Sunday, May 29, 2011

Tournament video

As I mentioned in my previous post I was working on getting a video online for you to view. It took a lot more work than I was hoping, but I finally got it figured out, and hopefully it is up and running smoothly.
This video was put together for the girls, as a reminder of their season. It includes a random assortment of pictures as well as different videos that were taken. The theme is, "Who? What? Where?" which is the traditional game we play while traveling for away games. Within the video you will see random video clips of our team playing the game. Additionally you will see the girls having their "dorky dance parties" which they did at different times.
I can't help but watch this video and be overcome with an assortment of emotions. These girls are amazing and I hope you get a glimpse of that through the video.

To see the video:
Copy this link into your browser:
You will be prompted for a password, type in: falcons2011

If you have any issues watching the video please let me know. Otherwise, sit back, relax, and enjoy!

Thursday, May 26, 2011


I apologize that I did not post last week. As many of you know I diligently try to post every Thursday, but sometimes it does not happen. Life over here has been very busy and I have been running in different directions doing various things. Today I wanted to write about our soccer tournament which was last week. It will honestly be quite difficult for me to articulate everything that happened, and how I am feeling, but I will do my best.

For the past two years I have been the assistant coach for our girls varsity team. Ask me in person how I feel about coaching girls, and watch as my eyes light up, my face beam with an ear to ear smile, and listen as I struggle to put into words how much I enjoy coaching. It is an understatement to say that I love coaching this team. Way back in August, as the students rolled in to start the school year I was already starting to talk about soccer, and getting excited for the season despite the fact I had to wait through the volleyball and basketball seasons. Even still, I knew that if I were to have half as much fun as I did last year as coach, this year was going to be phenomenal.
Our soccer season here is quite different than most high schools in the States. We practice Monday-Fridays with a game on Saturday. Unfortunately we have more players than adequate space. So on most days we share one field with three other teams (guys varsity/jv and girls varsity/jv). Practice starts when the girls get to the field, which is generally around 4.10. Because most of the students have to catch a bus to get back to their dorm, practice ends at 5.30. So we are not given the greatest conditions in which to practice which always makes things interesting as a coach. On the weekends of our games, we play as a part of the DoDDS League, which is comprised mostly of American Military schools. For our home games, we have to rent a local field, which always seems to be different from week to week. For our away games we pile four teams on a bus and drive anywhere from 4-8 hours on Friday, sleep in the school’s gym, wake up Saturday to play, and then drive home Saturday after all the games have been played. Divisions are designated according to the size of the school, Division 1 being the largest schools. We are in Division 2. During the regular season we compete against schools within our region, not our division. So this season we played four Division 2 schools and three Division 1 schools. Our three losses came to Division 1 schools. At the end of the year the Varsity team heads to “tournament” where we meet teams from all over Europe within our division. Once there we have pool play (3 games guaranteed), and then we move into the knock-out rounds. These rounds continue until the championship game, where one team is crowned European Champions.

So, last Tuesday we loaded the buses and headed off to tournament with the goal of winning tournament. We came in as the #4 ranked team (of 15) and knew we wouldn’t roll over everyone, but we felt we had a fighting chance if the ball bounced our way. Our first game was Wednesday, and the girls came out ON FIRE. Less than 10 minutes into the game we were winning 3-0. We ended up finishing the game with a 7-0 victory. We played again a few hours later and were a little sluggish. We came away with a 1-1 tie (they scored on a penalty kick) and we felt as if we were the stronger team. We were a little disappointed, but ended the day knowing that when we were clicking on all cylinders, we could make some noise. Thursday we woke up and played a tight, heart-pounding, tense game. We were clearly the better team (I am a little bias, I know) but couldn’t seem to put the ball in the net. After another 1-1 tie (they scored on a free kick) we went into a penalty shootout. Simply put, our goalie was phenomenal. She blocked two shots and put us in a prime position to win. Our final shooter was a senior, and a captain, and she stepped up with confidence and easily slid the ball home. We won and were through to the quarter-finals! Friday morning we were back on the field playing for a spot in the semi-final game. Unfortunately we went down 1-0 15 minutes into the game, and never found an equalizer, and lost 1-0. The girls played with passion, energy, and heart, but there seemed to be an invisible fence in front of the goal. With that, our season was over.
In our four tournament games, we let one goal in through the run of play, all others were set pieces. We outscored our opponents 9-3, out hustled them, but simply couldn’t seal the deal when we needed to. I walked away extremely proud of our performance, yet discouraged that we weren't able to advance to the next round. I believe we had the talent.
So that is a recap of what happened ON the field. Now let me explain about OFF the field.
This team is awesome. This team is so much fun. They have energy, enthusiasm and they know how to laugh and have fun. They care about each other. Here are a few of my favorite moments:

