What Sports Taught Me About People… And Myself

I grew up in the international school system in Copenhagen. From kindergarten to the 3rd grade I was in the English class – as if I was born to write in English and thrust into it at age five. Maybe by some cosmic magic or divine intervention I was just meant to write in English. After realizing we’d be staying for a while – I was shifted over to the Danish class for fourth grade, swept away and snatched out of my candy-stealing, giving the teacher attitude comfort zone. In the new class, on the football pitch and beyond, there was a definite hierarchy. Like I not only gained a place in a new class – but a place in the parliament or government structure, and at the lowest rung cuz hey you gotta start somewhere.

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I remember being “encouraged” – I felt forced to play goalkeeper, like a young poet forced to become a lawyer, because well – that’s the family tradition. In football the goalie is the most boring position. I also remember the dynamics going beyond football and being frozen out and not invited to a birthday party where all the other little boys were. I remember trying to buy friendship from a spoiled little classmate who didn’t flinch at how I had as a 9-year-old broken the bank to get him a cash gift. Like a little princess who receives so many gifts that she loses the value of material possessions – for life. But it all started with football.

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Later on I had another experience with sports and group dynamics. I left the first team and moved to the second team to avoid conflict. In hindsight I could have done – and I have learned to resolve the conflict rather than leave and start from scratch. The second team had new friends and that was appealing but I postponed my fear of performing under big game pressure. I was like Peyton Manning his first few times in the playoffs – and the fear was Bill Belichick. The fear was so strong – it was like it took the steroids that got Julian Edelman suspended. I later became so cool that I became nearly emotionless and for example excelled at written exams – becoming like Eli Manning in the clutch.

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Going through the fires with the first team would have strengthened the bonds with them. Also the first team players were my age and not a year younger. They were super-ambitious and disciplined. And they were using their talents constructively.

But no regrets whatsoever – sometimes you get lucky in taking the safe route and sometimes you crap out – like someone who avoided planes for 27 years and is part of the largest crash in airline history – on board a Boeing 747 Jet. When I decided to leave the Danish class – I got tied up to a bad crowd that it took me years to break free from, as if I too was chained – not like a slave but like 2 Chainz. On the other hand going to the second team in basketball led to one of the most cherished friendships in my life.

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I’ll always thank sports for that.

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