An Interview with Team USA’s Unified Floor Hockey Coach

The Special Olympics World Winter Games start a week from today, so to start getting everyone excited to cheer on Team USA, I interviewed David Durandisse, the coach of the Unified Floor Hockey team from New York City that will compete in the Games.

The Olympics of Blogs: What are you most excited for about Austria?

David: I’m excited to be visiting Europe and being a part of this huge event. I remember our first practice and now that we are this close to departure, I’m excited to see all the work come together and pay off.

The Olympics of Blogs: How were you chosen to coach the team?

David: I was offered the opportunity to join the team and I accepted.

The Olympics of Blogs: How long has your team been training for the World Games?

David: We have been practicing since September, so about 6 months.

The Olympics of Blogs: How has your team been practicing to prepare for the World Games?

David: We have been conditioning to get their stamina up; live scrimmages to get a feel for the game against opponents. We have done a bunch of drills and live game scenarios to map out what we want to do in games.

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The Olympics of Blogs: Will you and your team walk in the Opening Ceremony for Team USA?

David: We will be walking in Opening Ceremonies.

The Olympics of Blogs: Do you think they’ll win gold?

David: I believe we have the players to win gold. We have a combination of size and speed that should work to our advantage to create scoring opportunities. I believe if we can put that together we will surely win gold.

The Olympics of Blogs: After coaching a Unified team, what do you think about Unified sports?

David: Unified sports is a great concept. I have seen two sides come together as one. Individuals who may have not had a chance to come together, now have that opportunity through unified sports. They have created friendships that will last a lifetime.

The Olympics of Blogs: What has been your favorite moment as a coach for Unified Floor Hockey?

David: Hanging out with the team and bonding with the coaches. We all started this journey months ago, and along the way we have shared many laughs on and off the court.

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You can watch Team USA’s Unified Floor Hockey team walk in the Opening Ceremony on ABC on March 18 from 2-5 pm ET!

My Olympic Summer

Hi everyone!

I’m sorry for not posting for such a long time. After Rio, I was really exhausted, and then I had to get ready for my last semester of college! Now, I’m back in school, and I’m going to try to keep a regular posting schedule again.

Coming back to school again after Rio and my summer has been difficult, but I’m slowly adjusting. Because it’s almost the end of summer (it ends on September 21), I thought I would look back on my very Olympic summer for this post. Here is a recap video.

 

This summer, I was lucky enough to intern for Special Olympics Southern California at the Summer Games, volunteer for LA24 and LA84’s Olympic Day at the LA Memorial Coliseum, organize a day for Rio 2016 volunteers in Southern California to visit LA 2024’s office to learn more about the bid, meet Kerri Walsh Jennings, attend the Road to Rio event at Venice Beach, meet Dustin Plunkett, attend NBC’s Social Media Opening Ceremony, intern for the LA 2024 Olympic Bid Committee, and volunteer at the Rio 2016 Olympics. Mostly though, I was really lucky to be able to spend a whole summer doing what I love. I’m so grateful to have had the summer I had and to have met the people I met.

What’s next for me?

I am currently writing my senior Honors thesis about incorporating a Special Olympics’ Unified Sports experience into the Olympics. It’s due in December! In the meantime, I’ll also be going to Olympic, Paralympic, and Special Olympic events in the city and volunteering! Keep an eye on my blog to read more about what I’m up to!

After that, I’m graduating from Pace University, and then, I’m not sure what I’ll be doing. 🙂

Olympics Update

Hi everyone!

My time in Rio is starting to wind down, which is very bittersweet. Yesterday, I finished my last volunteer shift, and today I’m attending my last competition. So many of the friends I made are leaving, but even though we’re sad, we’re also happy because we had the chance to do something most people in the world don’t get to do. Volunteering at the Olympics has taught me so much about the world. I have interacted with people from so many from countries that I might never visit, but we still managed to communicate with each other sometimes even if we didn’t speak the same language. Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic Games, once said, “the most important thing about the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part.” Although he was talking more about athletes having good sportsmanship, his quote also applies to my experience. I didn’t compete at the Olympics, but I did take part, and doing that has been life-changing.

In the past week, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to watch Usain Bolt run the prelims, semi-finals, and finals of the 100 meter sprint; Simone Biles and Aly Raisman perform at the Gymnastics Gala; Russia win the Synchronized Swimming duet; and various teams play Water Polo. I also visited the Sugarloaf Mountain with two American volunteers who I met online and was really excited to meet in person, I went to the Escadaria Selarón (the famous steps in Rio de Janeiro), and I rode one of the bikes used in the Opening Ceremony! This has just been so incredible because every day is an amazing adventure, and most of the time, I don’t know what will happen when I wake up in the morning. Rio de Janeiro is one of the most laid back and relaxed places I have ever been to, and I really like its stress-free environment. I think it’s very healthy, and it allows for people (like me!) to have awesome adventures.

I go to diving today, and tomorrow, I’m going to attend The Today Show. To my friends on the East Coast, it will be aired live at 7 am! Try to find me. 🙂 Tomorrow is also the Closing Ceremony!

Here’s a video that I made last Thursday for my second recap on my Rio 2016 adventures. Check out my next video for what I did starting yesterday until the end of my trip.

The Olympics!

Hi everyone! I’m sorry for not updating sooner. As soon as I got to Rio, it has been go go go because I want to do and experience everything!

Here’s a video recap of my time here so far!

I am loving it so much. Everyone has been so friendly both in the Olympics and in Brazil. Even if we don’t speak the same language, we somehow manage to make it work through hand motions, Google Translate, and body language. I am so grateful that I’m in Rio right now having my dreams become true! Thank you to everyone who has helped make this amazing experience happen for me.

About volunteering:

I’m working in the Main Press Centre at the Main Help Desk in Barra Olympic Park. I help journalists and photographers by checking them in, giving them their press kits, and answering any questions they have. I love where I’m working because I get to talk to so many people from all over the world and from big news outlets like BBC or The New York Times. Additionally because we are working with so many people from around the world who might not speak Portuguese or English, we have the help of the Language Team. It’s been really fun to start trying to help a journalist or photographer in English, identify his or her language, and then have someone there who actually speaks it be able to help him or her.

I’m the only American volunteer in my section, which makes it really amazing because I’m making friends with people from all over the world. There are volunteers from Russia, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, China, and Colombia who work with me. It’s been incredible to learn more about people’s lives in other parts of the world, and it has definitely been a life-changing experience so far. I’ve learned that some things are very different in other parts of the world (like people don’t say “bless you” after someone sneezes), some are close but different (the keyboards on computers in Brazil are almost exactly the same as keyboards in the U.S. but a few of the keys are moved around), and others are exactly the same in every country like smiles, laughter, loving dogs, and people wanting their countries to win gold! 🙂

A Team of Refugees

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The Rio 2016 Olympics and Paralympics and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have been getting a lot of negative press in the last few months. People have been urging the IOC to call off the Games, but the IOC has decided to let the Games go on. In less than 2 weeks, I will be in Rio ready to volunteer, meet people from all over the world, and watch athletes overcome the odds to proudly represent themselves and their countries.

In addition to the spectators, volunteers, staff, and athletes who are there to participate under their national flags, Rio 2016 will have a Refugee Olympic Team.

Ten refugee athletes who had to flee their home countries will compete under the Olympic flag. If you watch the Opening Ceremony, look for them marching under the Olympic flag right before Brazil at the end of the Parade of Nations.

Created as an Olympic response to the worldwide refugee crisis, the IOC formed this team by first asking National Olympic Committees (NOCs) around the world to identify refugee athletes with the potentials to compete at the Rio 2016 Olympics. Forty-three candidates were identified, and these ten athletes were selected.

