Community and Passion Persevere

Shaye Gallagher

This week I had the pleasure of witnessing a cheerleader execute her first aerial. I watched a wrestler lift 320 lbs and a basketball team push themselves to greatness. I wondered what could be motivating these athletes to devote themselves,in full,to their sports. Before I give my finding I would like to thank all of the coaches and athletes who allowed me to interrupt their practice to interview them about their experiences in blended learning athletics. I would also like to share my astonishment at the humility of the athletes at EAB. Every athlete whom I interviewed gave props to their coaches and thanked their teammates for motivating them to be there best.

I begin each interview by asking “ How have sports affected your mental health?” Every athlete responded that sports had been incredibly beneficial for mental health. They said sports helped them because it was a stress reliever and the community made them feel more at ease. However, it was the cheer team in particular that stood out to me. The cheerleaders told me that their coaches (Ms.Lola and Ms.Lady) have been helping them by allowing them to have classes that were less devoted to sports and more focused on overall mental health. I was blown away not only by the concept,but how it had paid off. I spent about a half an hour with them and it was a time filled with joy,passion and community. In fact, it was an apthospere so wonderful it even convinced me to join the team. 

The next question I asked was “ Has it been difficult to balance school and athletics” I assumed that I would have been  overwhelmed by the  amount of yeses I was wrong. While the athletes did agree that balance was tricky they said they noticed an overall improvement in their ability to concentrate. They also brought up how the more structured day allowed them to accomplish more.

The final question I posed is as follows “ What motivates you to come?” As an athlete myself I know it is difficult to go home for a short amount of time only to have to come back to school. While the athletes admitted that it did take discipline they gave props to their coaches for pushing them to be their best. The entire girls soccer team gave credit to their coaches for pushing them in every way possible to come to practice. I heard stories of coaches coming up with creative ways to keep their athletes encaged and safe. Mr. Joness’s had his basketball team set goals for themselves to keep  motivated. Mr.JP, the jiu jitsu instructor, came up with creative games that strengthened the muscles used in jiu jitsu fights.

To be transparent,the plan for this article was to only interview athletes. However, after finding out what a vital role coaches play I had to interview them as well. I posed each coach with a variety of questions. First, I asked them” What drives you to come and coach?” they answered with “ for the students”. Every coach said that they knew how important it was for students to be in athletics and that they wanted to do what they could to help their athletes. I asked the wrestling coach if he  believed the training done  both in zoom and on campus would give his fighters a competitive advantage. The answer was YES!!

So, after a week of interviewing just about every sports team I have decided that I am very proud to go to a school surrounded by so many humble and driven individuals. I am excited to watch the bulls impress at all sports competitions that are yet to come. 

The USWNT Returns To The Field

By Elisa Uccello

As disorganized and substandard as they were, something was born the day they played their first official match. A grind. A passion. A mentality that was nurtured and strengthened to transform those uncoordinated women into the best soccer team in the world. 

On Friday evening, November 27th, the United States Women’s National Team returned to the field after a record 261 days without a single game. Remarkably, they were able to surpass all expectations. 

The USWNT was precariously founded in 1985 by bringing together a group of girls who played for different college teams, handing down old uniforms from the men’s squad, and assembling them in a field for an amateur tournament in Italy. As disorganized and substandard as they were, something was born the day they played their first official match. A grind. A passion. A mentality that was nurtured and strengthened to transform those uncoordinated women into the best soccer team in the world. 

In 1991, when, at last, FIFA organized an international cup for female soccer (that would later be recognized as the Women’s World Cup), the 23 American girls selected by coach Anthony DiCicco, all still in college, had to sew their uniforms by hand the day before departing to China. After outperforming all opponents and beating Norway 2-1 in the final, the United States lifted the first-ever FIFA women’s trophy and received 500 dollars as a reward. 500 dollars. That’s all they got for winning the freaking World Cup.

The USWNT returns to the field

United States Women’s National Team holding world cup trophy, November 30th, 1991. 