We had a team "meeting" the night before each of our away games. Essentially we would talk for about 3 minutes and then play a game called, “Who? What? Where?” It is a combination of telephone and charades, that will leave you rolling on the floor laughing. I love that the team is willing to participate, and essentially make fools of themselves. This past tournament we played this game two or three nights, each time proving to be hilarious. One night I was called to act, and had to imitate a belly dancer. Unfortunately my belly dancing skills are not up to par, and my interpreter thought I was playing with a hula hoop!

On Thursday after our game we ate at an authentic Mexican restaurant. I have some of the greatest friends, and former teammates who graciously provided the finances to make it possible. I had such joy sitting in my chair watching them salivate over the chips and real salsa (Germans don’t know how to make salsa). At one point one girl said to me, “This burrito in front of me makes up for every bad thing that has happened in my life. This bite right here, makes up for the time in fifth grade I wet my pants after school.” More information than I really wanted to know, but touching nonetheless. I was filled with joy as I engaged some in conversation, and at times leaned back in my chair and watched everyone else enjoying themselves. It was a time where our team could do something different, something unique, something special. It was special to me knowing that a few years ago I was a player making memories with my teammates, and now those same friends and teammates were helping these girls do the same. I want to thank my friends, and I want you to know that the girls greatly appreciated it as well. THANK YOU.

I don’t know how to sum this one up… but I got to spend a good part of five days with people I truly care about. The bus rides were enjoyable and filled with good conversations. In between games I would talk strategy with players, but also talk about life, summer plans, college goals, and fears about next year. We would watch our guys’ team play, and make fun of the way they ran, or role-play and attempt to figure out what was going on in their head’s. Whatever we were doing, it was fun. It was enjoyable because I truly believe this team is awesome. I came in hoping to teach them about soccer, and about life, only to walk away knowing they probably taught me more than I taught them. I want to highlight three different players who have taught me different things throughout the season, and will hopefully give you insight as to why I simply love coaching them…

When I think of this player there are two obvious things that come to my mind right away; selflessness and persistence. Coming into the season everyone was thinking, including the coaches, she would play as a forward again this year, which is where she played last year. After a few days of practice, though, we decided it would benefit the team more if she played sweeper, the last man back on defense. She went from the spotlight of forward, to the sometimes forgotten position of defense. And she did it without complaining, she did it without flinching, she did it trusting in her coaches, and believing it was best for the team, which is what she was most concerned about. In today’s sports society I find it unique when a player chooses to elevate the team above the individual player. But this is what she did, and I was thankful, and encouraged by her attitude and actions.
Additionally I continually saw a heart of persistence within her, though not necessarily on the soccer field. She was persistent in that she never wanted anyone to feel out of place, lonely, or not a part of the team. She went out of her way to include those who might have been easily forgotten in the shadow of others. Her persistence meant that nobody was alone, and everyone felt like they had at least one friend on the team. I feel as though far too often I blind myself to those around me who are in need of a kind word, a listening ear, or a high five. Throughout the year I saw her consistently pursue others, which has left a lasting mark on me.

