By: Jane Beall
Assistant Field Hockey Coach
I have always been passionate about traveling. Having taken only Latin in high school, the only place I can really use my second language is probably the Roman Forum, but I still get a kick out of making my way through new places. Alone or in groups, abroad or domestically, I kind of love it. When I made the drastic life left-turn into coaching, I thought that my passport would go into retirement, at least for the foreseeable future. However, this summer the opportunity arose to blend work and pleasure in the form of a field hockey camp. Bob Whitcher, the owner of EuroTour, offered me a coaching spot at the SportWays Camp of Excellence in Barcelona, and I seized it with no questions asked, except “when do we leave?”
So, off I went to Barcelona with two other coaches and 42 American teenagers. We had a day or two to explore the city a little before joining the rest of the camp in Terrazza for eight intense days of hockey. When we got to Barca, we all strolled down the Ramblas together. Loosely translated, Las Ramblas means “a crapton of people walking down a street with lots of tourist shops on all sides.” If you’ve never been, it’s kind of like going through one of those football drills where you try to get through a narrow alley lined with people shoving you with those big blue pads. Only instead of a football, you’re trying to protect your purse while keeping track of a bunch of curious teens.
Seriously though, Barcelona is fantastic, but to be honest, once we got to Terrazza, I kept forgetting that I was in Spain. The large majority of the 45-person staff was Dutch, and the campers were from all over Europe. When I had to take an American player to the hospital during the trip, I kept insisting to the director that I needed a Dutch speaker to go with me to translate before she reminded me that we were, in fact, not in Holland, but Spain, and that one of the Spanish coaches would probably be more helpful.
It’s hard to describe a SportWays experience. It’s kind of a mix between a rave, a field hockey camp, and a cruise ship. A rave because we had dance parties constantly (before each meal, including breakfast, and at most evening social events), a field hockey camp (obviously), and a cruise ship because the group is isolated from other humans most of the time, except for two half-day excursions into the city. However you describe it, my time at SportWays was incredibly precious to me, and I learned so much. To save you a plane ticket, here are some of the lessons I brought home with me:
1. Your body doesn’t need as much sleep as you think. Four hours of shut-eye was a solid night’s sleep at camp for the staff. I don’t know what environmental factors exist in Holland that have helped the Dutch evolve to the point where they can thrive on nightly catnaps and 900 calories a day (mostly from bread and hagelslag), but their stamina and energy are stunning. They brought enthusiasm and brio to everything they did, whether it was an 8 AM pre-breakfast dance party, a complicated hockey demo, or the nightly social program. The lesson I learned here is that when you think you have exhausted all the energy in your body, your mind can tap into stores that you didn’t know you existed. And when you think those are depleted, you can tap into the energy of those around you and rally. It takes a little mental training (and maybe implantation of Dutch stem cells – I wonder if my W&L health insurance would cover that) but when your body and mind work together, you can do some pretty cool stuff.
2. Always play up. The remark I heard time and time again from the American campers was how much they enjoyed playing against the high level European players. They liked the clinics and drills, too, but competing along side and against their Dutch, English, and Belgian counterparts is where many felt they improved the most. Even though I wasn’t a camper, I think the concept of playing up applied to my experience too. At first I was intimidated running drills beside the European coaches, who have much more playing and instructing experience than I do. But by working with them, watching them, and asking them questions, I became a better coach. The concept of “always play up” can really be extrapolated to any activity in which you want to improve. Seek out someone who will challenge you, make you stand on the tips of your toes and stretch as far as you can – and you will grow as an athlete, student, employee, or person.
3. Dance! I’m a pretty shy person and I like to observe a group for a while before joining in. Not only am I shy, I am an indisputably dorky dancer. Napoleon Dynamite would clean my clock in a dance-off. So going to a camp where you were never more than an hour or two away from your next disco with a bunch of strangers brought on waves of heart palpitations. After a little while though, I realized something. If everyone else is dancing and having a great time, you look way more stupid just standing there than if you were to break into your best running man or bust out your cabbage patch. I hope to remember this next time I am in any new, intimidating situation. Even if literal dancing isn’t appropriate under the circumstances, I won’t be afraid to jump right in with a positive, can-do attitude.
Well, there you have them. Deep thoughts by Jane Beall. Now go forth and Roger Rabbit.