**Warning: I don’t have the luxury of coherent thought today. The following is what I call a braindump; when I just turn over the bin in my head all of these thoughts are in and they come tumbling out in whatever order they please.**
I had never really thought about what school sports might be like for international schools. Having been in public school for grades K-12 and then again as a teacher/coach afterwards, it just never really crossed my mind.
It’s super cool.
Our school is hosting an ISAC (International Schools Activities Conference) volleyball tournament this weekend. Teams from all over the region have flown(!) here to compete. We have schools from Jordan, UAE, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. The halls are full of students that don’t go here and it’s great.
Once they get here (more on that later), students from our school host athletes from other schools and teachers host coaches. Just think about that. Would it ever happen that way in the states? I have a hard time imagining it would, but that’s part of what makes our time here so amazing – we’re experiencing things we never would have in the US.
We’re hosting a coach from AIS Riyadh (Saudi Arabia). He’s Canadian, has keys to our apartment, and will sleep in the room next to us the next few nights. We met him last night around 9pm. We are required to provide breakfast for him every morning, a clean bed to sleep in and a bathroom/shower for him to use. When it comes time for his school to host a tournament, he’ll do the same thing for someone else. Did I mention that he brought us chocolate from Bahrain?
At the risk of sounding sappy and melodramatic, it’s fun to continue experiencing humanity here. The trust and kinship you acquire abroad seems more potent than back home. I’ve got several theories for this, the simplest of which is “we’re all in the same boat.” In the same way that hostages and shipwrecked sailors bond due to their circumstance, it seems so do international teachers.
Now that we’ve got the philosophical meanderings out of the way, I can get back to fascinating details.
When you try out for a school sport, you assume the responsibility of covering travel costs to various tournaments. The girls volleyball team for example, is expected to pay 135KD per person for their trip to Amman, Jordan later this month. The girls know ahead of time that if they can’t travel, they likely won’t be put on the team. This may strike Americans as “unfair,” but it’s the truth of being somewhat isolated when it comes to competition. We are spoiled in the states to have so many schools geographically close by. It makes scheduling incredibly cheap and easy. This cost makes the expectation of hosting somewhat understandable. When our students travel for tournaments, they will be hosted by families at those schools. If they’re forking over close to $500 USD to travel, it’s nice to know you’ve got free accommodations when you get there.
Other teams travel to various places and locales including Egypt, Jordan, UAE, Lebanon, Holland, and Qatar. They’ll play teams from all over the world at these tournaments and they’ll make connections with other kids and families half a world away. They have activities planned for them while they are here and are kept busy with the hospitality of the host school. On our side, students are largely responsible for organizing most of the logistics as part of an IB programme project. What a great learning experience.
Update: We attended a couple volleyball games during the last day of competition. We were completely blown away at how much school spirit the students had! We are used to large public schools with varying levels of school spirit. We expected the atmosphere here to be much calmer (students don’t live as close to school here as they do in the US and many don’t drive themselves). Quite the contrary! TONS of AIS students showed up to support the AIS girls in the finals (we had to leave before the boys’ final game). The students organized cheers and even brought a drum set! It was a great atmosphere and we were completely impressed with how many students showed up to support!