I love the movie Gladiator. At one point in the movie, one of the characters poses the question, “Have you forgotten what it was like to trust in someone?” Trust is such a valuable thing. To trust yourself and to trust other people. I don’t think it always comes easy for me, and I imagine I am not alone. This player has redefined my definition of trust. She is an all around athlete, yet has more experience playing basketball than soccer. During many practices, and games, she would come to me and ask, “Am I doing this right? What should I be doing better? How can I be more effective? Do you have any tips for me?’ She would ask these questions, listen to my answer, and trust that what I was saying was right, and then go out and do it.
I don’t claim to know everything about soccer, so sometimes I don’t know that I trust what I am telling players. But she would listen to what I said, trust that I had the team’s best interest at heart, and her best interest, and then attempt to go out and accomplish what I told her. It was encouraging and challenging to see someone exhibit such trust in another person.
Prior to each game I would write a note to each of my captains. I would give some advice, an encouraging word, maybe a joke, and I would always try to finish the note with a question for them to ponder. One week I asked her what I would consider a simple question, yet a very important question, “Are you having fun playing?” While I am very competitive, I want to make sure my players enjoy playing. The next game, during warm-ups she came up to me and said, “In response to your note, of course I’m having fun!” She went out and scored three goals that game. I know I definitely had fun watching her play.

About a week before the season began she gave me a scare and let me know she wasn’t sure if she was going to play or not. I panicked! That night I sat down and wrote out 15 different reasons why she should play, and did my best to convince her to play, which she thankfully decided to do (not sure if my words were helpful or not).
I haven’t coached any other player that has the combination of; skill, desire, energy, attitude, and joy that she has. Simply put, when she is on the field and when you are coaching her, she makes it fun. She has a positive attitude, great energy, and a willingness to be coached, and to learn. She wants to get better, she wants to do better, and she wants to have fun doing it. She has fun playing, and she makes coaching her fun as well. This year has especially been fun to coach her, because for probably the first time, I felt as though I knew her just as well as a person as I did a player. With that I felt comfortable telling her things about the team, that some coaches might not tell players. I didn’t openly criticize other players, but I felt comfortable enough to tell her the truth about our situation. At the same time I felt as though there was enough of a friendship that I could challenge her, I could give her things to work on, and she would receive them openly. I tried to push her and build her as a player. I have told her that I wanted to coach her in a way that makes her a better player today, and a better player for our team now, but also so that she is a better play in the future, but most importantly a better person.

Our last regular season game I saw her play her best game to that point. After the game I told her she had a fire I hadn’t consistently seen. She responded by saying, “I was upset about something and felt like I was playing with a chip on my shoulder.” She then proceeded to ask, “is it okay for me to play like that?” I started to laugh, and pleaded with her to play like that all the time. She was by no means dirty, by no means rude, by no means a nasty player. She was a player that would not give up on any ball. She would not wimp out of any challenge. She was confident, and determined. It was great to watch!
At tournament I saw her step up in a leadership role that was much needed. She was encouraging the team on and off the field. Picking up the players when they were discouraged, hyping them up when they were tired.

As I hope you can tell by my words, this team is amazing. They did extremely well on the field, but their character is even more impressive. I taught them a little, and they taught me a lot.
I am sad the season is over. My heart is still a bit heavy. I was crushed when we lost because as a competitor I wanted to win, but I was more saddened that my time with these players was over. Many of them will graduate, including the three I have highlighted. They are so special to me. I am thankful that over the course of these two seasons I had the opportunity to coach individuals who were not merely players, but friends.

I had hoped to upload a video with this post, but I haven't been able to do it yet, so please scroll enjoy the pictures until I am able to put up the video, which will hopefully happen over the weekend.

