In the interest of full disclosure, I'm extremely partial to the subject of this article. He has become one of my good friends over the recent months and years, and has revealed himself to be one of the most hard-working, honest, and raddest people I've ever encountered. He is the mastermind behind many of the awesome graphics you see on the Brotherly Game and does independent graphic design and photography work under the name Wandel Design. It is no surprise to me, or anyone familiar with Eryin Wandel, that he found himself in another adventure. Mr. Wandel returned from a 6-month study abroad in the Netherlands just in time to hop a flight to Southern California for July camp with the United States Paralympic National Team. When he finally settled back in Philly, I caught up with Eryin to hear about his experience playing for the red, white and blue.
How did this opportunity come about? Did you have a long-standing interest in playing for the team or was it a spur of the moment decision?
It was a little bit of both. I had this offer come up a year or two ago, but I thought someone was just joking with me. So I never followed up with it. The second time around (this time) I made a poster for the USA making it out of the group stage in the World Cup, just for fun. Then the Outlaws got hold of it and it spread around social media a bit. The USPNT Twitter account saw it and favorited it on twitter. So I just sent them a little tweet saying I appreciate their program after growing up with Cerebral Palsy and playing myself. From there they messaged me and the next thing I knew, I was filling out paperwork and flying from Amsterdam (where I was finishing up my study abroad) to San Diego.
What was it like when you found out you were going to camp?
I was in shock. Originally there was someone in my spot, but they couldn't make it due to injury. So when I got the message saying I was now taking his spot I couldn't believe it.
What was it like to play and spend time with other guys who face neurological complications? Did you learn anything from them?
It wasn't something I thought about really. There were guys there worse than me condition wise and guys better than me. But on the field it didn't matter too much, least I didn't think so. One or two guys couldn't use one side of their body, but they made up for it.
I don't think about my cp, I didn't think about the other guys conditions on the field.
What is a typical day like at camp?
A typical day consisted of two-a-days, one practice in the morning and one in the afternoon. High-intensity but not that long time-wise. Then with the World Cup finals we worked our schedule around that so the team could watch it together which was cool.
How was the food?
The food was great. After coming from Europe, it was good to get certain American foods, like having tacos on taco Tuesday (a team favorite).
Did you get to see anything cool while you were there?
I was just at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista. I didn't leave that complex so I didn't really see anything except the surrounding area when walking from my room to practice or to the mess hall.
What was your favorite part of the whole experience?
It was just an honor to be there. Hopefully I can break into the final 14 (7v7) for the Copas in September, but realistically I am hoping to make the World Cup squad and the Rio squad.
We wish Eryin all the best in making the final 14!
If you'd like to check out his design work, head over to his website. http://www.wandeldesign.com/