Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Keys to an Athletic Tournament

First of all, let me take a moment to apologize to my faithful readers for the long intermission that I have taken between posts. It has been a busy couple of weeks but I will do my best to keep it from happening again. Thank you for your fidelity despite my neglect.
This past weekend, Chris and I chaperoned a trip down to the southern part of the island to a city called Kaohsiung (that is the Romanized spelling, though I found that it is really pronounced something more like “Gow-shung”. Why spell it that way? I’m not sure but I have been trying to get to the bottom of it all week.) Anyhow, after a hectic volleyball and soccer season consisting of two volleyball and one soccer games, it was time for the season-ending tournament where international schools from all over the island competed. Chris was selected as one of the teacher chaperones because he is athletic director and I was selected mainly because my husband is the athletic director but I was also given the proud duty of yearbook photographer. Never having been an athlete myself, I was first introduced to tournament life three years ago through Chris’ coaching escapades. Now, we have noticed many things that are different between the Taiwanese lifestyle and our own, but few have been more pronounced than this little sporty sojourn.
The first difference I have already mentioned and that is the number of games played in a “season.” There are only a handful of international schools within driving distance of our school and local Taiwanese schools don’t have sport teams so, logistically, we really can’t schedule too many games. But, the real reason is this. The Taiwanese people don’t care about sports. I know, to some of you avid Auburn or Bronco fans, those words might seem like sacrilege, but it is true. Here, after kids finish a day at school, many of them head off to piano lessons. After piano lessons, they go to their Japanese tutor and then to their math tutor. Then, they have to hurry home in time to swallow some dinner before their cello teacher comes by for a lesson at home. This hardly leaves time for athletics.
When the first game of the tournament started, I noticed the second difference. Where were all of the fans? Now, I recognize that the tournament was far away, but it was pretty much the equivalent of State back home. Not one of our parents made the trip with us and, in fact, out of the eight teams who competed, there were two sets of parents there. Two! It kind of makes the idea of having a cheerleading squad a little bit ridiculous. The lack of a fan base didn’t seem to bother the kids and they were content just to have their coaches and teammates there cheering them to… well that brings me to my next point.
Let me just say this. Don’t judge us because our school is small and this is the first year to have a high school so, let’s just say we came up a little bit short. Okay, a lot short. Our volleyball team not only didn’t win any matches, they didn’t win a single game. But, talking to them during and after the tournament, they really were okay wit that. So many times you hear a parent or coach persuading their little leaguer to buck up because, even though they lost, they sure played well. But that was what these girls really thought! They didn’t care that they came in dead last, they had a great time doing it. Our boys’ soccer team won one game and you would have thought they won the entire tournament. The fiercest competition that I found was not found on a court or on a field, it was in the room where the girls slept.
Since the tournament was so far away, we stayed the night Friday night at the school. The boys were given the gym to sleep in and the girls were given the music room. I was sitting in the gym watching some kids play around after our first game on Friday when I heard one of our students say that another student was needed down in our room. Not wanting to miss what was going on (for more reasons than one), I followed them. I was shocked to find that in our room, the students had pulled out the piano and were having a piano playing competition! And, I am not talking about Chopsticks or Heart and Soul. I’m talking about Flight of the Bumblebee type stuff that totally blew my mind. Their fingers were flying across the keys while others stood around cheering them on or critiquing their use of the pedals. I have to say, it was quite unexpected but very entertaining. Kids who I can’t get to turn in one paragraph of homework were showing off their musical prowess with Bach.
All in all, the tournament was quite enjoyable despite the lack of trophies and it was a wonderful cultural training for us. We’ll make sure to brush up on our Tchaikovsky before basketball season.

1 comment:

Abbey said...

Girl, first fo all I would love to hear those kids play the piano!
Now watching them (or anyone for that matter) play sports, is a different topic all together. You're a trooper! :)

I miss you.