Thursday, May 27, 2010

Tournament.

I was just hanging out with my friend Adam and got to watch first hand what he does for a living. At one point while we were talking he made this claim which really got me thinking, “For me this would be a normal week, but because you are here it is more special and more memorable. This is more exciting because I get to share what I do with you.” That last part really stuck with me.

At times it is very difficult for me to share with you what I do. I so desperately wish I were able to fully and clearly communicate what these students mean to me. I wish I could accurately describe how much love I have for them, and how special they are to me. I wish you could hear their stories, see their smiles, feel their hugs. I wish I could share with you how special of a place this is. As the summer rolls around and I come back to the States, I hope to be able to talk with you about my time here at BFA. I hope you see the passion in my eyes, I hope you hear the excitement in my voice, and the purpose I feel when I am here. So many times I leave a conversation after having talked about the students here and I feel as though I didn’t do a good enough job of sharing how much I love them. But hopefully you get a small glimpse!
Honestly, I love being here at BFA. I love these students. They have the ability to put a smile on my face and joy in my heart. They educate me, challenge me, and encourage me. Yes, they also frustrate me, drain me, and annoy me, but I am okay with that.
These students are simply phenomenal. So allow me an opportunity to share with you what I do, and who I get to rub shoulders with on a daily basis.
I know I have put up a few posts recently talking about soccer, but I had to put up one more talking about our tournament. I also wanted to have one more opportunity to brag about our team. These girls are simply phenomenal. As I have said all year long, they are very talented on the field but the most impressive thing about them is their character, and who they are off the field. They are women of great character. Women who are caring, loving, hilarious and enjoyable to be around.

Tournament is the highlight of the season. We only play five or six regular season games, and have the ability to play three to six games during tournament. Not only is the week filled with a lot of soccer, but we left campus on Tuesday, and returned Saturday, making it a very short week for them academically. For me tournament is such a fun experience because we are away from school, away from the dorm, and away from everything ’normal’ and we get to be there as a team.
While at tournament we approached our last game of “group play” knowing if we won we would go through as the #1 seed. If we lost or tied, we would go through as the #2 seed. With about three minutes left in the game we were up 1-0, and feeling good. Unfortunately the ref gave a free kick about 20 yards away from our goal, and a girl stepped up and hit a gorgeous shot. Our goalie made a valiant effort, and tipped the ball so it hit the post, but unfortunately it hit the post, and bounced off her back, and into the goal. We tied 1-1, fell to the #2 seed, and were a bit down. The girls played very well and hustled all game. I was so proud of their effort and their enthusiasm throughout the whole game.
The next day we played in the quarterfinal match, the first of the “lose and go home” matches. We were paired against a team from Naples, Italy. Our girls fought hard the entire game and put forth a great effort. Twice during regulation we hit the post, and once their goalie made an unbelievable save, to keep us off the scoreboard. After 80 minutes of playing we were still tied 0-0, and went into overtime. With two minutes remaining in overtime one of their players hit a beautiful shot that barely flew over our goalie’s head and ended our season.
It was a heart-breaking way to end the season. We felt as though we were the better team, and played very well, we simply couldn’t buy a goal. A few times the ref looked over at us and seemed to say, “How have you not scored yet?” That’s just the way the ball was bouncing that day!
I walked off the field upset. Not as a result of the way we played, not because I felt we deserved to win, but I was upset and hurt, because I knew my girls were hurting. I could hear some sniffling, I could see the pain in their eyes, and I knew there were some devastated girls. Our seniors were disappointed that this is the way their BFA careers would end. Our Juniors were sad knowing this was their final game with the seniors. For many the end of the season signaled the end of relationships, the end of being a student at BFA, the end of many amazing memories.
I am so thankful for the opportunity I had to coach these girls this year. It was definitely new and different, but it was amazing. I anticipated practice daily with excitement and joy. I enjoyed getting to know the girls better, and interacting with them on and off the field.
The night our season ended I sat on the gym floor and looked around the gym at the girls. I wrote in my journal specific things I will miss about some of the seniors. I know I have mentioned how special these girls are, and it is because of who they are off the field. I wanted to finish this post with sharing a few things about some of the seniors.
(I will use their jersey numbers, to help keep some privacy)
#9
One of the best female athletes I have ever met, but also one of the most solid and devoted women of God I know. I will not soon forget waking up and seeing her already reading her Bible. I will miss watching the joy she plays with, and the energy she brings. She has challenged me by her questions, recently she asked me, “Do you think of God when you play soccer?” and “What does it look like to worship God on the soccer field?” These questions started a few great conversations I am extremely thankful for.
#6
She is a friend to everyone, and somebody you want by your side. She works hard, is dedicated, and has such a pure heart. She has shared with me her desire to become a medical missionary, and we have already talked about me bringing a group of youth to come down and help her out when she is on the mission field. The questions she asks reveal her maturity. I know she has made those around her better people, simply because of who she is.
#12
Though a bit of an odd ball at times, she is such a joy and happy person to be around. She will always force you to be on your toes, and will always leave you laughing and smiling. I don’t claim to understand everything she does, but that is part of who she is. I have often thought, “can you change someone’s day by making them smile and laugh?” After interacting with her, I know the answer is a resounding YES, because she has done that for me time and time again.