The 1995 World Cup wasn’t as up to scratch. Many vital players had to quit to get “real jobs” since women’s soccer didn’t pay the bills. In 1999, however, the U.S. volunteered to host the World Cup, and the players were ready to make the most out of it. They traveled around the country to every soccer clinic and camp to personally advertise and encourage people to attend their games. Their last matches before the WC had around 1,500 people. No one even knew their names. But it worked. 

As they hopped onto the bus to head for the World Cup opening match, the streets were completely congested. At first, they wondered where all those people were going. Then they started getting worried that they would be late to their own game. But as soon as they looked out the window and realized that all those people, dressed in blue, red, and white, were actually there to support them, the hearts of those 23 young girls, who only played because they loved the game, started beating out of their chests. They won their group, then the quarter and semi-finals, and finally landed in Pasadena for the championship game against China. In a sold-out Rose Bowl stadium, with just over 90 thousand fans, the USWNT won their second star after a thrilling penalty shootout. That day, the 10th of July of 1999, is still marked as the most important date in the history of women’s soccer.

What those women did in that World Cup didn’t just show America the quality of their product. The packed Rose Bowl stadium was filled with young girls that went home that night, grabbed a ball and said, “This is what I want to do.” One of those girls was a 19-year-old Abby Wambach, who would later break the record for most international goals by man or woman. Another was 17-year-old Carli Lloyd, who clinched the USA’s 3rd star with a hattrick in the first half of the 2015 WC final. 14-year-old Megan Rapinoe, who won the Ballon D’or while leading a movement towards equal pay. 11-year-old Tobin Heath, who is considered the most skilled player in history. 10-year-old Alex Morgan, who was named to the All-Time Best XI. The 1999 World Champions inspired a generation of girls that now carry their legacy and the title of best women’s soccer team in history. 

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USWNT defender, Brandi Chastain, after scoring the last penalty kick in the 1999 World Cup final.

With twice as many stars as their heroes conquered, after claiming the trophy in 2015 and 2019, the USWNT started 2020 with high expectations. New coach Vlatko Andonovski led the team to eight wins in the first eight games of the year, winning the She Believes Cup and clinching their spot in the Olympics that were supposed to have happened this summer. However, when the final whistle blew on the 11th of March, 2020, the American players celebrated the 3-1 win without a clue of how long it would be until they could put their National Team jerseys on and step on the field to defend that badge once more. 

COVID year, as we all know, was tragic and burdensome. As the United States watched the number of cases and deaths increase with poor response from the government, the soccer federation affirmed the inviability of uniting the 20-some players, spread around the country, to hold games or even training camps. So for seven months, the 4-star jerseys were stored in the closet. Some players played with the national league, others went abroad to get playing time in Europe, where the pandemic was more efficiently combated. In the end, the players that won the World Cup just last summer were dispersed throughout the globe.

Finally, this month, the US soccer federation arranged a friendly match that would be played after a very strict and controlled camp environment was established, and all the players were able to safely arrive at Utrecht. The game, evidently, was against the Netherlands; a rematch of the 2019 World Cup final. The world champion faced the European champion in a thrilling match this past Friday. 

While expectations are always high for the USWNT, fans and reporters were considering that the team hadn’t been together for eight months while the Netherlands has met month in month out to participate in the European qualifiers. Dutch star, Vivianne Miedema, announced on Tuesday that she would not be a part of the roster due to a hip injury. Other than that, the team that reached the World Cup final and will defend the European title was complete.

As for the USWNT, some vital players were absent due to injuries, such as captains Carli Lloyd and Megan Rapinoe, and young prodigy Mal Pugh. Two university players were called, from Stanford and Florida State. Finally, one “long time, no see” Kristie Mewis got back in the roster after six years without a call-up, the longest interval this US team has ever seen. Mewis joined her younger sister, Sam, in the Netherlands for what would be her 16th appearance if she was to play. When she was taken off the team in 2014, she claims to have lost a lot of confidence and settled for being average. However, after coming back from an ACL injury last year, she made the most out of this abnormal season and helped the Houston Dash take home the Challenge Cup trophy, second place in the league fall series, held the record for most assists, and was elected most valuable player of the team. Her extraordinary performance earned her a call-up and she was able to, once again, defend her nation after almost 2500 days. 