Friday, May 13, 2011


Sunny day? Check. Two inflated inner tubes and one semi-inflated inner tube? Check. Sunscreen? Check. Ten foot long windsurf board, that was used as a bobsled last weekend, and for today turned into a raft? Check. Chilly water, with a pretty strong current? Check and check. Three dudes who have a greater sense of adventure, than common sense? Absolutely. When you put all of those things together, you get a great afternoon!
Today, I was granted the opportunity to let two of my guys play hooky, and I believe we took full advantage of it, by going down to the Rhine river and having fun. The two of them had a grand plan, and there was not much that was going to stop them.
In the morning they woke up for breakfast, but then went back to bed for another hour. After waking up again, we sat down and watched an episode of the tv show NCIS, a show the three of us have come to really enjoy. Following that it was time for lunch (these guys LOVE to eat) and then head out for the afternoon. I admit, they did a very good job of planning most of the day - but forgot small little details along the way. For instance, small detail worth figuring out: directions! We had gathered all the materials, jumped in the van and headed down the road. With windows rolled down and music blaring, I leaned over and asked; "Do you have any preferences as to what part of the Rhine we go to?" My question was met with blank stares. So I rephrased the question, "Do you have any idea on how to get to the Rhine?" This time I was greeted with stares that seemed to be saying, "That's what you're here for!" Though I consider myself directionally challenged I thankfully know how to get to the Rhine.
We showed up and instantly received some bizarre looks from the locals. The supplies we were carrying, as well as the board shorts covered in Hawaiian print stood out form the normal European beach fashion. We stumbled over the rocks and set up camp alongside the river. We assembled our surfboard and hoped it would carry us down the river. We soon found out that balance became an issue - we tried one person standing, with two sitting. One person paddling on the left, and one on the right. All the while they were trying to stay dry, while I was subtly trying to tip them into the water. The current would tip us left, which forced us to lean right, yet three guys shifting their weight in one direction, at a fast speed, meant overcompensation, and instant doom. Eventually we got the hang of it and were able to peacefully float about a half mile down the river until we paddled to dry land, disembarked, walked back to our starting point, only to do it again!
After a few runs the raft/surfboard didn't prove to be quite as challenging, plus the inner tubes looked lonely. So we ditched the board, picked up the tubs and headed up river. The current isn't extremely strong, but it is strong enough that if you simply try to tread water, you are going to be carried away. With some rocks visibly peaking through the water, and others lurking noticeably below, we didn't see danger, we simply saw obstacles to avoid, and adventurous terrain to be conquered. There were certainly a few bumps and bruises along the way, followed by stretches of an inner tube floating one direction, and its' passenger five feet behind going a different direction. The tubes definitely proved to be entertaining and enjoyable. A few runs with the tubes, then it was time to relax and enjoy the sun.
So we sat down on our surfboard and kept ourselves entertained with a plethora of rocks at our disposal. At first it started as a rock-skipping competition. Then we realized that you could bounce a small rock off of a larger, stationary rock, and have it ricochet back at the person sitting next to you. After a few direct hits, it was time for one last run on the inner tubes before heading back to town.

Later in the evening, at dinner, we all sat together and began complaining about random nicks we had accumulated during the day. Different bumps that had arisen that we were initially unaware of. Yet with each bruise that surfaces, with each cut from a rock, we all seemed to smile, and laugh from a day well spent.
No school? Check. Bruises and aches? Check. Memories that will not soon be forgotten? Absolutely.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A special place

Tonight I want to write a post about my friend Joel. He has no idea I plan on writing about him, and won’t see it until I email him the finished, published copy. Even without his permission I thought it would be appropriate to write in this fashion tonight.
I have told many people that Joel is the person behind my coming to BFA, and I truly believe he is. He was a student here for three years, but our story starts when we landed on the same hall in college. I instantly appreciated his world-wide awareness, and adventures in places I had never heard of, nor could I correctly pronounce. Additionally, he found it entertaining to blurt out random Turkish phrases - which I never understood, but always enjoyed. Not to mention, he had a kettle in his room that was perfect for heating up apple cider on a brisk fall night! As our friendship grew and deepened, I shared with him my passions, dreams, and goals. After doing this one night he looked me straight in the eye and said, “You have to go to BFA and be an RA. You would absolutely love it!” Having never heard of the school, let alone the concept of a boarding school designed to serve MK’s his advice went in one ear and out the other. Thankfully Joel is a stubborn guy, who is not willing to give up on anyone, or anything. From that conversation on it seemed as though he always found a way to put a bug in my ear about coming to BFA. Honestly, I am extremely thankful he bugged me so much. Thoughts along this line pounded my heart the other day in two very different circumstances; one of joy and one of sadness.