Thank you for your support and encouragement throughout the season. It was a GREAT season full of many memories and fun times. I am very proud of what the girls were able to accomplish on the field, but am even more impressed by who they are, and what they do off the field.
Below are some pictures from tournament. I hope you enjoy the pictures and have been able to get a small glimpse of what I do here, and who I get to interact with.

Blessings from Germany.
Tommy

A few of the girls on the sideline getting ready for our
first game.


The final warm up sprints before the game begins. We ended up winning this game 2-0.


One night we were blessed by being treated to a Mexican restaurant. It was a
a great time to go out as a team and have fun at the restaurant.


I think the girls had bigger eyes than their stomachs could handle! I was asked to finish off quite a few plates, but couldn't do it. Here I am hanging out with one of our seniors at the restaurant.


After dinner we had a competition to see who could hop on one leg the longest. I was winning, so a few girls decided to poke me and try and distract me. Pretty cheap tactics on their part, but when one of them accidentally slapped me in the face, while the other poked me in the eye, I caved and was defeated.


Hannah is one of our seniors on the team, and was also one of our captains. She and I went to Kenya together last year and have been good friends since then. This year she played sweeper and was a solid anchor on defense.


Steph and Jess are two of our captains as well. These two were selected to the all-tournament team which is quite an accomplishment.

Friday, May 14, 2010

JSB

Last Friday BFA held its' annual Junior-Senior Banquet (JSB). Essentially this is our version of the high school prom. Even though the event takes place in a single night the preparations for JSB start weeks in advance. You see, the guys here do not simply walk up to a girl and ask her if she would like to go to JSB with him, they go ALL OUT. We had one guy bake a cake, and using the frosting he decorated the top to resemble the Ethiopian flag (her 'home' country). We had two guys leave a scavenger hunt for their dates to follow, and the guys were at the final spot with hot chocolate, roses, and a blanket for a picnic. Perhaps my favorite of this season was one I got to help out with. I along with a student inflated over 250 balloons (all by hand) and filled a girl's room waist high with balloons. When she got home from school he was hiding under the balloons, with roses, ready to pop out and ask her to JSB.

The actual event is put on by the Juniors, for the Senior class. The Junior class is responsible for coming up with a theme, preparing the decorations, and hosting the night. The Juniors of each dorm are also responsible for putting together a 'senior tribute.' I helped our Juniors put together a video for our seniors that hopefully had a healthy balance of humor and appreciation. Each dorm's tribute was unique in its own way, which is cool to witness the different personalities each dorm has.
All in all it was a great evening, and a lot of fun. It is always hilarious watching the guys get ready as they are swapping shirts, ties, belts, scrambling for dress socks and dress shoes. Perhaps the most entertaining part of the night is watching the guys anxiously wait for their dates to arrive. The guys all stood in a semi-circle and waited for their date's dorm to arrive, hoping she was in the van. If she was, the butterflies went ecstatic. If she wasn't, they calmed down until the next van pulled in and it started all over again!
Here are some pictures from the night...

Here are a few of the guys standing and waiting for their dates to arrive. Unfortunately the picture doesn't completely capture the scene, but I tried.


This is Ben, Stacey, Becca and Josh. Ben and Josh are in my dorm, and Stacey and Becca are across the street at Blauen.


Daniel, John, Me, Trevor.
I call these guys my "three stooges" they are commonly in my room hanging
out and talking. The four of us have enjoyed watching the TV show NCIS together this year. As each episode ends, we all stand and wait for the credits, once they start rolling and the music plays, we all start dancing. Completely pointless, yet absolutely hilarious.


These are three of our captains for the soccer team this year.


Here is a group shot of all the Sonne Juniors and Seniors. We actually clean up pretty well!


Simply adorable.



Next week I will be traveling with the soccer team for our year end tournament! We are all excited about the tournament and feel as though we have a good chance at winning the whole tournament. It is hard to believe the season is almost over, it will be sad when it ends, but I am thankful and blessed for every day of the season.

Thank you for checking out my blog. Thank you for your continued support and encouragement.

