Jonker, USA go for softball gold

Updated 9/14/2000
Olympic Notebook with USA assistant softball coach Margo Jonker 9/17/00

Q: After all of the pageantry and anticipation of the Games, the team finally hit the diamond. What emotions were you feeling during the first game?

A: We started off by beating Canada 6-0, but you can obtain game information from numerous media outlets so I won't go into that here. The players were all a little more intense than I have seen before any game so far this year. It was fun to watch them relax as the game progressed and we started hitting the ball. Before most big tournaments when I am coaching I am a little nervous. So I was wondering how I would feel before the Olympics. Of course, being an assistant coach is totally different than being a head coach, no matter what level. Well, I was totally relaxed during the warm-up and it felt like any other game. Then we went to the main stadium. We were waiting for the game to start and you could feel the excitement in the air. I was still extremely calm. Then the announcer came on and stated "We are now announcing the team members of Team USA and Team Canada to begin the Softball competition of the 2000 Olympic Games." As the team was announced it hit, "we are in the Olympics" and the goose bumps appeared. It finally hit me, emotionally, and continued until I reached my first base coaching box. Wow! But, by the first pitch I was back on the mode of "I need to be relaxed because the pressure is on the players and they cannot see me, as an assistant coach, nervous." I actually was able to relax again and be in game mode. The emotions hit again, but this time it was after the game when I saw my friends standing in the outfield waving. It was awesome today. I was so happy they were there to share it with me.

Q: What types of events go on inside the Olympic Village?

A: There are numerous events that go on at the village, one a few days ago was a flag raising ceremony. Each country has their own special ceremony. For the USA, many of the athletes came. We were all to dress in our "award suit" and report at a certain time. Then we were entertained by kids from a local school. Each country had a different school entertain them. There was a dance native to the Australians, some presentations, the actual raising of the flag with the children singing our anthem and a song that was sang to each of the teams with the following lyrics.

G'day, G'day You are the heroes of the world

Verses
You are the heroes of the world We welcome you with open arms We hope you feel that you're at home Let's join our hands and be as one

Chorus
G'day, G'day, Welcome to Australia G'day, G'day, That's the Australian way. G'day, G'day, Welcome to Australia G'day, G'day, That's the Australian way.

Bridge
Not just to win the silver, bronze and gold. But to try with all our heart an soul Our glory comes in striving for the best. It's time to come together, all the people of the world To race as one united, to share a common goal

Chorus
G'day, G'day, you are the heroes of the world G'day Mate!

And repeated

These words were set to a catchy tune that are heard hummed around the village as we walk around.

Olympic Notebook with USA assistant softball coach Margo Jonker 9/16/00

We practice every morning or in Olympic and National team terms, we train every morning. The first morning we were walking to the "training" facility some man came up to me and said "I am here to strap your girls". I looked at him and asked him to repeat what he said, he repeated the same words and I probably had a funny look on my face because he continued to say "you know, tape or whatever they need for practice". So the trainers here are called strappers. That was a new one for me. The athletes are getting mileage out of that term. There are a few terms that we use in the States that we need to refrain from here because of their totally different connotation. I have 4 ready to go also.... and more for 5 and 6... this is fun... it makes me keep track of what goes on...

As Coke is an official sponsor of the Olympic Games we can get all the free coke products we desire. To facilitate that we have a "coke coin". Everyone signs up for one. In a little packet that we hang on our credentials is this "coke packet" with a coin that we put into the vending machine and it comes right back out, then we select our beverage. Coke not only provides soda pops but also juices in the machines. So it works well.

The opening ceremony was last evening. The athletes and participants saw it from a different perspective of than you did if you watched it on TV. We left early on a bus from the village all dressed in our parade outfits. Everyone took photos of ourselves and some of the "stars" standing around. It was fun. Then we went into a complex and watched the ceremony, but there was no sound so it lost a lot of effect. Each country was called individually and left in the appropriate order. When the United States was called we left and walked a distance to the stadium. Once in the stadium the tremendous applause for the US was deafening, OK, maybe not, the silence was almost deafening as we walked by most of the sections. Then we watched the torch being run around the stadium and up to be lit. That was the most impressive for us. It was very emotional for some of our athletes. After the ceremony we were directed into an area where we would catch the buses. Our team was separated because of the huge numbers and a few of us went to the bus area and were told it was easier to walk back to the village, it would only take a couple of minutes... famous last words... It was a 15 minute walk and my feet were killing me and my heels just were not working, so I walked most of it in nylons. Then when we actually got to the village we had to wait to get into the village because of the mass of people in front. It took 2 hours to get back to our house here. But it was still worth it. Overall it was awesome.

Keep watching the Today Show. Most of us did a "post card". I said Hi to all in Mt Pleasant and CMU. They are to appear throughout the Olympics. Tomorrow we begin our competition, more on the actual stadium we are playing in later.

