Saturday, June 25, 2011

Schedule Set

The team is just about to head off to the Opening Ceremonies, so look for a pair of posts tomorrow: one about the big event (on ESPN3!), and one about our first day of matches.

But before we go, we wanted to share our finalized Preliminary Round schedule:

Sunday 6/26 11:30am (4:30am EST) vs. Austria
Sunday 6/26 1:30pm (6:30am EST) vs. Canada
Monday 6/27 11:00am (4:00am EST) vs. Italy

Preliminary matches are only 15 minutes long...just one half. They will determine our seeding for the actual tournament, which begins on Tuesday. We may have an additional divisioning match Monday afternoon, if necessary.

Off to the Ceremonies! Look for us!

Friday, June 24, 2011

A 24-Hour Boat Trip??!!

So, just in case you're keeping score, it took 24 hours to travel 5,300 miles from Baltimore to Rhodes. Ok. Then it took us 24 hours to travel 266 miles from Rhodes to Athens. The good news: We're here, we're fed, we're showered, and we can sleep in (well, the players can...coaches have to get up at 7:15 for a meeting). The bad news: the last 24 hours felt like 48.

First, we had a quality training session, focused on shooting, physical play, and being ready for balls to come back from out of bounds quickly -- all things we identified as problem areas from the Ireland match:

Then we went back to the medeival town of Rhodes to see the Special Olympics torch pass through town. The players were celebrated:
Heading into the Torch ceremony
A classical Greek tragic dance to introduce the Torch
Comedy Tonight! (the motto of the last 24-48 hours!)
Then saw the torch:
We SWEAR it was lit!
Then walked back through town and stopped at the Archaeology Museum, where we were graciously admitted for free, but then were promptly escorted out by Olympic officials intent to keep us on schedule:
Goalkeeper Alan Hill with Daphne, our friendly (and diligent) official guide.
Then we boarded the ferry:

But, with 1000 other athletes on board, the ship only had beds for about 1/4 or 1/3 of the occupants, so some of the guys made their own beds out of couches:
and floors:
while others chose not to sleep:
The reward for not sleeping was a marvelous sunrise over the Dodecanese Islands:

When the ferry arrived in Athens, the players boarded a bus and headed for their hotel. Unfortunately, the soccer fields are too far away to allow the teams to stay at the Olympic Village. Instead, the players are staying at the Alexander Hotel in Anavyssos, about 40km from Athens. This amounts to a one-hour bus ride. So, we're far from the center of town, but the beach is once again across the street, and this time the swimming pool overlooks the ocean:
sunset from the pool deck
Team USA poolside!
So, it's been the longest day of the trip, but now the guys are settled, along with soccer teams from Canada, Denmark, Palestine, Egypt, Costa Rica, Belize, Venezuela, the Ukraine, and others. Tomorrow will feature a light training session, and then transportation up to Athens for the Opening Ceremonies, which begin at 7pm and will be televised on, click here to subscribe (for free) and watch us!!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Taking A Long Walk

Today's adventures were all about taking a long walk.

The morning started with the final preparation match before Divisioning at the World Games begins on Sunday. We lost 3-1 to an Ireland team who was not as fast as us, but who was much more experienced. Nevertheless, we learned some important lessons and owned the entire second half. With some better shooting, we could have tied or even won. For the full story on the game, click on the "match reports" page on the sidebar to the right, or just click here. For more pictures, click here.
Larry Mills and Terrell Nowlin moving into attack
Brandon Chan in pursuit of an Irish attacker

After the learning that success at this level was going to take some more strength and learning (a long walk, if you will), the team spent some time this afternoon at the hotel pool. Trading the ocean waves for the calmer pool didn't have any affect on the good times, though, as you can see:

Then the evening was spent at Lindos, an ancient city even older than Rhodes. It has its own acropolis, less famous than Athens, but no less scenic:

There wasn't enough time to climb up to the acropolis, so the team wandered the streets and shops, trading pins with other countries' athletes:
Part of the Israeli delegation
This one is obvious.

Next, the entire population gathered to watch the Special Olympics torch run through town on its way to Athens. The team headed home after seeing the torch, and went to bed early before tomorrow morning's training session and the long ferry ride. But before they could get home, the guys had to climb the large hill leading out of Lindos:

The Long Walk
Our guys making the hike up
One day, two big hills, and a better team for it! Now, off to Athens! As it turns out, we'll be hot on the heels of the torch. We leave by ferry tomorrow afternoon, and are due in Piraeus, the port town of Athens, at 1pm on Friday. Unless the ferry has internet (which seems unlikely, since they don't even offer blankets or pillows), the next post will come Friday afternoon, once we have settled into our new accommodations at the Alexander Beach Hotel.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

What Else Is There To Do Around Here?

On the team's first full day in Rhodes, they did it all: a training session, ocean swimming, visiting the ancient city of Rhodes, and finishing with a beach disco party. All we can wonder is, whether we've done everything already! Who knows what's in store for tomorrow, but here's a recap of today's adventures.

This morning's training session focused on what soccer players call "set pieces." These are free kicks that result from fouls, as well as corner kicks that result when the ball crosses the baseline of the field. More than 50% of all goal come from set pieces, so it is always good to practice them constantly.

