With a lot of downtime to fill, and being big fans of the U.S. Soccer web site, U.S. U-19 National Team players Kerri Hanks and Stacy Lindstrom decided they wanted to write a diary for ussoccer.com. Not one to stifle young and talented writers, we obliged. While admitting that writing a diary is not as easy as it seems, Stacy and Kerri check in with their first installment from Phuket, Thailand, as they get set for their first match against South Korea in the FIFA U-19 World Youth Championship. While the two couldn’t be more different – Lindstrom is a six-foot blond midfielder from Orange County, Calif. (yes, the OC), who attends UCLA, and Hanks is a 5-foot-6 brunette forward from Allen, Texas, who will be attending Notre Dame -- the two combined to chat about Kerri’s dancing talents, the team’s fright and flight reflexes and opening the world championship tomorrow.
We arrived in Thailand on Thursday, November 4 and for the first few days we were told (well, kind of ordered or else we would have been snoozing) to try and stay up past 9 pm so we could make the transition to the new time zone a little smoother. To help us stay up, we would sometimes take in the nightly entertainment by the pool. Every night the hotel puts on some sort of a dance or musical entertainment show. On one of the nights, Kerri Hanks and Stephanie Lopez decided to pass the evening by watching the Thai dancers. About halfway through the show one of the dancers came into the crowd to pick a spectator in order to bring up him or her on stage and learn the dance. Kerri started aggressively pointing at Lopez saying, “Pick her, she is a really good dancer!!” Kerri was quite pleased when they actually did come over and grabbed Steph by the arm. She reluctantly went, but not as reluctant as Kerri, who got busted when a second dancer snuck over and grabbed her by the wrist as well. So try to picture both Kerri and Steph on stage, wearing hula skirts and holding pom-poms like a cheerleader. Let’s just say its not often that anyone on our team becomes hula girls, especially Kerri. The dancers were holding onto Kerri and Stephanie’s hips attempting to make them shake in ways that simply did not come natural to them, or at least not for Kerri. Even though she is from Texas where cheerleading is second only to football, it was obvious that Kerri never went out for the squad. She was obviously too busy playing soccer.
Kerri then looked out into the crowd and to her horror, she saw our two assistant coaches Melissa Moore and Erica Walsh sitting at a table watching them. When Kerri looked back (after actually doing a pretty good hip shake) suddenly Erica wasn’t there. She looked around and saw Erica hiding behind a tree with a video camera. She was busted. Walshie got the entire thing on video. Immediately after the dance, Kerri rushed over to Erica and said, “This does not get out. It is between us.” Coach Walsh agreed, but then of course the next night during a team meeting she showed it on the big screen. Our team came to the conclusion that both Kerri and Steph, although very hesitant at first, both progressed into very impressive Thai hula dancers. Kerri did admit that Steph was the better dancer.
On Tuesday, November 9, we had our first closed-door practice. We traveled about a half an hour to a stadium in Phuket Town. Everything seemed quite normal and peaceful as we put on our cleats and began to pass the ball around until our head coach Mark Krikorian said his usual, “Go for a couple jogs across the field.” So, being the obedient bunch that we are, the entire team begins to jog across the field. Suddenly, somewhere right next to the field, what turned out to be some really, really loud firecrackers began erupting. Our team was confused, surprised and scared, and a bunch of us immediately dropped to the ground. We were all looking at each other laying flat on our stomachs wondering, “Are we being shot at?” As the firecrackers begin to subside, we realized how incredibly ridiculous we all just reacted and the team dissolved into a fit of laughter. We then tried to pull it together, get to our feet, and attempt to finish jogging across the field, which we achieved after a few moments. It definitely woke us all up for practice. Turns out, there is a Chinese temple right across from the field and they were just doing what they do. Go figure?
Tomorrow, we play our first game. We got to practice at the Sarakul Stadium today and it was really nice. It looks like they have spent a lot of time and money to make the stadium first class and we really appreciate the effort. I am not sure if tomorrow is going to go really slowly or really quickly, but we’re all going to find out. Kickoff is at 5 p.m. and the weather should be perfect. I wish more family could come and watch us play, but I think most of them don’t arrive until later in the tournament. We heard that we might get a bunch of U.S. military at the game, so we know they will be nice and loud and create a home atmosphere for us. The team looks really sharp and we all can’t wait to get going. Our gut tells us we will have a good performance tomorrow.
Well, that’s all for now and Good Thai-dings from Phuket.
Kerri and Stacy