Under-23 Men's National Team goalkeeper Tally Hall is in his first training camp with the U-23s and Peter Nowak. On the last night of the last training camp before Olympic Qualifying, Tally composed his thoughts about the camp, the team, the coaches, and what it means to play for your country.
Camp began with two days of U.S. Olympic Committee meetings in San Francisco. We were around so many athletes, and there were people who have won multiple gold medals already. Listening to their experiences and talking about dealing with everything – it was a great environment. We talked about being at the Olympics and what we will face: the pressures, the media, handling family, the emotional side of everything. It was cool to think about. We took a lot of information from the people who had been there before and got an idea of what it’s going to be like, how we’re going to be expected to act and how we can represent our country.
That was the best part of San Francisco for me - being around different athletes. It’s started to set in that we have a chance to be a part of the world’s biggest sporting event, and starting to hit home that we all have this fantastic opportunity to be an Olympian.
This is actually the first time I’ve ever been to Bradenton. It’s a great training facility for us and the weather has been amazing. Coming here from Denmark where it’s cold, wet and windy and being able to play on the grass and in the sunshine is a great thing for me.
The goalkeepers are all in a suite that is on a different part of campus from the rest of the team, but this is the first time that I know of when the goalkeepers get the best end of the deal. Usually we get the end of the rope, but somehow we have our own rooms… four people (three goalkeepers and our strength and conditioning coach), four separate bedrooms and bathrooms, a full kitchen, full living room, a dishwasher, washing machine, a balcony. I want to be able to own a place like this someday.
In between trainings we sleep, watch TV, watch movies, chat and get to share our experiences. That’s a big thing for me. I’m interested in what other people are doing and going through.
It’s a great group of guys with a lot of talent and tons of potential here. The level has been very high all week. It’s fun to come from different teams, different environments and come together to start bonding as a team and get to know each other on a personal level as well.
WORKING FOR EACH OTHER
The coaching staff is exceptional. They really know what they’re doing and they know how to win. Their experiences can help us succeed, and in general they have the right idea of bringing the best out of us.
Training has generally been pretty intense. We have a whole bunch of top level players together that are competing for roster spots and starting spots and a chance to go to the Olympics. You can tell that everyone is working hard to impress the coaches, bring the best out of themselves and gain confidence.
Any time you have guys working hard, it’s going to make them better, the guys they’re competing with better, and the team better from top to bottom. We’re going to pride ourselves on how hard we work. For me that’s important, and I think it’s important for the coaches as well. At the same time, we’re working on playing intelligent soccer. We’ve had meetings and the coaches have helped with that too - passing the ball when we need to and pushing it when we need to push it. Getting together in these camps, we get to know each other better and get to know what our teammates are thinking. With a tournament as important as Olympic qualifying, it’s not only important to have skills, but also to want to work together.
A lot of these players have a history together, playing with the Under-20s or playing against each other in MLS, and the guys all know about each other. Most importantly, we’re all willing to work for each other. We don’t have players who put themselves first, and that is an incredibly positive thing for us. We have big time players here who are willing to work for each other, and that’s how you find success.
I want to come here and play my best. I want to be at top form and bring some of my experiences from overseas and college and try to help the team any way I can. I also want to learn to become a better player. It’s a combination of trying to help other players out, and at the same time trying to take in everything I can from them and the coaching staff. Everyone comes in here and pushes each other, so you can’t come into these camps complacent. You always want to strive to get better.
BIGGER THAN YOURSELF
The biggest things we’ve accomplished this week are coming together and building great players into a team. We have the skill, we have the potential to do good things at an individual level and we have the talent, but if we can’t learn to come together and play together, it’s going to be difficult to succeed in anything. It’s been about learning each others strengths and weaknesses and how to play to each others strengths.
We also want to establish our own style of play. We’ve watched video of teams that move the ball well and have good shape, and we’ve talked about player responsibilities within a system and in each position. The two big things have been finding the strengths of the team and using those to our advantage, and coming together and playing as a unit.
It’s been a fun week – I didn’t grow up playing with the national teams or even the regional ODP teams, so being able to wear my country’s colors at any time is special. I didn’t grow up as a top goalkeeper. I’ve had to work hard and get a little lucky, and this is where my path has taken me. Anytime I get to play or train for my country is amazing. Whenever you come to a camp you have to enjoy and appreciate the opportunity to play for your country and be a part of something bigger than yourself.