I was born and bred in Great Britain and lived there until I was fourteen and then moved to the United States. During those impressionable years growing up in Wales, the sports that were thrust upon me were soccer, rugby, tennis and cricket.
After I moved to the States in 1984, the first time I played basketball was during my first PE class in high school. I had never seen basketball played before, so when they threw the ball to me, I ran with it toward the net. The PE teacher blew his whistle and explained that I had to dribble the ball when I ran. That confused me even more because what I knew about dribbling was that it was something I did with my feet in soccer. So my classmates told me I had to bounce the ball.
The game resumed and I bounced the ball once, ran a few feet and bounced it again. The PE teacher blew his whistle again and, with some embarrassment and a few laughs, explained that I needed to bounce the ball all the way as I ran.
Interestingly, when I played American football for the first time in high school, the sport didn’t seem as foreign to me because I had played rugby in Wales. It was flag football, so it was a little different. But the only thing that totally confounded me, and still does to this day, is how to throw an American football. It’s a completely different technique than in rugby. Not only is the grip different but so too is the way the ball is thrown. I’ve seen it done plenty of times before, but when I throw it, it all ends up horribly wrong.
This brings me to a thought I had last night. What if I had been born in the United States and had grown up here? Would I still be the soccer-mad fan that I am today, or would I have fallen in love with a different sport? After all, my father is not a fan of soccer and didn’t play the sport when he was younger, so there wouldn’t be the influence of a parental figure introducing me to the sport.
It’s likely that I would have eventually found soccer in elementary school, but I wonder how often it was played in American elementary schools in the late 70s and early 80s. If I lived in the States at that time, I would have found it on the television set thanks to the NASL games. But again, there’s no guarantee that I would have found the sport interesting at all. I like to think I would. But there’s no way of knowing especially when a child is brought up in a totally different culture than the one I knew.
What about you? If you were born in a different country in this world, would that have changed the sports you loved? If you’re American, imagine if you were born in the United Kingdom. How do you think that would have changed you? And vice-versa, if you were born in the United Kingdom, imagine how your life would have been different if you grew up in the United States. Share your insights in the comments section below regarding how your life would have been different, or the same.