Our season started last weekend with the Duckworth Winter Classic Tournament. The Duckworth Family are a wonderful couple who have supported Clemson Athletics for years. This relates to what I explained in my last blog post about the ‘Clemson Family’ and how important giving back is in the American culture. Still, my main family here in Clemson is my team.
Our team is such a crazy group of people who are from all over the world and who love each other so much. Indonesians, Italians, Lithuanians, Bolivians, Taiwanese, Americans, and Germans make up this team. We are all so different, but something brings us all together, the love of tennis, and the desire, to win, fight, work hard, laugh, and cry together in wonderful and tough times. I never thought I would call these girls my teammates, friends, and family. It is incredible how college tennis brought us all together and how close we are with each other. It amazes me every day.
“The beauty of the world lies in the diversity of people,” or like my coach would say “diversity is the spice of life.” We are all so different, not only coming from different backgrounds and cultures, but also within a culture, people can be very different from each other. I think college sports demands a lot of athletes, not only that they have to deal with the pressure of showing success on and off the court, but also that they are put together with people they did not know before, and with a culture they may have never been in contact with before entering college. I, for example, did not know anyone from Asia before I came to the U.S. I barely knew any Americans, or eastern Europeans. How should you communicate with each other? How should you behave?
In my freshman year I was in many situations with my teammates where there were misunderstandings, language barriers, and yes the pronunciation of words, and how we say things. As a German, I generally speak my mind and did not think about how others would perceive it. At home it all was fine and everyone understood this ‘bluntness’, because that is just the way we behave towards each other. But other cultures put a lot of emphasis on how you say things and what it means to them. I have seen a lot of anger and tears because of the things I have said to people in the past. Often, people took things I have said personally, without it being meant that way. This happened over and over, until I got to know other cultures better and they got to know mine.
With time you learn, regardless of what it is; everything can be learned, taught, and explained. During my collegiate career, one of the main things I have experienced is how to communicate with people from all over the world. It was really not always easy, but now I am a better communicator. I understand cultural views and behaviors, and I accept every person for what they are. I expect the same openness from others, and hope they accept me for who I am. I might be crazy and weird, but my teammates accept me for who I am and what I do, as I do with them. That is why we are a family, and why I feel so blessed to have people around me I can count on and who are there for me, when my real family is far away.