"The Rookie and The Vet" - Entry 7

June 28, 2014, 1 p.m. (ET)
The veteran is preparing his mind and body for one of the toughest challenges of his handball career.

His teammate is gearing up to compete in his first ever international tournament donning the Red, White, and Blue.

One has an idea of what to expect. The other is ready for anything.

They both have their sights on the elusive Pan American Championships gold medal. And you get to read their story as they blog their way through the experience.

Captain Jordan Fithian and first-year member of Team USA, Ebiye Udo-Udoma, present: “The Rookie and The Vet” – Blogs from the Pan American Championships.

Entry #4: The Rookie
June 28, 2014

"Let’s just say it wasn't pretty"

It wasn't done in the most graceful manner, but we got our first win of the trip with our 34-28 performance in our last pool play game against Guatemala. Again, we had a lackluster first-half performance, littered with penalties, turnovers, and missed defensive assignments, and it took a Gary Hines, coast-to-coast, buzzer-beater to give us a one-goal lead heading into halftime. In the second half, we employed the man-to-man pressure tactic we utilized against Uruguay, and broke the game open with ease. Led by Adam El-Zoghby's ten goals, the win secured third place in our pool and put us in the consolation bracket. We have an 8 p.m. contest against Mexico, and a win will have us playing in the 5th place game against the winner of Greenland-Guatemala on Sunday.

The excitement that would normally accompany a win seemed to be clouded by a disappointment in our performance across the board. Coach Cuesta described the atmosphere surrounding our team as "depressing." This month hasn't gone as well as we expected, particularly in my own performance. I'd say a combination of getting accustomed to a new group of guys and their dispositions, my inexperience pertaining to some of the tactics of the game, and not controlling my mental state lead to the demise of my playing quality. The assists I was expected to dish out were more often turnovers, my contribution to the disruption of the opposition's attack was minimal, and my finishing has been far short of clinical. There have been times where it has felt like I have never played before and the ball feels foreign in my hands. It's frustrating whenever you feel you've let someone down, and I know that I didn't provide as adequate a service to my teammates, Coach Cuesta, or USATH as I was expected to in pool play. I remind myself that it is my rookie experience and elite athletes in many endeavors had underwhelming first performances, but they persisted and continued to get better. As painful as it feels now, I trust that these are the kinds of humbling, learning experiences that are beneficial to have when you're young.

Along that note, this South American trip has reiterated the importance of "finding a silver lining." Negativity is contagious, much more so than I originally thought. It can spread like a virus quite quickly, so you've gotta take what positives you can, maintain a good mental attitude, and look forward to the task at hand. Internationally speaking, the Guatemala game consisted of my first win and my first multiple goal performance, both foundational milestones. Even though we are out of Qatar contention, this is still a once-in-a-lifetime experience that isn't over yet. We get to play two more games this weekend and stay in a beautiful, coastal environment.


I'll use the decreased playing time to really focus on picking up on nuances that I can integrate into my game for the future. Otherwise, I'll just go out and make the most of whatever time I do play and help us contribute to winning the consolation bracket. I'm about to board our bus to watch the Brazil-Chile semifinal before our game so I'll cut out here.


Note: Due to technical difficulties of the original live-streaming sites, there are multiple alternate links to watch the tournament: