Team USA Quest for the Pan Am Games
Defining Moments: Games of the XXII Olympiad
It was the summer of 1984, I was two years old and already knew how to throw a ball and jump off the diving board. Well, at least that’s what my parents have told me, however, I do not remember that as well as I remember two defining moments.
My dad comes home one day and said, “Sarah! Come here I have something for you.” I’m there standing in the front room of our house. This area is the first room you see when you walk into my house. It’s a room full of furniture that was used for company, but us as kids were not allowed to play in there. Of course my siblings and I would do it anyway because come on…it was a great hide and seek room! So I’m standing in that room with my dad and he says, “Close your eyes and hold out your hands.” He places a pin in my hand. I open my eyes and he says, “It’s a Care Bear!” It was the 80’s and Care Bears were one of the hottest toys of that time. Sunshine Bear was my favorite and that’s the Care Bear I slept with every night. My first thought, “Dad! This is NOT a Care Bear!” Second thought, “What is this?” My dad must have been reading my mind because he said, “Sarah, I made this pin. It’s an Olympic pin!” It was the UCLA Village Olympic pin. It was a Care Bear in the form of the UCLA Bruin mascot. What ran through my head at that moment was the word Olympic…what was it?
OLYMPIC: adj.; Olym-pic; of or relating to the Olympic Games
I’m sitting on the floor in the tv room. As a child it was very rare for me to be inside during the summer. I spent most of my days running, jumping, swimming, throwing rocks at the neighbors houses (sorry mom), and of course playing anything and everything with my best friends (aka my siblings; Stephanie, David, and Samantha). Well this was one of those rare moments where I was actually watching tv. This rare moment where I felt God speaking to me, opening my heart, and showing me my gift. Seems silly right? This two year old in this moment, being present, and understanding completely what she was created to do…well, that was me. Totally in the moment and present with what I was watching. What I was watching on tv was a track & field event at the Olympic Games. What I felt at that moment was complete clarity. This…this is what I want to be when I grow up…AN OLYMPIAN! After this moment I was no longer Sarah Gascon when I played outside. Now I was Mary Lou Retton winning the All-Around title in gymnastics, and I was Flo-Jo and Jackie Joyner-Kersee on the track & field winning medals. I was anyone and everyone in the Olympic Games.
“CITIUS, ALTIUS, FORTIUS”
The Journey: Road to the Olympic Games
Anyone who knows me knows I LOVE PLAYING SPORTS. My entire world has revolved around my athletic career. I played volleyball, baseball, basketball, soccer, softball, tennis…you name it, I played it and I loved them all equally! I would go to school and daydream about sports. I couldn’t wait for break and lunch time. My favorite subject was P.E. and every class I imagined I was training for the Olympic Games. Little did I know all of these sports and thoughts would set me on the path for my future Olympic Sport. I graduated high school and attended Southeastern Louisiana University (#LionUp) on a full-athletic scholarship. I played four years with the volleyball and softball teams and during my fifth year was invited to play with the soccer team. It was during my junior year where I was introduced to USA Team Handball. I was attending USA Volleyball tryouts in New Orleans, LA. My dad was with me as I competed against some of the best volleyball players in the country. After the 3-day tryout a representative from USA Team Handball spoke to all the athletes. She said, “Hi I’m a representative from USA Team Handball. If you are interested in competing in the Olympic Games and you don’t make the USA Volleyball team you should try Team Handball. If you are interested to learn more about this sport please meet me in the conference room to watch a short video.” My dad was with me and I turned to him and said, “Hey, why not see what this sport is all about!” Of course, like most Americans, I thought of the sport with the little blue ball that you hit off the wall. So my dad and I stood there with a handful of other athletes and watched what is considered the fastest and most exciting sport in the world. Time stopped for a moment, I turned to my dad and we both had the same thought. THIS SPORT WAS CREATED FOR ME! Since 1984, I have watched both the Summer and Winter Olympic Games. I was consumed by sports and when people would ask me what sport I will play at the Olympic Games I never had an answer for them. I would respond with, “Not sure. Maybe volleyball, basketball, or softball. Time will tell.” Time did tell. Team handball is a combination of all those sports and I have unintentionally been training for this sport my entire athletic career.
Title IX: Standing upon the Shoulders of Giants
Sir Issac Newton once said, “If I have seen further, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.” Those giants…they are the women that came before me. Women like my mom who loved playing sports, but never had an opportunity to play in college because “that’s just not what women did back in those days”. The Title IX women, who fought against discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity. Because of you, as a little girl I was able to dream about one day representing my country in the Olympic Games. Because of you, I was able to play baseball and basketball with the boys. Because of you, I was able to earn a free education and play sports I love in college. And now, because of you, I am able to live the life I believe I was destined to live. A day does not go by that I don’t think about what an honor it is to represent you all. I have never taken for granted the opportunities that I have had in my career because of the doors you all opened for me. I stand on your shoulders…and from the bottom of my heart I want to say thank you! You have helped make my dreams a reality.
Step #1: Qualify for the Pan American Games
The long road to the Olympics starts here with the Pan American Games Qualifications. This preparation started four years ago when the team fell short of beating Uruguay in our last Pan American Games qualifier. Since then, the team has re-dedicated itself to preparing for the 2018 Pan American Games Qualification, training and competing over the world in preparation for these two games that are now just weeks away.
We have moved away from our families, dedicated countless hours to film, conditioning, practice, weightlifting and put our careers on hold, all with the singular goal of qualifying for the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru. To win the coveted spot, we must defeat Canada in a Home and Away series on September 2nd in Auburn, AL and then on September 5th in Montreal, QC.
Here’s what we need
Although Team Handball is an Olympic Sport, the United States Olympic Committee does not provide funding for our sport. So we do what our team always does. We HUSTLE. We reach out to develop our own sponsorships, we sell gear, run our own fundraisers, and dig into our own bank and savings accounts to make competing possible.
We need to send 20 people (16 players and 4 staff) to Auburn, AL and then to Montreal, Canada. We are asking for your support to get us there.
Most of our costs come down to travelling and housing and feeding such a large team. We are already champions at travelling frugally. Just ask us about our long layovers, wearing all our clothes at once to get out of baggage fees, or trips halfway around the world to go in the opposite direction. But even as good as we are at stretching dollars, you just can’t escape some level of travel costs with a group this size.
Here’s what we’re expecting to pay for this Qualifier event:
- USA WNT Members Travel Cost to Auburn: $ 8,000
- Hotel and Meals for Team USA in Auburn: $ 8,000
- Hotel and Meals for Team Canada in Auburn: $ 3,000
- WNT Members Travel Cost to Montreal: $ 6,000
TOTAL: $ 25,000
Be a part of the team
In basketball, you may have heard of the “6th man” or “6th woman”, that first person off the bench who is invaluable. Because handball has 7 players on the court that person is the 8th person, and it’s all of our friends, and family, and supporters, who make it possible for us to play.
We have a really great shot at making our dream of competing in the Pan Am Games a reality! Please help the ladies of Team USA get ready for this important competition by giving today.