I’m in Acco!

It’s a wonderful feeling to be back at Manof. In a way it feels like I never left. Everything is set and ready for the incoming wave of coaches, CITs, and campers. I can’t wait. Here’s how I got here…

My journey began in the early morning on Thursday, 6/20, at my brother’s apartment in Jamaica Plain outside of Boston, MA. My first waking thought was to mentally check over everything I had packed, which was followed by a quick physical inspection of my carryon bag. All was set and by a little after 8am, Jesse and I were on the road.

We worked our way through a bit of traffic, said our goodbyes at the curb at Logan, and then I was off into the airport. After a bit of shenanigans getting properly checked in for me 3-leg, 2-airline flight to Tel Aviv, I cleared security and got myself comfortably ensconced at my gate. A short flight later I was in JFK, which I was happy to find felt much nicer than I had remembered. It then took working my way out of security, a short train ride, and a trip back through security to get to my next gate. On the plane I found myself sitting next to an 11 year old gear traveling by herself to Hungary. Way cool. I used some of my basic Hungarian, which she actually understood. The couple on the other side of me was on their way to Paris to take a river cruise to Prague. That’s definitely on my list of things to do one day. JFK to CDG (Paris) was smooth. I read, slept, watched a couple mediocre movies, and caught a second short nap right before landing.

I would have loved to been able to at least see some of Paris, but my short lay over combined with the heavy fog meant that I didn’t get to see anything. After chatting with some friendly travelers at the gate, I boarded and got back to my book (Inferno — Yah, Dan Brown is pretty fun). Not long after, I slept and woke up shortly before landing in Tel Aviv.

Walking off the plane, even at 5:30am, the weather was warm. I made it to passport control where I spent a little while chatting with a family who was on their way to Jerusalem and Jordan. After getting my stamp, I made my way over to the luggage carousel… where my backpack did NOT show up. Sigh.

I made a claim over at the desk and they said I should get my bag up in Acco in the next 1-2 days. I always tell my kids to never check their cleats. I’m so glad I didn’t! At this point I tried to use the international cell phone I had purchased before the trip… and the sim card was inactive. Hooray. Fortunately, my carryon bag was well packed and I didn’t have too far to go to get to Acco.

Right outside the airport, I boarded the train, made sure I was going north, and settled in for the 2 hour ride from TLV to Acco. At a little before 4pm I was at the Acco train station where I caught a 3 minute cab ride to Manof.

After clearing the Manof gates, I made my way to the main building where I found three CITs — Ali, Raz, and Asma! All three were in MA in April for the US tour. It was wonderful to see them all again. I then connected with Tomer, Mickey, Zolo, and Ben. Moving into my room (with Abe!) was easy, considering I had one small backpack to unpack.

For the next several hours I caught up with people, worked on various tasks, and helped setup. Around 7pm we all drove to the old city center and had a very nice dinner overlooking the water. An hour or so into dinner Linda, Bob, and a bunch of other people showed up. Our numbers are growing!

Fully stuffed with hummus and chicken, I got back to Manof and returned to working on my coaching training slides. Karym showed up a bit later, and he, Tomer, and myself ended up spending several hours late into the night working in the main office.

So far the morning has been pretty relaxing. Lots of tasks have been done, but the overall feeling is that everything is ahead of where it was last year at this time. The big thing we’re waiting for is the incoming wave of coaches and kids! As I was saying to Mickey earlier today, it’s nice being at Manof when it’s quiet… but it’s going to be so much better when we’re at full capacity and everything is in motion!

Ultimate Peace comes to Boston

Last Friday afternoon at around 2pm I took off from St. Johnsbury in a short bus loaded up with 10 sleeping bags, a bunch of cones, a bag of discs, and some extra water bottles. 15 UP CITs and 3 coaches were due to arrive at Boston Logan Airport starting at 6pm. It was time to get to Boston.

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The drive down to Boston was pretty surreal. It was a crisp, cool day, with little traffic, as there really always is on 93 south… and starting about 150 miles from Boston the electronic signs kept repeating: “Avoid Boston” and “Check media”. Alas, it was time to get to Boston.

As the Boston city skyline crested on the horizon, the density of cars picked up from none to barely more than zero. About half way through the tunnel coming up into Boston, traffic came to a standstill. Less than 15 minutes later I cleared the area right outside of Logan where all taxis were getting checked by security.

Next, I found out that a short bus is about 4 inches too tall to make it into the economy lot parking garages, so I circled back to the international terminal where I found some outside parking that miraculously had some free spots.

The Logan international terminal was packed with its normal thrum of activity. As I listened to WBUR I grabbed some food and quite necessary coffee, and hunkered down in front of the arrivals exit. For the next 90 minutes I surfed the info updates coming out of the city and watched the wonderful scenes of people meeting directly in front of me. It was a glorious Love Actually moment that extended for the entire time I was there.