A few days ago our school held our annual Staff Appreciation Dinner. It is an evening where the entire school staff gets together for an evening, of fellowship, food, and good-byes. This community is one filled with transient people. I do not know the exact numbers, but I imagine at least one third of our staff turns over after every school year, if not more. Therefore having a night where we as a body can recognize and show appreciation to those departing, is necessary. This year the sadness of good-byes proved to be quite difficult. The reality sank in as I watched two couples walk across the stage to receive their ‘years of service’ recognition. Both were present at my mission’s orientation in Canada, three years ago, where the journey for all of us began. Of the 30 of us that attended orientation, sixteen are currently in their third year, and only ten will still be here next year. As I watched them on stage two things struck me.
First, I have so much love, care, and respect for the individuals that make up this community, and this school. As I witnessed the evening, I was reminded of how many quality people are here. The love they have for God, for their work, for their students is incredible. The talents they posses, the way they conduct themselves, is phenomenal. I felt blessed simply by being in the same room as them. I felt as though I was being sharpened and encouraged by sitting at the dinner table with them and engaging them in conversation.
Secondly, I was overcome with a sense of unity with them. I met one couple at the orientation, and they were newlyweds. Three years later, and they have a newborn child. I met two people at orientation, one single guy, and one single girl. This summer they will celebrate their one year wedding anniversary. Over my time here, I have walked through life with these people. We have all had our bumps and bruises. Challenges and victories. Yet we went through them together. It is difficult to explain, but let me assure you it is a special thing. This is a special place. These are special people.

That is the sadness I experienced that day, as I saw a chapter close on relationships. The joy I experienced occurred over a span of one hour, during which I had the privilege of sitting down face to face once again with Joel. It had been three full years since I last saw Joel, though we have kept in touch via email and skype. He was making his way through Germany and had about 36 hours at BFA. With his large list of people to see, and my insanely busy schedule I was thankful we found time to reconnect. Joel is the first person from college to come to Germany and visit me - and I think he was the perfect one to do it. He understands. He didn’t need any explanation. He knows.
The first time I saw him I was on the field coaching- so I ran over and had a blast bragging about my players. I enjoyed saying to him, ‘watch her she can really trap the ball’ or “watch her shot, I haven’t seen a goalie yet who can block it when she really connects.’ Later while we were talking I got to watch some of my guys walk by and tell him funny stories from the dorm. Stories that reminded him of his years in the dorm.
Of course, we also spent time going through our list of ‘remember when…’ “Remember when we used to go to the cafeteria on Friday nights…” “Remember when I tried to get you a date…”
Spending time with him, even for a quick hour, brought great joy and refreshment to my heart. It was amazing for me to have a friend to share all of this with. To sit beside them as they watch me do what I have been doing for the past three years. For a brief hour I got to share this place that I love, not through a blog, not through a picture, but through face to face talking, and him witnessing first hand. (If you have ever desired to come to Germany, there are still a few weeks left in the school year! It’s not too late to make it out. I would love to show you this place that means so much to me.)
But my heart was also overwhelmed with happiness because I knew that he understood. I knew that I did not have to use a lot of words, he simply got it. While I do not want this school year to finish, deep down I am looking forward to being home for a bit and being with family and friends who understand. Those individuals who don’t need to hear the background story, because they are that background. Those special people who don’t need to ask how a scar appeared there, because they witnessed it happen. As great as a place as this has been, it has been challenging for me socially.
Then again, I simply smile, because I know that this is a special place, unlike anywhere else. Daily I am blessed to interact with the greatest students in the world, and some of the greatest staff in the world. This is a special place.

Thank you Joel for putting the BFA bug in my ear. Thank you for encouraging me to fill out the applications, and to pursue the RA position. Your love, encouragement, and support in the past three years has been a blessing. Thanks for coming to visit, it was great to see you again. Boo-yah-kah-shah. You’re a stud.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

As I mentioned in the post below, there is a video that has been created for the trip to Moldova. My friend, Brabdon, did a great job in making the video and upon watching you will get a better idea of where we were, and what we did. You can read the post below, and then watch the video and it will hopefully all make sense!