The final three days of our trip to Argentina have arrived. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and I am beginning to smell the scents of my house once again. Although, the excitement to get home and see my husband and son continues to increase my pounding heart, I know that we have two more games here in Rosario, Argentina and before packing our bags, we must take care of business here. As the old slogan goes, ‘it’s how you finish that matters.’
The tournament has been a great learning experience for this fairly inexperienced USA Team. We have many players with few caps (international games) under their belt. Playing here, against the world’s top teams, has been a glimpse at what it’s like to be in this company game after game and not just play, but compete with the first, third, and fifth placed teams in the world.
We started off the four-nation tournament in Mendoza with a little dust on our sticks and nerves in our spines.After the first thirty-five minutes against Argentina, we had a nice eye-opening experience. We started the second half five goals down but finally began to play like we are capable of and finished the second half tied (of course, losing the game due to our poor first half performance).
The next two games were tough battles with Australia and Germany. Statistically, we outplayed our opponents but couldn’t find the back of the net. This reality sent us to the final game battling for third place. Our final game in western Argentina ended with a win and many smiles as we finally put goals in the back of the net and won in a stroke competition against a quality team, Germany.
The second phase of this trip sent us to Rosario. We have started the final four-nation tournament and so far the experience here has been wonderful. The accommodations are an A+ in my book. It is not too often that I find myself in the hotel spa for an hour massage or lounging by the rooftop pool in our off time. These little perks help to keep your mind at ease and balance during these team experiences. It can sometimes be hard to find time to yourself on tour. Most activities are spent with a group of 17 other women, all great and special in their own individual way. But like every humans, you need to find time to be alone.
My alone time has been spent on skype with my family or shopping in every kids store in town. I had to put an end to the gifts because last time I checked, Santa just visited 7 weeks ago and the next big holiday is not for many months. Looks like I might have to spoil Xavi…..just this one time J
Good night from Argentina! Game 7 tomorrow, USA vs. Australia.
Until next time,
After a brief week in Virginia with my family, I am back on the road. Well, let me explain in more details because the phrase “on the road” is not accurate. I departed my house in the early morning hours on Sunday, February 6th. My husband, son and I drove 3 hours to Baltimore where we meet my parents for a lovely Maryland style brunch. After crab cakes and fish, we departed the local establishment and headed for the parking lot. This part of the transit was one of the most dreaded in my mind, saying good-bye to my baby boy.
My parents were watching over Xavi for the duration of my trip to Argentina, while my husband needed to return to Virginia to work. After ten minutes of transferring the car seat and all the necessary baby items, it was time to say farewell. I have learned over the years that fast departures are the best option, the least painful route. Of course, I always cried once I turned around to leave, but at least the event wasn’t prolonged like a bad dramatic film.
Inako and I buckled our seat beats and off to the airport we drove. I watched my parents enter the highway headed north and my eyes couldn’t help but fill with tears. My husband was sad to leave our son (and me, I like to think), but strong and realistic about the short two-week period.
The difficult moment was over and now we were moments away from check-in at LAN airways and the separation from my other half. This part was hard, but not emotional. We were used to being at a distance (we spent the first 5 years of our relationship in different cities) and have become comfortable with these moments. Although, it’s not the preferred scenario!
Nineteen hours and two meals later, I finally arrived in Mendoza, Argentina. I meet up with the rest of my team on a stopover flight in Santiago, Chile and have been with them ever since. Together again and this time, we have new challenges ahead.
We are scheduled to play four games in Mendoza and four games in Rosario. Each block of games represents a new tournament but with the same four teams. Here we will get an opportunity to play Argentina, German, and Australia; #1, #3, #5 in world rankings respectively. It will be the first time many of my teammates have had the chance to play these three countries. Big challenges await our team and I anxiously look forward to the opportunity.
Stay tuned for results and the latest happenings in sunny Argentina!
All the best,
Here I sit again! I am on my laptop in a Chula Vista hotel just waiting to head to the Olympic Training center for practice. For some reason, this scenario is all too familiar. It seems that I have done this before. But, there is one significant difference. This time, I miss my little boy back home.
The National Team is together for the first time in 2011 and we have kicked off the New Year with new goals. It is wonderful to see the faces of each teammate. They all come from different backgrounds and are currently living life outside the National Team under very diverse circumstances. But, for these particular weeks, we all have the same goals, breath the same air, and conquer the same daily obstacles. It is refreshing to have people to share the experience with and encounter the physical pain together. There is just one main difference.
When the sunsets and the day comes to a close, I am walking through a different reality outside the pitch. I rush out of the training center, not to complete my college homework or call my best friend to see how last night’s social activities ended. Rather, I depart quickly so that I can call my husband and catch my 1 year-old son, Xavi, before he goes to bed.