  • Rami Anis (M): Country of origin – Syria; sport – swimming; host NOC – Belgium
  • Yiech Pur Biel (M): Country of origin – South Sudan; sport – athletics, 800m; host NOC – Kenya
  • James Nyang Chiengjiek (M): Country of origin – South Sudan; sport – athletics, 400m; host NOC – Kenya
  • Yonas Kinde (M): Country of origin – Ethiopia; sport – athletics, marathon; host NOC – Luxembourg
  • Anjelina Nada Lohalith (F): Country of origin – South Sudan; sport – athletics, 1500m; host NOC – Kenya
  • Rose Nathike Lokonyen (F): Country of origin – South Sudan; sport – athletics, 800m; host NOC – Kenya
  • Paulo Amotun Lokoro (M): Country of origin – South Sudan; sport – athletics, 1500m; host NOC – Kenya
  • Yolande Bukasa Mabika (F): Country of origin – Democratic Republic of the Congo; sport – judo, -70kg; host NOC – Brazil
  • Yusra Mardini (F): Country of origin – Syria; sport – swimming; host NOC – Germany
  • Popole Misenga (M): Country of origin – Democratic Republic of the Congo; sport – judo, -90k; host NOC – Brazil

 

The video above doesn’t work on this blog post, but if you click the play arrow and then you click “Watch on YouTube,” you’ll be able to watch it on YouTube.

The IOC’s Olympic Solidarity program will provide funding for these athletes to cover their preparation, travel, and other expenses for the Olympic Games. The IOC will continue to support the refugee athletes after the Olympics.

Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee, said, “These refugees have no home, no team, no flag, no national anthem. We will offer them a home in the Olympic Village together with all the athletes of the word. The Olympic anthem will be played in their honor and the Olympic flag will lead them into the Olympic Stadium. This will be a symbol of hope for all the refugees in our world and will make the world better aware of the magnitude of this crisis. It is also a signal to the international community that refugees are our fellow human beings and are an enrichment to society. These refugee athletes will show the world that despite the unimaginable tragedies that they have faced, anyone can contribute to society through their talent, skills and strength of the human spirit.”

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IOC President Thomas Bach with the Olympic flag

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#OneTeam Campaign

Think back to Sochi 2014. There were a lot of protests of Russia’s antigay legislation, especially leading up to the Games. Here are some of them.Screen Shot 2016-03-11 at 9.38.48 AM.png

But there wasn’t any concrete action taken against Sochi or for LGBTQ athletes going there. However, after Sochi 2014 has been a different story.

After Sochi 2014, the International Olympic Committee added “sexual orientation” to its sixth principle of Olympism. Now, athletes are protected from “discrimination of any kind, such as race, color, sex, sexual orientation, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”

The Canadian Olympic Committee also had a reaction, and that was when the #OneTeam Campaign was formed. Sponsored by the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC), You Can Play, and Egale Canada Human Rights Trust, this campaign was started to create a more inclusive environment for LGBTQ athletes and youth in sports and in schools. After launching this campaign, the Canadian Olympic Committee expressed that “it believes that sport should be a welcoming space for all, where all participants can feel safe to be their true selves, increasing participation and allowing athletes to compete to the best of their ability.”

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The #OneTeam Campaign consists of three parts. The first was a revision to the COC’s own anti-discrimination articles to explicitly include LGBTQ athletes and coaches. Second, the LGBTQ Resource was introduced to the Canadian School Program, an online resource that provides Canadian educators with Olympic-themed supplies for their classroom. Topics covered include the sport environment, mental fitness, and tips on creating LGBTQ safer spaces in schools. (The link to the resource can be found here). The third part of the campaign is the Athlete Ambassador Program, which brings LGBTQ and straight Olympians to schools across Canada to teach students about equality and inclusion in sport. Screen Shot 2016-06-13 at 9.59.47 PM.png

Here is a PSA video featuring the Athlete Ambassadors:

Kate Moorhouse, Manager of Education, Youth, and Community Outreach for the COC said that although the #OneTeam Campaign is currently focused on inclusion for LGBTQ athletes in sports, the COC would like to expand its message to include all diversity. It wants to make Team Canada one team for all athletes regardless of gender, sexual orientation, type of sport, or disability.
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The Women’s National Team in New York City!

