I am going alone. Dropping the girls off with Grandma. Joe is volunteering over at aquatics today. A few friends asked and offered to come down with me. But to tell you the truth, I really just want to go by myself. I didn't want to go and have conversations with friends I already knew, I wanted to go alone and strike up conversations with strangers and make some new fiends from all over the country. Does that make sense? I do not have a specific plan or schedule today...I just want to "be" there and take it all in, get some Olympian autographs and maybe collect a pin or two. Just wander around and not have to answer to anybody. Well, until I meet up with Joe later in the day and head over to the Volunteer Appreciation Program.
I hope to run into a few of the athletes I met the other day. I would like to cheer them on. The few that I had the pleasure of getting to know were just sooo excited to be here in Nebraska and were sooo motivated and inspired to bring home the gold.
As a volunteer, I certainly did not play a vital role in the games. I was just on the "Green Team"...keeping the games "litter-free" and "green". But, hey, I was honored to do it. I loved being there on Sunday as the flag football teams were scrimmaging. I loved wearing my yellow volunteer shirt, which sort of enabled me the opportunity to simply wander around each playing field, through bleacher areas, in and out of the athlete and family lounges, without looking odd. I was doin' my job. :-) I REALLY loved meeting and talking with the athletes, coaches and families. The families were very gracious and appreciative of all the volunteer support. Several of them gave me a pat on my back and simply said "thanks for doing all of this". That meant a lot!
Early in the morning, as I was standing at the volunteer check-in table, I made eye contact with an athlete who was checking his team in about 50 feet away. He waved at me enthusiastically, so of course I waved back and gave him a smile and a thumbs up. About 30 minutes later, I was standing in a group with a few volunteers over in the volunteer lounge area, when this tall man in a green shirt walked over to me. "Hi, My name is Mike, I see that you know my friend Robbie, so I thought I'd come over and introduce myself as well." He was the nicest person - can't we all be this "approachable". He took off his hat and said "check it out, you're not going to forget me."...he had shaved the letters N & J into the side of his hair (team New Jersey). "THAT'S AWESOME" I told him! We were chatting about all sorts of things, when a few other teammates of his came over and joined in the conversation. They were all so pumped to tell me about their flights in, the cool dorms they are staying in right here on campus. They were proud to tell me all about the other sports they play back home. They said they want to win big at these games to hopefully qualify for the World Games next year, taking place in Greece. They were all soo smart and were explaining to me various rules of the games, how certain states played differently, and how teams qualify to be here, how they qualify to move on to Worlds, etc...I was FASCINATED!
I kept running into them throughout the course of the morning. I loved cheering them on when they took to the field :-)
One girl from Team tennessee was sitting on the field stretching (she was one of only 2 girls participating in Flag Football at these games). She had about 30 or so pins attached to her lanyard. So as we were talking, I asked her about them. She was soo proud to tell me how many people she had been meeting here. She even had a few funny stories. She said this is one of the most fun parts for her. Exchanging pins. She was looking forward to this evening's Opening ceremonies. "This", she said "is where I will be getting lots more pins from athletes from other states." I gave her a high five and wished her the best of luck, she smiled and said "Thanks, we've got a pretty good team". :-)
Former Husker Football player, Vershan Jackson, was one of the lead volunteers at the flag football venue. It was so neat watching him interact so comfortably with all the players. He was extremely sincere and genuinely interested in each and every one of them. He had a pretty cool, casual camaraderie with each of them. He joked around with everyone and made them all laugh and feel special. As I was walking around I would over hear some of the athletes bragging to each other about their encounter with this popular, big-time football player. Very cool.
It was fun cheering on and etting to know the players and coaches who played for the two Nebraska teams. Again, they were all excited to tell me about the various sports they played. Wow they are BUUSY! I learned one of the coaches for the team with players from Fremont & West Point attended the same college as me and knew my brother-in-law Gordy. As he put it "they pounded the hardwood together at Midland". played basketball :-)
those are just a few memories from the other day...no pictures though. I was "working". :-)
That night we attended the Opening Ceremonies celebration. WOW! That was awesome. I am so glad we were able to get a tickets. It was very moving and emotional. I was not prepared for that and was not told that I should have brought a box of kleenex with me.
It was neat reading all of these texted messages prior to that start of the event.
The arena got SUPER loud as team Nebraska was announced. What a rush those athletes must have felt. A standing ovation and all! Definitely something to be proud of!
National Anthem sung by Sandi Patti. Very moving.
ha - had to get at least one shot of Joe :-)