The balancing act of being a wife, mother, and teammate is something that is still very novel to me. I have days were it seems impossible to do all three and other days that all the pieces fit together like a perfect jigsaw puzzle. But, no matter what type of day I am experiencing, one thing in very clear; I am a lucky woman! Not many people get to play the sport they love, with a group of amazing teammates, and then come off the field greeted by a supporting husband and adorable son. With the right amount of support and the right attitude, it is possible!
Until next time….
As the 2010 NCAA field hockey season came to a close, many players, fan, and coaches packed their bags and departed to Phoenix, AZ. This year, the USA Field Hockey Association hosted the annual hockey festival in north Phoenix.
Xavi, my son, and I joined my husband on the trip. Inako was recruiting and playing for the mixed team True North. I was also playing for the same team, and Xavi, well, he was just along for the ride.
Each day, we woke-up and packed the diaper bag in preparation for a long day at the fields. We spent countless hours watching and playing hockey, and enjoying life’s simple pleasures while viewing Xavi benefitting from the pure desert air. He was exhausted by the day’s end, but I know he had fun playing with other kids and feeling the constant attention from those around. It was a week of excitement for our little man!
It was a successful week for our mixed team ‘True North’ as the group once again brought home the championship. I might add, not too surprising. This was the most talented mixed group that I have ever played with.
Festival always seems to put a close on the field hockey season in America. So, raise your glasses to another year full of action packed excitement at every level.
Looking ahead, 2011 seems busy. First, the national team has a packed schedule as they prepare for the Pan American Games in Mexico. This is the first opportunity to qualify for the 2012 Olympics and we are looking forward to doing just that! Also, I am preparing to launch a competitive club team. Stay tuned for the details! Lastly and most important, Xavi is turning 1 year-old in January. Things are always exciting with him in our lives and I can’t wait to see what he does next.
Until next time, get shopping and enjoy the eggnog!
This Tuesday night, once again, highlighted one of the year’s most exciting moments; the announcing of the 2010 NCAA bracket. It does not compare to the popularity of the March Madness bracket, but to hockey fans across the continental USA, it is a special evening.
In our sport, the NCAA only allows twelve teams to enter the post season tournament. This makes it extremely difficult for many DI programs to earn that special place on the list. So, it is inevitable that many friends and colleagues will end their season on that very night. But, for others, it is the moment that the fun begins.
Many critics and fans believe that this year is going to be an exciting NCAA tournament, with some unpredicted upsets. I would have to agree. After watching many games over last few weeks, I do not think one team is far superior then the rest of the pack. I know that my Maryland alumni family and current UVA circle would probably beg to differ, but that is my prediction. All I know for sure is that I am anxious to watch the action unfold. I will be in the Charlottesville bleachers on Saturday, on a flight to San Diego on Sunday (following the games from tweeter), and back in my old College Park stomping grounds for the Final Four. I encourage you to tune in and watch as the drama unfolds.
I am headed to the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, CA on Sunday. It will be a reunion with my teammates, as we have been on break since August. I look forward to seeing everyone out west and will blog again with updates from the training camp.
Written by: Rachel Dawson
With over a year of absent writing, I am unsure how to bring everyone up to speed on my hectic life. Besides a busy hockey schedule, I have gotten married and gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. With my new efforts to keep everyone abreast of my whereabouts, I have gotten back to my blog.
In recent months, a friend and teammate wrote a story featuring my family and I would like to share it with you. I think this is the best way to update you. I plan to do a much better job in keeping you informed….because life has been nothing but exciting and I look forward to sharing!
Thanks to Rachel Dawson for her kind words in the following story!
United States Olympian, Current National Team Member, and Mom, Keli Puzo is revolutionizing the image of the American Hockey Athlete
Eighteen years from now, Xavi Puzo like many American teenagers will head off to college. He will be a handsome, bilingual young man embarking on his college journey with a fire in his eyes – a fire that is born of his roots, Pennsylvania and Barcelona, and bred of his modernly iconic and vibrant parents, Keli Smith and Inako Puzo.
And if the oracles have their way, the fire in his eyes will set ablaze the teenaged promise land of dorm rooms, late night ‘study’ sessions, cafeteria food, and freedom.
The oracles know, because they, like many in the USA Field Hockey community, have witnessed the very same force of fire in the eyes of Keli Puzo as she has set ablaze the traditional image of an ‘American Field Hockey Player’ and redefined it.
Mother. Wife. Athlete. Determined, Competitor. Who is Keli Puzo?
Before matches, she straightens her blond hair, and accents her do with a pair of silver earrings. Entering the match field before competition, Brine stick and shinnies in hand, her gait is casual, not a blasé casual, but a confident, empowered casual. She wears a smile on her face. And as her earrings accent her hair, the determination of her smile accents the ferocity of her eyes.