The game was scoreless for over half an hour, with the U.S. having many opportunities while the Dutch had trouble keeping possession. At the 40 minute mark, however, Man United forward Christen Press carried the ball past the midfield and passed it to Rose Lavelle. She took a good look at the goal from the top corner of the penalty area and shot it beautifully to open the score. 25-year-old Lavelle also scored the second goal against the Netherlands in the World Cup final last year, in a 2-0 win. 

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Kristie Mewis celebrating her goal against the Netherlands.

In the 61st minute, Lavelle herself was subbed off for Kristie Mewis. In a heartfelt moment, Mewis stepped on the field with a huge smile on her face. After 2500 days without having the opportunity to defend the badge, it only took 9 minutes for Mewis to receive the ball from Lynn Williams, dribble past the Dutch defense, and put it on the back of the net. As she turned around to celebrate, her sister Sam was the first one to embrace her. The narrator enthusiastically shouted, “WELCOME BACK KRISTIE MEWIS!” And what a comeback that was! In another 2-0 win over the Netherlands, the USWNT finished off the year on a high note. As coach Andonovski said in the post-game interview, “2020 was a tough year in many ways. But one thing that didn’t change and will never change with this team is the heart and the mind.” With that, the mentality that was nurtured since the first match in 1985, continues to serve as the basis of the program that assures the USA women’s soccer team is the very best in the world.

NWSL Challenge Cup

By Elisa Uccello 

Besides the awe-striking performance of the teams inside the soccer field, these athletes are also stars in the battlefield for equality.

NWSL

In spite of the immense progress of the feminist movement in the last century, female athletes are still consistently subjected to gender discrimination. The lack of coverage and investment in women’s soccer contribute to restraining its development, but isn’t enough to prevent thousands of astonishingly talented women from pursuing their passion. The USA’s National Women’s Soccer League is, hitherto, one of few professional women’s leagues in the world. Besides the awe-striking performance of the teams inside the soccer field, these athletes are also stars in the battlefield for equality.

The NWSL was established in 2012 after the previous female league (Women’s Professional Soccer) folded in April of that year. It originally consisted of eight teams: Chicago Red Stars, Boston Breakers, Western New York Flash, Seattle Reign, Portland Thorns, Kansas City, New Jersey Sky Blue, and Washington Spirit. The minimum salary was no more than six thousand dollars per year and the majority of the teams didn’t have a home stadium.

Eight years after its foundation, the league has seen significant improvements. The minimum salary is now twenty thousand, all teams have home stadiums and training facilities, the average attendance per game has doubled, and major companies have started to invest in the women’s game. The Boston Breakers and FC Kansas City folded, New York Flash moved to North Carolina to form the NC Courage, and the MLS teams Orlando City, Real Salt Lake, and Houston Dynamo have founded women’s sides, Orlando Pride, Utah Royals and Houston Dash. The league now consists of nine teams, with two expansion plans ahead.

Challenge Cup 

Due to the outbreak of the coronavirus, the regular NWSL season had to be cancelled and, for almost three months, the players had to train inside their homes. As the pandemic progressed and the American government failed to combat it, the teams had to measure risks and calculate step by step their return to the field. By May, players were training individually in club facilities. A few weeks later, small group training was introduced. Finally they were able to get back with the team, being tested twice a week and doing their part as to respect quarantine requirements.

In early June Lisa Baird, NWSL commissioner, released the plan for the first and only edition of the NWSL Challenge Cup. It was a month long tournament offered by businessman and owner of the Utah Royals, Dell Loy Hansen, and with partnerships with major companies such as Google, Budweiser, Nike, P&G, and CBS. All the teams went to the so-called NWSL bubble; a complex of fields and housing in Salt Lake City where the players, staff, photographers, and administrators stayed isolated for the duration of the tournament. Everyone in the bubble had to undergo regular testing, successfully summing up over 2100 negative tests by the final whistle. 

