Fans' View

Fans’ View: Yes, I was in the tunnel with the USMNT

Photo: Staci Klemmer

Volunteering at the Linc for the Copa America Centenario has been the experience of a lifetime and I am so thankful my boys were there with me.

Each gameday played out in a similar fashion. We’d get down to the Linc around noon. Since I was responsible for the player escorts, I would lay out uniforms for the kids in our locker room. My oldest son, Paul, was the “Communications Manager,” a fancy way of saying he was in charge of the radios, which he would check out to the many staff and volunteers. My other son, James, would help my husband in the volunteer headquarters checking volunteers in and handing out uniforms.

I know, after my last post, all of you are wondering if the uniforms for the Copa were anywhere close to the having the cool factor that the 1994 World Cup uniforms did.

Nike certainly outdid themselves for the Copa: Two golf shirts, a t-shirt, and a sweet backpack — not a string bag or small sized book bag, but a giant-sized soccer backpack that my kids will be using for the rest of their lives.

Four hours before game time, my kids arrived and time was spent keeping them entertained and out of trouble. In our locker room area, we had 22 player escorts (age 7 – 9), 12 ball boys (15 – 16) and 26 flag bearers (13 – 14). Needless to say, everyone was a little rammy as it got closer to game time. We did spend about an hour rehearsing how to walk on the field with the flags (and you thought it was easy!).

At the end of warm-ups, we sprang into action, lining the flags up and positioning the player escorts to be ready when the players arrived. For the Uruguay-Venezuela game, I was already on the pitch when the players arrived. I was stationed near the Uruguayan bench so that I could wave the kids off the field as soon as the anthems were over. For the US game, I wanted to be in the tunnel.

Once the kids were off the field and escorted back to their parents, I got to hang out on the field and watch the game. You might have seen me in a few camera shots, I was standing in the corner near the tunnel where the players walked on.

So I know many of you want me to get to the important stuff: Did my wish come true? Did I get a picture of my kids with Christian Pulisic?

Well, no. Protocol was very strict. No talking, no pictures, no nothing to any of the players.

But, what I did get was some amazing memories. For example, I was there when the US players got off the bus at the stadium on Friday and was allowed to stay and watch practice.

I was also in the tunnel with them right before the game. Yes, I did break the rules to say good luck to Michael Bradley. And may I take a moment to say that the US players are huge? Brad Guzan and John Brooks are quite intimidating in person.

The atmosphere in the stadium was amazing. Watching from the field was a little disorienting, but it was cool to be able to hear the players talking to each other.

The hardest part? Trying to remain neutral when Clint Dempsey scored the goal. I was not successful.

Words can’t do justice to what it feels like to be in the tunnel, next to the US Men’s national team as they prepare to walk onto the pitch. All the hours my family have spent volunteering for the Copa were worth every second of those three minutes we spent in that tunnel standing next to Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey and a giant John Brooks.

The 4four hours I spent in a locker room with the 22 third graders before each match? Worth it.

The late nights printing labels for radios, creating spreadsheets and anything else my hubby, the Volunteer Coordinator, needed? Worth it.

The use of all my saved personal days so I could be there to watch the US men get off the bus and watch training? Worth it.

Having a once in a lifetime opportunity to witness this with my children? Priceless.

 

5 Comments

  1. James Lockerbie says:

    Awesome! Memories you and your family will have forever! That is Priceless

  2. Old Soccer Coach says:

    Think about what the press told us of a Roy Halliday pregame ritual. Makes sense, no photo with Pulisic. And how do you say “yes” to one but not all?
    .
    Thank you for helping make it happen.

  3. Buccistick says:

    Happy for you and the rest of the Klemmer family. But compared to the rest of us volunteers organized by Mr. Klemmer, your experiences were hardly representative.

    • Yes, I was lucky. I’m sorry you didn’t have a good experience. There were volunteers that were put in many different positions – some were actually placed with the teams, some in the press box and some on the pitch.

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