Her guise – hair, earrings, smile and gait, don’t fool you – because one look in her eyes and you know – Keli Puzo is the ultimate competitor. She wants to win.
It is her fearless desire to succeed that has propelled her hockey career from the fields of Selingsgrove, Pa to the turf of the University of Maryland, and to the hockey pitches of Barcelona, Spain. Her relentless determination has morphed her into one of the premier leaders and strikers on the American team.
On the field, Keli’s striker role is twofold – one could view them simply as attacking and defensive roles – but a true competitor, like Keli, views her roles purposefully. On the attack, her purpose is to eliminate the opposition. And on defense, her aim is to get the ball back.
In both roles, Keli finds pleasure bringing confusion, chaos and absolute misery to the opposition’s backfield. When in possession of the ball, Keli uses her dynamic change of speed and direction to get in behind defenders. She is a powerful goal scorer who positions herself properly, low and strong, in front of the cage prepared to win any ball in whichever manner the situation necessitates – she will body-up, quick-step, or dive to hear the clang of the ball against the boards.
And when her team doesn’t succeed in hearing that celebrated noise, and instead loses possession, Keli defends relentlessly with one purpose in mind whether in a tackle-back, a double-team, a recovery run, or on the press – win the ball back. And funny enough, she usually succeeds. Keli’s style of play emanates her passion for the sport of hockey. She fights brilliantly because she simply loves the game. And Keli plays hockey the same way she lives – with a resilient passion to succeed and to enjoy life.
So it should be no surprise that she and her husband, Inako Puzo, joined their passion for hockey with the celebration of their marriage hosting a 2 v. 2 World Cup playing exhibition for their guests. The event, might I say, was a thrilling, sport-socializing success.
But that sort of thing is what you have come to expect from Keli Puzo. She takes an idea and makes something of it.
So in the iconic fashion of a revolutionary – Keli Puzo made something new of the traditional image of an American hockey player in May when she made her comeback to the ranks of the Red, White and Blue in a test series against Argentina at American University only a few months after having a son.
Young Xavi Puzo joined his mom and her teammates on tour in the American University dorms, because new priorities and responsibilities didn’t mean, as some may suppose, that Keli had to let go of her competitive passion and talent for the sport of hockey.
Instead, Keli has heroically redefined the image of an American Hockey Player, balancing her new family roles with a role she has played her entire life – athlete.
So eighteen years from now, as Keli hugs her son and sets him off upon his college journey, she will tearfully chuckle at a distant memory – Xavi has already experienced and survived dorm-life – in May 2010 at American University while his Mom made her comeback to international hockey competition.
I write to you out of sadness today because at this very moment, I expected to be playing in our final semi-final game. A win today, would have qualified us for the finals and extended the season two more weeks. The unfortunate truth is that we were a little unlucky in yesterday’s game and after a series of strokes, the scoreboard indicated that Junior FC won by one goal. It’s always hard to lose, especially in stokes, but when it puts an end to a year spent with a group of people, it’s even more disappointing.
After the game, the team stayed at the club and enjoyed a very long lunch together. We sat for 3 hours and talked, knowing that when Tuesday rolls around, we will not get to see each other. It was nice, especially because the restaurant overlooked the Polo field and the club was playing a very important match that day. Polo is a pretty boring game if you don’t know all the rules. But, watching the horses run is a beautiful sight. Additionally, it’s always fun to watch the parents bring their kids all dressed up in their ‘Sunday’s best.” They could not be more adorable. People watching is quite an event sometimes. You never know who you might see!
I am now sitting on the couch enjoying a nice cup of coffee. It’s nice to have a day off to relax and reflect. As disappointed as I am about the lose, I am looking forward to having an exciting and adventurous last few weeks in Spain. My parents will arrive on Wednesday and you can guarantee it will be a busy week. I can’t wait! I also have plans to run around Barcelona with Rachel and Sarah Dawson, who are coming into town for a few days. And, my last adventure will be to fly up to Germany for a few days. I have a very good friend from Heidelberg that I must see before I depart Europe for the summer.
After arriving back in the states, hockey is going to consume my days. We have the National Championships in Virginia Beach in June and then it’s off to host Field Hockey Life summer camps. We still have many slots available for all the camps, so don’t hesitate and send in your registration.
Time to get outside and enjoy this wonderful weather! “Hola” to all in the states and Happy Mother’s Day to everyone!
How quickly time is passing! We finished the regular season last week and now focusing our energy on the playoffs. Four teams out of the top division make the post season and we are ranked 2nd going into the final weeks. We are all very happy with our performance leading down the back-stretch. We won the last two games, against top teams, 3-1 and 5-0. Let’s hope we can maintain that momentum into the coming weeks.