Olympic Notebook with USA assistant softball coach Margo Jonker 9/15/00

Q: What is the Olympic Village like? A: Most of the Olympic participants are staying in the Olympic Village, which is just that. It has everything needed for a two-three week stay. The softball team is sharing a house with the 15 players and the two assistant coaches living there. It is a little cozy, but nice. The room I am staying in and sharing with the other assistant coach is a little smaller than my office at CMU. I never experienced dorm living but I think I am getting the sense of it now.

One thing that would catch your attention right away is that all the houses look alike. There are rows and rows. The village is broken up into sections that are identified by colors. We live in the green section. Most of the houses have flags hanging from them signifying which country the athletes and coaches are from. The village is full of many people who are extremely fit and wearing warm-up type clothing. Their outfits have the names of many, many different countries. Some of them I am very familiar with, some I have heard of but have no idea where they are located on the globe and some I have never even heard of at all. I'll have to get a world map out before I leave here.

There are many food areas and there is one huge eating area where there are foods from many countries. It is buffet style, much like a huge dining hall in the residence halls at CMU. I heard there were chefs brought in from around the world to create the cuisine. It is pretty good. You just have to look around to find the better choices. There is also a post office, bank, technical building (where I spent a large portion of time trying to figure out e-mail and phone services), souvenir shop, florist, game room, etc. You get the idea. Oh, I forgot the gymnasium. It is always busy-- no I haven't been in there, a little intimidating with all the world-class athletes working out there. But, I have reserved a free massage for tomorrow.

Q: What differences have you noticed in Australia?

A: The accent is great here. I love to hear people talk, I go up to people and get into a conversation just to hear the accent. It is fortunate that Australia is English speaking, even though some terms mean totally different things here. One must be a little careful what one says. One expression that is so common is "G'Day Mate," with the appropriate accent of course. Another one is calling everything "bloody". I was told I was in front of the bloody mirror on one of the bus rides. We take the bus all around the village.

Lori Harrigan, who is one of our pitchers, loves to pick up on accents, so she is in her glory. Everywhere we have gone this summer she has picked up the accent and uses it until we leave the area. Until meeting her I never thought I had an accent, but I am now a little paranoid about it. She loves to tease.

One of the most dangerous things is driving on the other side of the road. Look right and then left is advice I have received from friends who have been here before. One athlete who drove a car his first day here was killed in an accident as he pulled out in front of another car. I cannot remember the country he was from, so one needs to be careful. I think I have the cars figured out, but every once in a while I find myself face to face (literally) with someone as I am walking down the wrong side of the sidewalk or worse yet walking up on the wrong side of the stairs. I am learning.

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Olympic Notebook with assistant softball coach Margo Jonker 9/14/00

Coach, the team spent the summer on a 19-state tour against some of the top talent in the country. Is the squad ready for "The Games?"

We completed our "Central Park to Sydney Tour" of the States, ending in Hawaii. Our main competition throughout this summer was against the pro teams. In Hawaii we played a three-game series against the WPSL (Women's Professional Softball League) winning all three. That means we were the best in the U.S. this summer, but the key is to be the best in the world -- that we will find out later.

Some of the stats on the tour were remarkable. We ended with a 63-0 record, gave up only four runs to our opponents and scored 429. Our pitching is incredible. Looking at the record you may wonder who we played. Well, we played some of the best the U.S. has to offer. In addition to the professional league teams, we played numerous teams with Division I All-Americans, former pro players, top women's major players, basically the best players in the country. Lisa Fernandez threw five perfect games in a row throughout the summer to give you an idea of her dominance on the mound. By the way, she also led our team in batting average. The tour started in May and ended in September. We left Hawaii for Sydney on September 9 at 12:20 a.m.

What was the flight to Sydney like and what were your first experiences "Down Under?"

The flight coming over was long but not as bad as I thought it would be. We left on the 9th (night of the 8th) and arrived here on the 10th in the morning. We lost a day. The funny thing was that outfielder Leah Obrien-Amico's birthday was the 9th, so she lost her birthday for this year. Basically, I slept the flight away. I took Dramamine before leaving and slept on and off for at least eight of the 10 hours, reading the rest of the time.

When we arrived in Sydney, we went through the usual customs check. The interesting thing that I hadn't experienced before was how closely they checked everything. The officials took everyone's spikes and cleaned the bottoms of any dirt and sprayed them to make sure nothing was brought into Australia. Then we went through the usual process of obtaining credentials so we could get into the Olympic Village where we are staying throughout our stay "Down Under." We have to wear the credentials everywhere we go and cannot get into anything without them. Every time we enter the village we go through a security check.

The main difficulty I have had so far was setting up my e-mail. I have been frustrated not being able to reach the States by either e-mail or telephone. But after two days of trying and talking with people, I am back in business. I will catch you up on our activities as we are nearer to the start of " The Games." I'm excited to share things as they come up. Until next time, "G'Day Mate."

-CMU Sports Information