The first UP flight touched down at shortly after 6pm and less than an hour later the group emerged. With Dan, Karym, and 4 of the CITs now in the terminal with me, everything became more real, and quite fun. It was so, so wonderful to see them all again! We all grouped up in a small seating area to wait for the next (and last) wave of players and Tomer. The next group arrived at 8:10 and made it to use by 9. At that point we had gone back and forth between housing the kids in their original places in Newton, MA and our backup of Western, MA. The final call was made and we were headed to Western, MA with me driving the short bus and Dan Apple driving a 12-person rental van.

The drive west on 90 was full of rain, passing police cars, and one more straight forward, repeating electronic message: “Thank you everyone.”, “We are one Boston”.

We made it to the exit 24 gas station by 11:15 where we met up with Rob and Linda. All the girls packed into Dan’s bus and the boys plus Karym came with me in my bus. Dan’s bus went to Rob and Linda’s house in Shelburne and my bus headed for my parents’ farm in Leverett.

We made it to my parents’ place by a little after midnight, setup the boys’ sleeping area upstairs, and by a bit after 1am there were all asleep. Well, okay, they were pretty social for a while before they crashed rather quickly. After all, most of them did not sleep too much on the flight in from Tel Aviv.

We were all up by 7am and treated to a breakfast courtesy my father, the owner of the Black Sheep Deli in Amherst. As the kids mowed down rounds of bagels and baked goods, we chatted, and caught up on the last several months. By around 8am we found out that the field in Newton was open and dry enough for the planned clinic to go ahead as planned. By shortly after 9am we were off, and by 11am we pulled into Newton North HS.

On the field we were greeted by the homestay families and the Ironside/Brutesquad players setting up for the clinic. After unpacking luggage, gearing up, and some social time, the clinic began with everyone getting into a large circle. The clinic leaders spoke, as did Linda and two of the UP CITS, Raz and Arene. The club players then led the group of UP and local HS players through active stretches by some throwing drills. Next, the group was broken into 4 teams for scrimmaging.

The games were fun and competitive  Some of the coaches got into the action and showed the kids how it was done. At the same time, some of the UP kids pulled off some amazing plays against the coaches — handblocks anyone?

By about 3pm the group circled back up for some final speeches and group pictures, followed by the UP kids heading to their hosts’ houses.

Tomer, Karym, and I then brought the back the rental van. Afterwards were went to Rachel’s apartment for some downtime. After grabbing some food and checking out Rachel’s large stockpile of UP gear, we loaded up the short bus and went to the Spontaneous Celebrations center, the host of the UP Cultural Event.

From 6 to 7 we setup the rooms. By about 6:30, the UP kids started arriving from their homestays, as well as a bunch of people from the local community. It was wonderful to have more time to socialize the the UP kids, new UP coaches, as well as local UP supporters. As the silent auction continued and people purchase UP gear, the kids socialized on the second floor. Several times during the evening, Mickey and Zolo brought everyone in for CIT presentations that included speeches and talent performances. It turns out the local Boston population can dance!

The event wrapped up shortly before 10, cleanup went quickly, and by 10:30 everyone was headed home.

The next morning I drove back to Boston, returned all the gear I had borrowed from St. Johnsbury Academy, including the short bus. While I was heading north, the kids and coaches were heading south for the NYC visit, which by all accounts went very well.

It was so, so wonderful to spend time with a major part of the UP family. I am so honored to have been a part of the US tour. UP is truly changing the world.

Go UP!

Ultimate Peace US Tour!

Many of the players I worked with last summer at Camp Ultimate Peace will be coming to the US later this week! Over the course of a couple weeks they will be traveling all over the US taking part in clinics, playing in exhibition games, and speaking at fundraisers. They will be in Boston on April 20th and 22nd. Here’s a message from their media director:

Please join us in welcoming a delegation of 17 Ultimate Peace teens from Israel and the West Bank to the Boston area as they embark on their first U.S. Tour. Ultimate Peace is a non-profit organization, started in 2009, that aims to bring together youth from conflicted regions and unite them over the sport of Ultimate Frisbee. There will be two events open to the public in Boston — a Middle Eastern cultural night in Jamaica Plain on April 20th and a panel discussion hosted by Northeastern University’s Sports in Society program on April 22nd. Please look to the invitations for more details. For any questions or for more information, contact Rachael at rachael@ultimatepeace.org.

You can view the invitation right here. Their complete schedule of events is online right here.

I highly recommending attending one or both of the events! They are going to be incredible. These kids are awesome.