Tommy

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Lyon...the adventure

Some of the best memories I have from my childhood center around the times in which my dad took me to a professional sports game. Everything from going to the Bradley Center to watch Vin Baker, Glenn "Big Dog" Robinson and the Milwaukee Bucks. Or going to Milwaukee County Stadium back to back nights to see Robin Yount get his 2,998 and 2,999 career hits (Philip and I stayed home the third night, when Robin got number 3,000). These events of course, barely compare to the thrill of going to Lambeau Field to watch Reggie White and Brett Favre.
Knowing how special these memories are to me, and how much they stick out in my mind - I came to BFA hoping to allow a few of my students to experience something similar. Of course, over here there are not many sports other than soccer. As a soccer fanatic, I really cannot complain. With this in mind, a little over a month ago I purchased four tickets to a soccer game to be played in Lyon, France.

Following the purchase of the tickets I invited three students to go along with me. I asked Josh, one of the seniors here at Sonne, an avid soccer fan, Stephanie, an excellent soccer player and one of our captains this year, and I took Jessica, another great soccer player who is planning on playing in college next year, and another one of our team's captains.
Naturally, like any good adventure we worked the system and left school around 2pm (they missed their final two classes, which they weren't too bummed about), and we set off for a great time. It took us close to four hours to get to the city of Lyon, and then we began the grand task of trying to find a place to park. Apparently Europeans do not believe in massive parking lots like many stadiums in the States. Therefore we drove around the town for a good half hour until we found a place to park. We almost parked on the sidewalk like many other people were doing, but I felt a little uneasy about this - so we drove until we found a stop light that had a nice grass patch on one of the corners. The little grassy nook proved to be a great place to park the car!
The game itself was very intense and exciting. Lyon went down 1-0 early, but got a penalty kick right before halftime to tie the score 1-1. To the delight of the home crowd Lyon dominated in the second half, but couldn't seem to get the go ahead goal. In fact, twice in the second half alone, Lyon hit the post! As the game progressed the tension thickened. At the start of the game Lyon were in 5th place, hoping to move into 3rd in order to solidify a spot in the Champions League next year. AJ Auxerre were in 2nd, hoping to win and have a shot at winning the league, but definitely wanting to finish in the top three. Finally with about 9 minutes left in the game Lyon scored a goal, to put them up 2-1. This made the final minutes of the game extra exciting as AJ Auxerre were pushing forward hoping to net the equalizer. However, they came up short, and Lyon won 2-1.

Going to the game was definitely amazing and a great time, it is my hope that I was able to produce for them a memory similar to what my dad provided me with. As we all know sometimes the best memory is not the event itself, but all the subplots that go along with it...
Following the game we exited the stadium and quickly realized we couldn't remember where we parked. At this point the drizzling rain had increased to a steady fall, leaving us lost, wet, and cold. We walked around the city of Lyon for close to 90 minutes before we finally arrived back at the car. I was pretty stressed, annoyed at myself, and frustrated. Even though we were in a dismal situation I was blessed to hear their laughter, and to listen to them talk and sing as we tried to look for familiar buildings.
By the time we reached the car it was close to 11.00 and we were finally ready to get on the road and head back to Germany. I had done my research and printed off directions, but also brought along a GPS system "just in case." Well... never underestimate the worth of a GPS system, but at the same time don't underestimate the ability of a GPS system to throw you on some random roads.
After about an hour of driving we started to see signs for Geneva, Milan, and Zurich. Soon enough we found ourselves crossing into Switzerland, and wandering through downtown Geneva. Again, I was a little frustrated, but extremely blessed as I heard all three people saying, "Woah, this is a cool city!" "I've never been here before, we should come back sometime!"
After we got back on the autobahn and had a solid 45 minutes of driving under our belt I heard the quote of the night, we were still a little uncertain as to where we were and I heard someone say, "What country are we in? Are we still in Switzerland or did we get back into France?"

Overall it was a phenomenal trip, with a few more twists and turns, and exciting stories I won't mention. While it is fun to tell the stories from the adventure, the best aspect of the trip for me was the time I had to connect with each student. We were together for a little over 13 hours, and throughout that time I had the ability to talk one-on-one with each person for at least an hour, some much more. Conversations varied from soccer tips/strategy, mission trips, thoughts about college, family, and more.
While driving back I made one person sit up front with me and keep me awake, but I made them take shifts so that I could have the opportunity to talk to all of them.

I was blessed to have had the ability to spend a night with these amazing students. These three are absolutely incredible and it was quite the adventure. I really hope that this night was a night they will remember fondly in the years to come. I hope this night is a memory they will cherish. My hope is that together we created a memory that will enable us to email each other in five years and say, "remember that time we couldn't find our car in Lyon!"



Stephanie, Tommy, Jess
They wouldn't let me take my camera into the stadium, so we took pictures after the game, outside the gate! Not only are these two great soccer players, they are incredible people. I love interacting with them and have immensely enjoyed coaching them this year.


Josh could never keep his eyes open during the pictures, so I had to give him a little help.


Wet, cold, tired, but relieved when we finally got back to the car.