
Olympians come in all different sizes and colors. They come from all kinds of social backgrounds with many diverse shapes. But, one thing is certain! They compete for their homeland and with all their heart.
From my couch in small town Pennsylvania, it was hard to truly understand what went on behind the scenes of all those athletes dressed in their tailored suits and marching behind their country’s flag. Fast-forward twenty-years and now that person is me. I will once again put on the tailored attire and gear up to represent the United States of America.
The journey to my second Olympics has been very eventful, as has the journey for every since member or our 16-player roster. With only 20 days away from the Opening Ceremonies, the road to London is becoming a true reality.
The team is back in Chula Vista putting the finishing touches on our sticks, with our sites set on winning a medal in London. I promise to take you all on this journey with me. As the team marches behind the flag on July 27th, I hope you can better understand the rode our team took to London and all the work that went into that one special moment.
You can also follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/KeliSmith13
My to-do-list is ongoing and immense! Somewhere scetched at the top, I have looked at the phrase “write blog” for weeks.
With the busy life of motherhood and training for the London Olympics, I have been living day-to-day.
The past few months have been packed with excitement, stress and heaps of hustle and bustle! The logistical puzzle continues and sometimes goes off without a hitch and other times is just short of disastrous. But, regardless of the scenario, it always seems to workout and I am certain that when the days of being a “soccer mom” and planning the team carpools arrive, I am going to be a pro.
I have often considered myself a bit of a control freak. I have a hard time delegating tasks to others yet procrastinate most deadlines (that’s when I do my best work). But, as I call upon my friend and club co-director, Alex Street, for the fifth time today, I am realizing that nothing would get done in my life if it weren’t for the support group around me that is constantly picking up all the pieces.
Lets start with my husband, Inako, who is holding down the homestead back in Ohio and making the family tick from one minute to the next. He is, without a doubt, my biggest supporter and the person that is ensuring the family is still afloat. As I call him for the third time today, this time just to remind him that we need to pay the car insurance and stop by to give the neighbor a “thank you” present, he very calmly says, “no problem.”
He is an amazing husband and father! The past few months have been a challenge for us but we know that it will make the end result all the more special. We have also learned to cherish the little things in life just a tad more. I am looking forward to the days that I am back in our kitchen making everyone dinner or sitting on the deck talking with Inako about our day while he flips the chicken on the grill. Thank you, Love and Happy Father’s Day!!
The next biggest player is without a doubt, my Mom and Dad. It is a cold-hard fact that I would not be in this position, embarking on my second journey to the Olympics, if I didn’t have their support. My parents have made numerous trips across the country just to help transport my two boys from one coast to another
At the end of March, they flew out to San Diego and exited 48 hours later with my sons. After departing, they made a stop in Pittsburg to hand Xavi off to Inako and then drove four hours back to their home in Selinsgrove with Ian. I was off to Australia and New Zealand for the month. Four weeks later, my Mom flew to Ohio to drop off Ian before Inako left for San Diego with both boys. All this, just so I could be with my little guys as much as possible. For this and SO much more, thank you Mom and Dad! Happy Father’s to you too, Dad!
Next on the list are my teammates – every single one of them! They have made this whole journey fun and given me the support that I needed to get through some very difficult days. I know that none of you understand motherhood first-hand, but you sure do a good job faking it and empathizing whenever I need it. I can’t wait to get to London and stand on the world’s stage with you! After all, you are the reason that I am here.
This is a very short list of those that have made this dream a reality. Thank you to all that continue to surround me and take orders from me day in and day out. I must say; I am beginning to like the delegating too!
Last week, I was informed that I made the roster of 16 that will represent the USA at the London Olympics. Everyone that has helped keep my life in order and given me a shoulder to lean on will be there with me in spirit….every step of the way!
A two-hour bus ride to LAX airport, two-hours at the airport, fourteen-hours on Qantas flight E7, a three-hour breakfast BBQ at Lee’s brother’s house and finally another two-hour bus ride north to Mooloolaba where we could finally take a shower and unpack our bags.
Ohhhhhh, at last this group of eighteen women is happy and smiling once again!
Our trip down under has just begun. We are embarking on a twenty-four day tour that encompasses twelve games. In the International hockey world that schedule is a challenge against any side. But, when the calendar reads such talented oppositions as Australia and New Zealand, it makes the challenge even greater. It might be a physical test but it is one that ignites great enthusiasm and optimism in our preparation to London.
After arriving to our “home” away-from-home, it was impossible to be anything but excited.