One week ago today, I was reminded of why New York City is the best place to live when the Women’s National Soccer Team came!

It was the first ever Ticker Tape parade for a women’s sports team, and it was definite progress for women to finally be recognized as equal to men in sports. The Women’s National Team was incredible in the final of the World Cup, and New York City (and the world!) recognized it. It was a historical moment, and I was so lucky that my school (and where I work in the summer) is right across the street from the ending point of the parade! Although I wasn’t able to watch the parade, I could still watch the speeches at the end. Here’s a video of the parade my supervisor at Special Olympics New York took.


The area was the most crowded I have ever seen it with so many fans were swarming everywhere. People must have gotten there around 6 in the morning. Thankfully, I was able to see it from the sixth floor of my school, so I could arrive by 9 and still do my job.

Throughout the day, I checked outside every half hour to see if the team was there yet. This was my first Ticker Tape parade, and I was so excited! It was so cool to watch people in office buildings throw paper out the window. It felt a little bit like the world had gone mad, but I liked it all the same.

Finally, the soccer team arrived and sat on the stage right in front of City Hall.

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Here’s a photo of them sitting on the stage.

Robin Roberts, Abby Wambach, and Mayor De Blasio spoke, and after each one, I could hear everyone’s cheers through the windows. The fan support was amazing. I hope that each soccer player knows how proud the fans of Team USA are of them.

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Here are Robin Roberts and Abby Wambach on the big screen.

At the end, everyone celebrated with confetti! The wind was perfect last Friday and blew the confetti toward the Brooklyn Bridge. It blew around the windows and followed me as I walked back to the elevator. It was a perfect end to a perfect celebration. Here’s a video of the confetti.

 

What To Do When You’re Feeling Stuck…

Hi readers! I haven’t updated this blog in a long time partly because of being busy but also because I felt stuck. I felt unmotivated and didn’t want to write at all. I think this feeling is pretty common, so I’m writing this post about how to become “unstuck.” Whether you have been feeling stuck at a job, as an intern, as a blogger, or anything else, you should read through these because maybe one will help you! And from now on, I’m going to update this blog on a weekly basis (at least!).

Top 5 Techniques To Stop Feeling Stuck (That Work For Me)

1. Remember what inspires you, and spend some time becoming re-inspired by it. This is how I was saved this past week. My sister posted a video on my Facebook, and it actually inspired this entire blog post.

Here’s the video:

It’s a beautiful celebration of human ability, and it really reminded me of why I’m interning at the Special Olympics, volunteering at the World Games, and working so hard to pursue my Olympic dream.

Find whatever you’re passionate in, and lose yourself in it. After watching this video, I immediately watched 5 more Olympic/Special Olympic videos about human achievement. Losing myself in my passion helped tremendously.

2. Remember how you got to where you are, especially your past accomplishments. Become inspired by yourself. You’ve already come so far toward your goal! Just keep going!

3. Be with your family or your friends. Sometimes, not thinking about it will help, and not thinking of something is easier when you’re with your loved ones! However, just about any distraction will work for this technique. You could go for a walk, read a book, watch a movie, or knit a scarf as long as you’re no longer thinking about the problem.

4, Volunteer! Volunteering will make you feel good because you’re helping others. When you’re happy, you’ll feel less stuck. It’s just plain science.

5. Try something new or make a dramatic change. Doing one of these will jolt you out of your comfort zone. I recently donated 10 inches of my hair, and it was such a big change for me. It definitely helped me to stop only going through the motions. Changing your appearance or doing something different will change how you feel, and it will interrupt the boring feel of your life.

I hope that these tips will help you feel less stuck and unmotivated. Just remember that you’re awesome and this feeling won’t last long. You’ll be back to achieving your goals in no time!

