What I Learned from my First International Coaching Experience
Earlier this year I connected with coach Alexander, who is a youth football coach in Austria (American Football). I run 2-3 youth football camps each year here the United States, but I have always wanted to operate a large youth football camp abroad. With the help of Alexander, I was able to operate our first ever international youth football camp, which was in Vienna, Austria. This camp consisted of kids ages 6-16.
First International Coaching Experience
I have been coaching youth football for over 10 years and I seen first hand the benefits that come from playing youth football. I wanted to take my experience and help the kids in Austria learn how to play football safety and effectively. This was also a great opportunity for me to interact with kids and parents from another country. This was a very cool experience that I will always remember. I will say that the kids in Austria are just like the kids here in the United States. They made the same football mistakes and they have a very short attention span, just like American kids. I will say that I was concerned about communication as it is a German speaking country. However, most of the adults and all of the coaches spoke English fluently, so communication wasn’t an issue. I was shocked to find out that most of the kids at the very least understood English. Almost all of the older kids spoke English and many of the younger kids understood it.
I was very surprised about how much the kids knew about American culture, politics, movies, and music. It was interesting to hear about how many of the kids wanted to come and play football in America. I was talking to a group of kids during a water break and they talked about how America is cool because they have buses to drop and pick kids up off at school. In Austria, the kids need to get a ride to school or they have to take public transportation. They talked about how awesome it is that American schools have sport teams and all of these social activities. In Austria, the schools don’t have many sports, most kids play sports that are offered by clubs. These clubs are similar to like a YMCA. The kids thought very highly of America and they really like American culture. They asked me a million questions, everything from American football and sports, to question about Donald Trump, it was crazy how informed they are on what is going on in American. Keep in mind that these were 12 and 13 year old kids asking me these questions.
This football camp was a three day camp that really allowed me to make new friends. All the people in Austria were very friendly and welcoming. I will say that there are noticeable differences between us Americans and the Austrians, but the core values are the same. The Austrian people seem very happy and were also very prideful in their country. What impacted me the most was how different, but also similar we are as human beings. Regardless where you are from, it’s human nature to want to be happy, meet new people, and learn new things. I will say that the kids in Austria are very smart and very respectful. There are 10 and 11 year old kids that are bilingual (German and English) and they all had a willingness to learn. Some of that may had to do with the fact that many of them never seen or even met an American football coach, so they were very excited and that made them much more receptive.
I really enjoyed the trip and I made some new friends and connections that I am really excited about. The thing that really hit me was that regardless of where you play or coach football, everyone is a family. It doesn’t matter if I coach or play football in New Jersey or I play or coach football in Austria, everyone is on the same team when it’s all said and done. Even though American football is somewhat new in Austria, the sport has had an immediate impact on the kids and their communities. After having a question and answer with coaches and parents, they all talked about how much their kids loved playing football and how much it has help them stay out of trouble and in good physical shape. They loved the team environment football creates and they talked about how their kids made new friends and felt part of team.
What I realized following the trip….
Wherever football is being played, the kids, parents, and communities are benefiting. Football not only brings people together, it brings countries together as well. I also realized that even though there are differences, the world as human beings all want the same thing. I would recommend visiting Austria, it’s a great country.