Eight teams participated in this cup since Orlando Pride had to forego after a number of players tested positive a week prior to the tournament. This is how the tournament went: in the first round, all teams played four games receiving three points for a win, one for a draw and zero for a defeat. The criteria for point ties was goal differential and then goals scored. After the first round ranking was complete, the play offs consisted of the top scorer of the first round, which was, unsurprisingly, the NC Courage, that won the league in 2018 and 2019, against the last placed team of the first round, which was the Portland Thorns. The second (Washington Spirit) played against the seventh (OL Reign), the third (Sky Blue FC) played against the sixth (Chicago Red Stars), and the fourth (Houston Dash) played against the fifth (Utah Royals). From there on it was win or go home.

Ironically, the only team that was eliminated in regular time was the number one, NC Courage, in an exciting 1-0 match-up. Houston Dash, Sky Blue, and Chicago Red Stars advanced after penalty shootouts. The Red Stars beat Sky Blue on a tight 4-3 match-up, and captain Rachel Daly scored the game winner for the Dash against the Thorns, taking them to their first ever tournament final. 

The Houston Dash faced the Chicago Red Stars in the championship game at Rio Tinto Stadium, July 26th. Less than five minutes into the game, Dash midfielder Kristie Mewis was fouled inside the area, earning a shot from the penalty spot that was converted by Canadian international Sophie Schmidt. The match was tight all throughout, and only in stoppage time was Shea Groom able to make it 2-0 and guarantee the first ever club trophy for the Houston Dash. England national team player Rachel Daly was voted the MVP of the tournament and took home the golden boot after scoring three goals and assisting twice. The NWSL was the first professional sport league to get back in the United States and successfully hold a corona free tournament.

Super Bowl Recap : The Bad, the Bad, and ….the Bad (Spoiler Alert)

By Fatima Kane

 

Let’s start off with the score :

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3 to 13 for the Patriots – the lowest scoring Super Bowl game ever.

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The game looked mostly like this…

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…with a couple of interceptions

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… and 1 touchdown by the Patriots !

While the lack of scoring seemed to be driving everybody crazy, ESPN called the Patriots’ defense “the best defensive performance we have ever seen in a Super Bowl.” Considering that the Rams had the second-best offense in the second-highest scoring season in NFL history, and the last time a team allowed their opponent only 3 points was 47 years ago when the Cowboys beat the Dolphins 24 – 3, the game maybe wasn’t as bad as it seemed. But watching the game on Sunday was painful, and I’m pretty sure we all ended up looking like this :

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(Coach Sean McVay of the LA Rams)

Sadly, the halftime show was not much better…

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After Rihanna, Jay-Z, and Cardi B turned down offers to perform at the Halftime Show in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick, Maroon 5 agreed and performed along with Travis Scott and Big Boi (half of Outkast) for one of the most mediocre performances ever.

Basically, the Super Bowl LIII will go down as the most boring in history, the New England Patriots won again for the 6th time and counting, Tom Brady won his 6th Super Bowl as the oldest quarterback, the halftime show was about as exciting as the game, and the most memorable moment was when Big Boi came out in his humongous fur coat.

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Sources :

https://edition.cnn.com/2019/02/03/sport/gallery/super-bowl-2019/index.html

https://www.google.com/search?q=superbowl+2019&rlz=1C5CHFA_enBR705BR705&oq=superbowl+2019&aqs=chrome.0.69i59j0l5.3192j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8&safe=active&ssui=on

http://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/25921740/super-bowl-liii-was-greatest-defensive-performance-history-here-how-patriots-did-rams

https://nexter.org/celebs-turned-down-super-bowl

https://adage.com/article/news/super-bowl-ad-recap-fun-forgettable-flops-monday-wake-call/316513/

https://www.boston.com/sports/new-england-patriots/2019/02/03/recap-how-the-patriots-won-their-6th-super-bowl-title

https://edition.cnn.com/2019/02/04/us/super-bowl-liii-moments-highlights-commercials-trnd/index.html