The 2016 Olympics

After watching the 2012 London Olympics, I promised myself that I would be at the next Summer Games. Last December, I applied to volunteer at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I am anxiously waiting to hear back about volunteering, but in the meantime, I bought four tickets to the Olympics! Just in case I am not selected to volunteer, I’m still going!

I’m so excited that I am actually able to do what I promised! I am ready to see what I have dreamed about for so long. There are a few problems such as cost and place to stay, but those can be addressed closer to the Games. The important thing is that I’m going to the Olympics!

Here are the events I’m going to see:

– Soccer (AKA Football), 8/3/2016

– Archery, 8/6/2016

– Handball, 8/15/2016

– Diving, 8/20/2016

I’m most excited about diving because I will be able to watch Tom Daley, the diver who inspired me to start diving, compete! I have less experience with the other three events, but I know they will be so cool to watch! After two ticket raffles and then some, I am ready to go to the Olympics (and of course I’ll blog the whole time I’m there)!

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Interning at a Nonprofit

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In addition to being an Olympics blog, I also want to talk about interning at nonprofits. Currently, I intern at Special Olympics New York, and I love it. I know that it’s what I want to do when I graduate, so that makes everything worth it. Sure, I do feel burned out sometimes. It’s normal when one does a lot of work without being paid. However, someone once told me that unpaid internships pay in experience, and especially at Special Olympics New York, it’s true. I have learned so much that I wouldn’t be able to learn in a class while doing something I love and for my future career. I will be staying on at Special Olympics New York until December.

At first glance, interning at nonprofits seems to be a tough sell because they are almost always unpaid. Most nonprofits unfortunately do not budget to pay their interns. It makes sense that nonprofits want to keep as much of their funding for the people they help, but it is still a huge problem because not everyone can afford to work for free. I’m interning and doing another job, but I wish I could afford to intern all the time. Interning is one of the most important things for someone concerned about his or her career to do.

Recently, I figured out how many hours I spent interning at my previous internship and how many I would have by the end of the summer. It was startling. At my previous internship at YAI Network (which I had for a year), I interned approximately 26,500 hours. By the end of this summer at Special Olympics New York, I’ll have interned or volunteered 70 hours. That’s a lot of unpaid labor, so why did I do it?

Pluses of Interning at a Nonprofit (in no particular order)

1. You are integral for an organization to accomplish its mission. You should choose a nonprofit that has a mission which you are passionate about. While working there, you will feel like you are making a difference, and you will be. The organization couldn’t help the people it serves without you.

2. All interning experience counts as real world experience, so it will stay on your resume long after you have to take your college experience off. Eventually, employers won’t be looking for who was president of what club, but they will always be looking for someone who has experience working in the field.

3. You can’t learn everything from class. Even though I’m a Nonprofit Studies minor, I have learned so many things at Special Olympics New York that I would never be able to learn in class. I get to learn by actually doing something, whether it is writing a grant proposal or researching possible sponsors or interacting with the athletes.

4. You get to start working on your career while you’re still in school, and while you can afford to be unpaid. More and more, internships are becoming vital to anyone interested in entering the nonprofit field. Employers look for experience over anything else. Because of this, it’s important that you get that experience while you can, so you don’t have to do it after you graduate.

5. It’s fun to escape college sometimes. I love my college, and I love my college friends, but sometimes, you need a break. You just need to leave the building and do something outside of your school. Interning at a nonprofit could be that something. It will make a difference to you to intern where you are making a difference for someone else.

I have used some nonprofit websites to find internships or places to volunteer like idealist.org and The Foundation Center, but the best things to rely on during your search are word of mouth and Google. Use your contacts! I got my first internship at YAI Network because my sister’s friend was temping there. I got my internship at Special Olympics New York by Googling Special Olympics New York City, going to its website, and emailing the person in the department I wanted to work in. Before interning, the best thing to do is to try out the organization beforehand by volunteering. Then you can see how the organization is from the inside with very little pressure.

Good luck interning or volunteering!

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