Here in Queensland, we are residing on the beautiful sunshine coast at Grand Mercure Apartments, Twin Waters.
As the bus pulled up to the resort, you could not help but notice the smell of fresh flowers and overwhelming wildlife. The gravel pathway that led us to our private villas (shared by teammates) was plush with beautiful trees and the sound of chirping birds.
At lunchtime, we walked around the resort lake, which illustrated beautiful views of sailboats and fresh blue waters. Once into the main house, you could smell the fresh coffee at the café, the herbs permeating from the restaurants and see the true beauty of the building that was sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and the resort’s man-made lake.
Sounds like paradise? It is!
But, it’s time to snap back to reality. This is not vacation. In fact, my family is back in the states and I am here with my friends, my teammates. We have a mission and the beauty that surrounds us will help to keep everyone smiling, but will not allow us to forget what we are here to accomplish.
Stay tuned for more updates from the Sunshine Coast of Australia!
the name that matters most
Despite the recent scandal that has crept into Happy Valley, I think every sports enthusiast can respect the plain, unnamed uniforms worn by the Penn State football team. If you think the white and navy jerseys are boring, you can, at least, appreciate the reason behind the bare fabric. “It’s not the name on the back that matters, it’s the one on the front!”
This is a slogan that I have lived by during my athletic career. But, after getting married two years ago, I was faced with a decision about what name to put on the back of my shirt. Every time someone would pop the questions, they got my usual answer, “I really don’t care.” For me, I never stepped on the field thinking about what the back of my jersey said or what name appeared in the program. It wasn’t about me!
I watched Joe Paterno’s memorial service on television a week after his death. Some critics thought it was too much for a man that got associated with someone else’s horrific crime. But, for those people that watched that service or attended his funeral, you couldn’t deny the fact that he had an enormously positive impact on so many of his players’ lives. And because of that, it made me think…did he have that same impact on my father?
If you ask my dad, he would not give Joe all the credit for his hard work ethic or his understanding of team before self, but for sure, he would get some. I would guess that he would also give credit to the assistant coaches, his family and other mentors in his life.
If you ask me the same question, the first name that would leave my lips would simply be, my Dad. He is one of the most humbled, hardworking human beings that I have met to date.
In fact, growing up, I would not have known that my dad was a successful football player if it weren’t for the life-sized portrait hanging in our hometown school or the random books that people sent to our house for him to sign.
My Dad lives in the present, not the past. He gets up early, goes to work and stays until his job is finished, even if it means after hours. When he gets home, he has dinner with my Mom and on most nights, they head to a sporting event to support a grandchild or a local team.
He has never wanted the spotlight and never accepted full credit for anything. I did not know him in his football days. But, I predict his athletic mentality simply by knowing him today. I can tell you that he works everyday for his company, not solely to support our family but more importantly because he wants to help the company’s productivity and profitability. He is honest, straightforward, leads by example and only speaks out when he has something important to convey.
Knowing what I know about my father, I can also guesstimate that he would never care what name appears on the back of my jersey.
So, when asked again this year, “what name I want on the back of the uniform,” I hesitated, stuttered and eventually knew that I needed to give an answer. I pondered for a little about my options. I could remain with just ‘Smith’ or keep my maiden name and add the married name. And, my last option would be just a simple P-u-z-o.
The truth is, I could honestly careless. Yet, I still needed to produce an answer. So, like any wife/mother would, I thought of my husband and our children, Xavi Puzo and Ian Puzo. And, in those two things, I found my answer. And, that’s just how my Dad and Mom would want it!
Until Next Time…
the tropps have arrived
It’s Saturday morning and the entire Puzo Family has all successfully landed in Barcelona. The first to depart the states was Xavi, Ian and I
The alarm sounded at 4:30am on Monday morning and as quickly as you can (with 2 children), I scurried out the door with my left hand pushing the stroller and my right hand hauling a carseat. In the dark, we made it out the front gate of the condominium complex and into our taxi.
We met up with the entire team at the airport. Before I knew it, Xavi and Ian’s “aunts” had arrived and one at a time, they were taking Xavi on his favorite past time ride, escalators, helping me feed Ian his formula and getting him to sleep. And finally, they made sure that I had a teammate to help me at all times.
It might have been 20 hours of travel time. But, it was one of the easiest trips to date thanks to the group!