Hockey has been keeping me active, but our revolving door of guests has been keeping me busy. Fortunately for us, many friends and family have made the trip across the ocean to visit. With visitors, comes travel and lots of sightseeing. Our trip to Mallorca was amazing. The seven friends survived the small boat quarters and had a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The boat’s captain taught us the basics of sailing. The views from the water and the deserted islands that we explored were something that words cannot describe. I will be certain to post some pictures soon.
Besides entertaining, playing hockey, and coaching my team, I am also getting prepared to move back to America in June. It is unbelievable that the summer is quickly arriving. The change of season also means that it’s CAMP TIME. We still have slots available for each camp. The deadlines are approaching, so send in your registration form or contact us to reserve a spot. We want to see you guys this summer and share our hockey life.
It is time to hit the gym. I will write again soon and in the meantime, enjoy the warm weather.
All the best,
Life continues to be busy and exciting here in Barcelona. I have been busy training, coaching, taking Spanish classes, and even finding time to travel with friends.
We are beginning to approach the final few weeks of league play. Only the top 4 teams advance to playoffs and my team is holding on to our 3rd place standing by a thin string. We recently lost a game that was titled an upset against Club Egara and since then, we have proceeded to win by only slight margins. As I mentioned before, our team is stacked with talent but we struggle to connect as a unit. I still have the hope that we will put the pieces together when it matters most.
With four games left in league play, the end of the season is nearing. This also means that summer is approaching the weather is warming. I love this time of year and enjoy spending my time outdoors. Last weekend after our game in the south of Spain, I took a 2 day vacation to Malaga with four teammates. We had a wonderful 48 hours exploring the southern beach city and relaxing in the sun. This city was very different then Barcelona with its relaxed way of life. The people move slower and take the time to smile when you pass them walking.
Malaga, Spain was wonderful, but I am counting the day for our next vacation. The week of Easter is very special here and schools and companies usually give the entire week off. I am fortunate to announce that my club, RC Polo, has given us the week off.
We have booked a four day vacation to the island of Palma de Mallorca. My boyfriend, 5 other friends, and I are flying to the Spanish island and enjoying the sights from land for a day. The next day, we board a sail boat that we rented and we’ll explore the area by sea. I am sure it will be a wonderful experience. With a captain driving and the wish for good weather, my chances of getting sea sick are minimized.
So, whether I am treading water off the coast of an island or kicking hard to simply make the playoffs with my team, I will be sure to write again soon.
Until then, train hard and have fun!
As I wrote to you on the 23rd of Feb., I was feeling a bit tired from spending so many hours traveling. Since my last blog, I can say that my time in the airports has not been minimized.
I had nine days in Barcelona to try and readjust. During the short trip, we played two games. The second match was against the #1 seed in the league, Club de Campo from Madrid. We traveled west to play them on their home turf. It is normally a 5-6 hour drive, but with the low prices of the commuter flights, our club flew us there. I am not sure if they wanted to make the trip more convenient or add to my frequent flier miles. Either way, I was happy to arrive home a few hours earlier, especially because we lost the game. It was a disappointing match because our side played great hockey that day. We had some unfortunate breaks in the circle that allowed them to capitalize on a stroke and a corner making the final score 2-0.
That Sunday, I flew back to Barcelona with my club team. I ran home to pack my bags and grab 5 hours of sleep because it was back to the airport in the A.M. I had to catch a plane to NYC in the morning. I hopped in the taxi as the sun broke over the horizon and looked at my sagging eyes. I had a moment of uncertainty while questioning why I had to get back in a plane. The reality was that I was heading back to my hometown in PA to receive an award; The Adam Smith Award from the Economics Pennsylvania Organization. I was honored to be the recipient! Excited to attend the banquet on Thursday! And, slightly nervous to give a short speech. Nervous? It is no secret that public speaking can give anyone some butterflies, but I was typically pretty calm when asked to speak. The near thought of getting up in front of this crowd gave me some nerves. But, that was the exact reason that I was getting on that plane.
The organization creates educational opportunities for schools to help prepare young people for the ever changing economic world. The opportunity that they provide students is something that I believe in to be so necessary in today’s world. The importance of their work is no secret and that is why so many honorable individuals devote their time to working with EconomicsPA (www.economicsPA.org). For this reason, I was nervous to speak. The room was going to be filled with the likes of Andy Russell (famed Pittsburg Steeler’s Linebacker), Honorable John Gordner (R-27), Honorable Russ Fairchild (R-85), and many others.
The day ended up being wonderful! I was fortunate to meet exceptional individuals, including some of the brightest students and teachers in the region. My family attended and other special people from the community that I otherwise would not have had the time to see on my short trip. You can read more about the awards ceremony at http://www.dailyitem.com/archivesearch/local_story_065003108.html
I am not back in Barcelona, of course via another flight and long day in the airports. But, one thing is for certain, the trip was worth it!
Until next time….
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.