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My father loves sports, although now as he gets much older, he doesn’t have the ability to partake in them anymore. Yet, his high school, college, and post-college career saw him taking part in basketball, baseball, and soccer. After college, he initially pursued a career teaching physical education, before he starting climbing the career ladder that led, ultimately, to being the principal of a number of schools. Before he started his career in DODDS, he even had a stint playing semi-pro soccer for the Washington Internationals. Needless to say, athletics were so important to him that he required my brother and I to participate in at least two sports a year while in high school. This lead me to football and wrestling, but even that wasn’t enough come springtime and the soccer season. I resolutely resisted.

Yet, for football and wrestling, I had other motives. Sure, my parents hadn’t really given me a choice. But as I got older, I began to realize that I had an opportunity other Americans my age didn’t have. After all, I was living in Europe. Sports, basically allowed me to travel for a bit and get outside the house. Living in The Netherlands at the time, it wasn’t all that uncommon to get on the buss and head off to games back in Belgium or over in Germany — England was too far away, with a channel crossing, for a road trip.

Let me put it this way. In the United States, most high school sports are intensely local. An away game, for example, would likely be on the other side of town, and at the most, in the neighboring county. The only long trips, basically, would be for sectional, regional, and state tourneys at the end of the season. In the DOD school system, away games consisted of 10-12 hour bus rides, especially if, say, the Soesterberg wrestling team had a meet scheduled in Frankfurt, Ramstien, or Fulda. “Local” matches consisted of a few hours jaunt to the International School of Brussels, Brussels High School, or SHAPE, in Mons.

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