Then practice finished with some practice on penalty kicks. The team has not yet practiced these, and they will determine games if the team gets beyond their group phase in the Tournament. Fortunately, we had an astroturf field much like our game fields in Athens. The guys looked great!

Avery Long and Sam Huffman won the penalty kick competitions, and Alan Hill made some fantastic saves:

The guys also enjoyed their first taste of international stardom, as a group of Greek schoolchildren came to watch, cheered the great goals, and then took a photo with us afterward:

In the afternoon, the guys spent a couple of hours at the beach. Almost everyone tested the ocean waters, and the conclusion was that the warm Aegean Sea was the perfect way to cool down after training. We're still waiting for Alan (on the left) to wear his European-style swimsuit!

The evening involved a walking tour of the ancient city of Rhodes. Although the Kolossos no longer stands (it was a bronze statue over 100 feet high, and one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World), most of the old town is circled by a wall built by the Crusaders:

...and filled with mosques from over three hundred years of Turkish occupation:

Along the way, the guys bumped into the Irish team we'll be scrimmaging tomorrow in our last preparation match:
We got along tonight, but things will be less friendly tomorrow!
Then all the countries based in Rhodes went to a beach party. Except for dancing machine Shaun Ridley, most of the guys refused to dance, reserving their moves for the field.
The Beachside Disco...where's our guys???
We came home after 11:00, ready for a good night's rest before tomorrow morning's training session and match against Ireland. Be sure to read the match report tomorrow. Also, team manager Mary Lu Bucci is taking more pictures than we can post on these daily updates. To see all of them, visit the Extra Photos page.

Monday, June 20, 2011

All Rhodes Lead Here!

Today the team arrived in Rhodes Town, on the northern tip of the island of Rhodes. Rhodes is actually much closer to Turkey than to mainland Greece, but its residents have considered themselves Greek for over one thousand years. We'll discover more about the island tomorrow night, when the team visits the Town and has a traditional Greek dinner and dance.

Today, we were too tired to discover much of anything. That was actually a little strange, since almost everyone slept on the plane, including Avery Long:

Once we arrived, about 4pm local time (9am Eastern Time), the Greek police collected our passports:
Notice that he's dropping them into a plastic grocery shopping bag. Very professional.

Then we drove about 20 minutes up the coast to our hotel, the Rodos Palace. On the way we passed several landmarks, including this cross atop the highest point on the island:

and lots of Greek homes, which use solar power to heat their water and are constructed to make the most of the sea breezes:

When we arrived at the hotel, we found that it lives up to its name, at least in terms of the view:
Well, this is the view from the coaches' room, anyway. Alan Hill and Wes Thompson have a view of the pool and were a little shocked at the nature of male swimwear in Greece (photo not included).

Next, the team ate dinner, and Coach Ken proudly pushed the guys to sample the spinakopita, bakhlava, and whitefish with yogurt sauce, which most of the players did (especially Larry Mills and Brandon Chan!). Others clung to the spaghetti. Team USA thought the hotel did not live up to its name when they wanted to charge us for still water at dinner...but it says something when the hotel won't serve tap water, so the coaches have decided to supply the players with liters of water each day and each night, in addition to the good water they'll get at training.

After dinner, the team took an evening stroll on the rocky beach, which produced some collector's items and some nice skipping stones. Coach John, Larry, and Wes proved to be excellent skippers.
Then the walk finished with a great team picture:

...just as the sun was setting over the ocean:

After returning to the hotel, it was time to get to sleep. The guys are hoping to wake up with our bodies on Greece time and ready for an 8:30 am training session. Tomorrow's session may be followed by a friendly and final preparation scrimmage against Ireland (who is joining us in the Palace) on Wednesday or Thursday. Details to follow.

One last bit of news that requires no additional details...ESPN has just announced that it's online channel,, will carry the Opening Ceremonies of the Special Olympics World Games live from Athens on Saturday, June 25, from 1-4pm Eastern time. Please visit to register for ESPN3 coverage, so you can look for us!!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A 24-hour flight???!!!

Today is the scheduled travel day to Greece, which should mean that it's a boring day. But the guys found ways to make a boring day great!

First, Avery Long showed us the latest fashion in soccer shorts:

Then, we had a light training session after practice, including an introduction to some new stretches:

Then, we spent an hour in line with our friends on the swim team while waiting to check in for the military mobile command flight that will take us to Greece:

Then, Goalkeeper Alan Hill found more food (he has a real talent for this):

Now, the team is awaiting its flight, scheduled for 7pm. The next posting will come from Rhodes, but our current schedule doesn't have us landing there until almost 3pm Greece time tomorrow! After a 24-hour trip, the team will relax on Monday, but we'll post some more photos from the trip tomorrow night!

Finally, the team would like to wish all their dads a Happy Father's Day. In addition, we don't want to forget the moms! We would like to ask you to visit the Proctor and Gamble Facebook "Thank You Mom" page. P&G will donate one dollar to Special Olympics for every visit to this page, from today until the end of the World Games. The company is a title sponsor for Team USA, and you should check out their awesome commercial about World Games athlete Molly Hinka. We met Molly yesterday!