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By Chris Middlebrook, 07/19/19, 12:15PM CDT


"You will be playing libero" Gunnar Fast informs me. It is October 19, 1981. The night before the US bandy team's first international match against Swedish elite team Ljusdal.

Gunnar continues "The libero is the center fullback. The last line of defense. You not only have the individual responsibility to play strong defense. You also are the quarterback, the main communicator to your fullbacks, halfbacks and midfield. You must also assist in the team moving the ball up the ice and out of our defensive zone."

Gunnar continues further "You are the safety valve. The final stopper on defense. But you must also be able to step up and stop the play before it arrives at your defense line. You must be correct in your decision to step up or stay back. An incorrect decision by you means a chance for goal by your opponent. So don't be wrong".

Gunnar is not done, "You must lead by both how you play, by example, and with your voice. Your teammates need to hear you and understand you. They also need to respect you."

 "Can you do all this for me?"

"I will try"

"I will try my best"

Gunnar then tells me the best way that I can lead by example. "When you are playing defense Chris. Just you and the opposing player. It doesn't matter where this happens on the ice. Remember this:

                     "The ball may go through or the player may go through.

                      But never both at the same time"

"If you can play with this always in your mind then you will be a true libero. And no-one from your opponent will ever forget that you are on the ice"

"Can you do this for me Chris"? 

"Yes Gunnar, I can"

"And I will"