Surviving and thriving on Team USA

U.S. field hockey midfielder Rachel Dawson, a 2008 Olympian, is blogging about her team's Pan Am Games experience for espnW. In her latest installment, Dawson spills her hard-earned secrets for playing on the U.S. team, and talks about the first Pan Am match against Mexico.

Some of my best-kept secrets for surviving the craziness of team sports:

No. 1: Get over yourself.

No. 2: Bring earplugs. Snorers run rampant.

No. 3: Bring nose plugs. Other things run. (And maybe some extra toilet paper for the locker room.)

Seriously.

The real secret to survival in team sports is accepting the fact that things rarely go as planned. A great team is one that can successfully adapt to those unforeseen changes in plan.

On Tuesday, things changed for us. As we made final preparations for our first game versus Mexico, sport dealt us one of its unforeseen blows -- an injury to our lone goalkeeper, Amy Tran-Swenson. Regarded by many as the world's premier keeper, Amy is an experienced, dominant and driven vocal leader with more than 150 international caps to her name.

So with a mere day to spare, Jackie Kintzer, the nation's next super-stud keeper, received a phone call to pack her bags and hop on the next plane to Guadalajara.

As Jackie arrived at the village bus terminal, Amy boarded a bus for the USOC headquarters in Guadalajara and, when we took the field against Mexico to begin our quest for Olympic qualification, Amy boarded a plane back home.

It is a harsh juxtaposition. But it is the reality of sport. Despite that fathomed notion of athletic invincibility, our bodies are fragile, and they falter.

The beauty of team sports is that the team exists beyond the individual. Our only choice was, in the words of Tim Gunn, "Carry on." Our task had not changed, nor our roles in accomplishing that task. Perhaps, if anything, the injury to Amy rooted us back in the moment, in applying ourselves to the right now because that is all we have.

So we carried on, earning a 5-0 victory over an eager Mexican side. Katie "Bobby" Reinprecht led the way with a two-goal performance.

In all, it was not our most refined outing of the season; however, it was solid enough to tame the fervent Mexican crowd, welcome ourselves to the tournament, and set the platform from which we will build.

Now it is time to hunker down. I am buggered, but since I have already spilled the beans on my biggest secrets, I'll leave you with one more:

No. 4: Always remember how damn lucky you are to have each other.

Even when you are crammed four to a room, and your teammate is snoring in the bed next to you.

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