We arrived in Barcelona and were greeted by family (my in-laws). The boy’s grandma and great-aunt picked them up at the airport. I quickly explained to them all the tendencies of each kid. Xavi is a picky eater. His favorite foods are pasta, pizza and fruit. He likes milk before he falls asleep and sometimes wakes up scared at night. Ian drinks only formula and eats rice cereal twice a day. He sleeps on his back but normally rolls to his belly within minutes.
After the quick recap, I helped them into a cab, kissed my boys good-bye and watched them drive away, as Xavi was crying on the other side of the glass window. It was sad, ok very sad. But, I knew that they would have a great time. And, lets face it, my husband, Inako was arriving in just three days and I needed a little rest. It was time to focus on hockey and the games ahead.
The final Puzo to arrive was Inako. He flew from Ohio to Barcelona and successfully landed on Friday morning. After picking up our sons at his Mom’s house, he made his way west to Terrassa. He didn’t quite arrive in time to watch our second game, but he was there to give us all a hug afterwards.
With two games down and the whole family here, we are getting ready to start the official 4-nation tournament. Today is a day off. I am heading into the city to spend the first half of the afternoon with my boys and then back to our hotel to get my legs up and rest for Sunday’s game.
I am off to the train station and looking forward to some wonderful tapas for lunch with my family!
Until next time……
Keli Smith Puzo #13
Looking back, I wish I had majored in Business Logistics. It appears that such a degree would highly benefit me at the moment.
The last few days have been packed with numerous logistical concerns; concerns about how to balance the life of a field hockey athlete with a team in San Diego and the responsibilities of motherhood with a family in Ohio. I would be lying if I said that my anxiety is not raised by merely typing such a sentence.
As my heart begins to pound harder, I remind myself that “where there is a will, there is a way.” At least, I will try to prove that old statement true.
Now, back to focusing on “the way.”
There are two solid facts that will not change in this equation. First, if I want to play, I have to dedicate myself to full-time residency in San Diego. Secondly, I have to see my kids. I struggle being away from them for two week and two months is simply not an option.
Many people tell me that they are too young to remember much. But, the reality is that I will remember and I will certainly not enjoy this process without them in my life. And, after all, it’s all about the process, right?
So many people have asked me how this will all work. The truth is, I am not 100% sure yet, but I will give you an inside look on some possible options.
First, I need to find a home in San Diego. Some place that I can unpack my bags and more importantly, allow my children to comfortably sleep at night. This is a short-term stay and I would prefer not to purchase new furniture for a five-month visit? So, my apartment criteria is; “furnished, short term.” Needless to say, this severely narrows my options.
Secondly, who is going to watch the kids while I am training all day? This factor has yet to be solidified. I have some wonderful options and need to get commitment from all parties involved. With a small budget, I am not able to hire someone full-time, but I am extremely lucky to have people in my life that are willing to help. All I can do is cross my figures that it all works out.
Thirdly, the flight arrangements need to be planned and orchestrated. This piece of the puzzle is more difficult. The boys will not be here all the time, so who is going to bring them west and who will fly them back east.
I am so grateful for a supportive and loving husband and amazing parents. Both parties are willing to do all they can to help put this puzzle together and I can assure you that I will add to their frequent flier miles over the next few months.
My Mom wants to fly out here and get the boys settled. My husband will have to fly back out and transport them east when necessary. And, so the story goes!!
And finally, I must ship the car…and don’t forget the car seats. I never thought I would say this, but I actually miss buckling the boys in their Peg Pergo seats right now.
So, there you have it. I brief glimpse into the logistical puzzle that has yet to be completely marshaled. I will keep you posted as all the pieces unravel and I certainly hope that you enjoy this crazy ride with me.
Here I am! Back in San Diego, California. Many, many, many miles from my family in Ohio and Pennsylvania and my club girls in Virginia. I am daydreaming about my boys, what else! It seems to be the norm these days.
I arrived last Tuesday and it’s been a whirlwind, until today, that is!
The training schedule has increased as the London Olympics are just on the horizon and the Australian national team is arriving in less then a week. We pushed through the week; a three-day week that consisted of four practices, one lifting session, two conditioning sessions and one dreaded running test.
I find the week very hectic and physically exhausting, but it’s only been four mouths since Ian’s birth and I need to be patient. I wake-up early and stay on east coast time. Mainly because my stay is less then 3 weeks long but more importantly because the morning is the best time to catch up with my family.
I can talk to Inako over my morning coffee, tell Xavi that “I love him” before he arrives at daycare and send Ian kisses over the phone before his morning bottle. But, also because the days seem extremely busy.
We have tough trainings and this old lady needs time to take care of her body. So, in addition to everything on the schedule the last three days, I had one message, three ice bathes, one contrast bath (1 minute in an ice bath and 2 mintues in a hot tub and repeat 5 times) and three sessions in the “magic pants” (30 minutes in the amazing invention of NormaTec Pants). I am not embarrassed to say that this is what an athlete at the age of 32 years old with two kids needs to do to stay healthy.
So, to use the word “busy” to describe the week is a bit of an understatement.
And then Saturday arrives……errrrrrkkkkkkkk. Everything came to a streaking halt once I finished my Saturday morning 85 minutes jog, that is!
Now what? My life is back east. My husband and boys are over 2,500 miles away and here I sit……
….so, my attention walked 800 meters down University Avenue in the cute neighborhood of North Park. First to a funky salon where I got my haircut and dried. It’s tough to do something as simple as this with two boys under the age of two years-old. Then, I proceeded four additional blocks north to Starbucks, where I sat for four hours. I logged onto their free wireless connection and sat down with my cup of coffee, love it! It was time to focus my energy on my girls in Charlottesville, the girls from my club that I am also unable to be with this weekend.
So, there I sat for hours, online doing administrative work and on my phone trying to keep up with every detail of their tournament. Which, by the way, I am very proud of their improvements! They played great today!!!
Then, I walked back home and spent one of the best hours of my whole week, on Skype with my boys. Just watching them play and every once in awhile, throwing me a kiss through the computer screen.
Everything is a juggling act at the moment but I am very happy for my weekends!! And, very thankful for all those in my life that are helping me and supporting me through this exciting but difficult time!
Love to all,
This is the blog where I apologize for not writing and now I must jostle through the events of the past few months to abruptly bring you up to speed. And, this time there are many significant events to report.
My last blog concluded with the team in Argentina back in February 2011. I posted that blog the day before we played the home nation in the finals. We lost the final by one goal. And upon returning to the hotel, I revealed to the squad that I was three months pregnant with our second child.
It was a celebratory night for two reasons. First, because everyone was excited that Xavi was about to become a big brother. And, lets be honest, anyone that knows him can testify to the fact that he needs a playmate at home.
The other reason for celebration was the fact that we scared Las Leonas on that day. They felt their Pan American rival closing the gap. For so many years they have never felt threatened by our side. But, on that night, something changed. You could see it in their eyes. It was a very exciting note to end the trip on and begin hibernation for baby number 2.
I did not actually hibernate. In fact, I flew to San Diego to spend a week with the team the following month. I wanted to keep training with them until my belly grew too big.
That week in March came to a quick end and it was back to Charlottesville. Back to the family and time to seriously start organizing my first season of our new club team. FH Life was starting the spring season that April and I was looking forward to meeting new faces, our future new stars.
With two season behind us (almost! the fall season wraps up on Sunday). Our first winter season is about to begin. We have excellent coaches working with the group this year and a lot of exciting things coming down the pipe.
Finally, my personal life has been uprooted too since last February in Argentina. My husband, Inako, was contacted by Miami University in Ohio back in April and asked to interview for the head coach position.
After much consideration, we decided to take the job and move the growing family to Oxford, Ohio.
It was an absolutely hectic few months to follow. I had a commitment to the club, as well as my summer camps. Inako had also accepted the position as head coach of USAFH’s high performance Mid Atlantic team and was commuting back and forth from Virginia to Ohio. We would see each other only in passing.
Somehow, we made it through those months and that is the primary reason for my absence in writing blogs. It was so hectic that I was lucky if I got my hair brushed and the laundry done.
Now it’s 11-11-11 and here I sit in our new living room in Oxford. We bought a new house, established new roots in the Mid-West and most importantly, we have a place that we not only call home, but it feels like home.
Ohhhhhh and wait. I forgot the most important news of all. Remember at the beginning of this blog when I told you that back in February, we sent a clear message to the Argentine team? Well, it was spot on! The gap was closing in and this October the National Team sealed it!
With my boys on the couch (Ian was just 6 weeks old) and nerves in my throat, we watched and cheered for the girls at the Pan American Final. The message was marked with a 4-2 victory and automatic qualification to the London 2012 Olympics. Wow, it feels great to write that.
I am not sure what my future will hold but one thing is certain! I better get off the couch and into the gym.
Keli Smith Puzo is a two-time Olympic Field Hockey player, Wife to Inako Puzo, head coach at Miami University, Mother of two young boys and your everyday kind of gal trying to keep it all together.