From the tour’s Facebook info page:

For the last two years, a dedicated group of 16 UP teen participants have engaged in the year-round “Coaches in Training” Program. This youth leadership project prepares high school students for coaching in Ultimate Peace and assuming other leadership roles in their communities. On their first United States tour, these courageous youth will present to and dialogue with American students and adults in schools, community centers and homes across the country. Their triumph and struggles in the program and the complexities of their daily lives will be highlighted.

The USA tour will offer a unique chance for Americans to meet and interact with a highly compelling group of teens. Their message is grounded in hope, yet colored by the sobering reality of the regional conflict, so the events in each city — Boston, New York, Seattle and San Francisco — will be interactive, moving and thought provoking.

Please help us in welcoming this dynamic group of teens with enthusiasm. Many of our events will be open to the public and we enthusiastically invite you to come and join us.

April 19-24 Boston
April 21 New York
April 25-29 Seattle
April 30 San Francisco

BUDA YCC 2012: Day 3

BUDA Mixed brings home Boston’s first YCC gold!

On the second day of YCC competition the BUDA Open team went 1-1, losing 7-15 against the eventual tournament winner, Minnesota and taking down Pittsburgh 15-8, to finish 5th.

The BUDA Mixed team started off the day with a convincing 13-4 win over Chicago. The game followed very closely the patterns of the day before. We locked down their horizontal offense with a hard straight up mark and forced lots of under throws that we batted down for Ds. One change was that we did run a zone for a few points that proved for be effective.

In the semis, we went up against a very energetic brand new YCC from Maine that I was very excited to play. I know all the coaches, many of the players, and I’m always thrilled to see new teams, especially ones that are competitive, well-run, spirited, and that show no fear. Maine had beat two-time defending champs the day before on double game point and had come off a strong 13-8 win over Wisconsin coming into the semis. They had momentum.

We pulled to start the game and they played a solid O point, working it patiently through our tough person-D to put us down for the first time in the tournament. We responded with our own clean O-point. The game ramped up in intensity as we traded points to 4-4, after which we broke Maine for the first time and went up 5-4. We then put on a zone, forced a turn, and went up 6-4. Maine responded and then we gave up a turn close to the line after getting the disc back with our zone. Maine tried to break Emmet for the goal and he strongly hand blocked the throw. We then quickly moved the disc down the field to take half 7-5. Maine didn’t score again and we muscled our way to a 13-5 win, completely shutting Maine down with our crushing zone.

Next up we moved over to field 6 to relax during our bye before the finals. We spread out around the tournament, watched the Open team take down Pittsburgh, and I had a short nap on a couch at tournament central. Back over at field 6 we started warming up on one of the adjacent unused fields as the Open semi finals game on our field finished up a barn-burner with Minnesota winning 12-11 over Seattle. Shortly before 2pm we did our focus drill and then moved onto the field at 2pm to run end-zone.

We took the field fully fired up and pulled to start the game for the 6th time in 6 games. We forced a turn at mid-field then calmly worked the disc in. Seattle responded with a strong score, and then we took off, scoring 4 goals before Seattle responded. The points were all intense, contested, and we earned every turn. The game speed was higher than all our previous games and we responded well. We held our person D the entire game and it worked well. We took half 7-2.

The second half was a bit more even as we traded points for a while, but Seattle could not solve our cutting speed and the amazing power of our women. Seattle did try a zone on us, the first we had seen all tournament, and we calmly worked the disc down the field until Seattle switched to person when our women completely took over, threw the last 5 throws of the point and scored. Rory pulled down a huge layout score, Vinny dominated… everywhere, and Lipari was the engine. Anna, Tulsa, Malti, and Marianna had huge receptions, and Sam Letcher had a crushing handblock, immediately followed by a layout catch to save the possession, which he then finished with a skying goal.

We won on a short, easy throw to take home BUDA’s first YCC gold!

After our initial celebration and shaking hands with Seattle, we circled up as a team and talked about the weekend. It was a wonderful extended moment.

Back over at tournament central, we settled into the large group of people waiting for the awards ceremony to begin. Spirits were, of course, very high. BUDA’s medal run began with Eliot Bemis receiving the Open team’s individual spirit award, followed by Justin Wu, who received the Mixed team’s. Soon after, the Mixed team took the stage to receive their championship medals!

We then bussed up and had some time to relax and get cleaned up at the hotel before heading out to a big group dinner at a nearby restaurant. Everyone had a great time being social and eating a tremendous amount during dinner. By the time we got back to the hotel everyone was super tired, but many found their second wind and had a great time together in the hotel.

It’s now Monday morning and we’re all enjoying a slow wake up. At 10:30 we’re heading to the Mall of America to have some fun before catching our flight back home.