Sports and fitness recreational activities are all about the American way of life. To slim down, ex-out stress, and meet in the company of fellow sports enthusiasts for affable competition has long been an American ideology. This has ultimately led to fulfilling the ranks of international sports and recreation events with some of the greatest athletes in the world. Even at home the friendly three-on-three B-Ball contest in the neighborhood court, or tag football game in the town’s grassy main square for the sake of recreation and/or fitness and mental well-being has led to the evolution of and recruitment within the World’s top sports leagues in their respective fields such as the NBA and NFL. Of course, we Americans engage in a wealth of recreational activities requiring solidarity from land to sea and finally in the sky! The American lust for recreational activities that spawned newfangled types of challenging team sports the world over can be attributed in no small measure to our sense of adventure: to boldly push the limits of sports camaraderie and positive physical and mental welfare fueled by the end effect of sports and recreation participation. However, across our great land leisure sports and recreational events commence on the drop of a dime with a phone call from a friend to meet at the park for a quick soccer match. Teams meet, play and dissipate without any confirmed organization, only the understanding that players briefly assemble in sport for a common goal. If and when they meet again on the fields of competition is a good question; some would say, many Americans are nomadic sports enthusiasts with no real tie to a structured team.
This American longing for recreation and sense of adventure in such pursuits doesn’t just grind to a halt within our psyche once we leave the borders of this New World; naturally, it accompanies us to every corner of this blue and green globe. This is no exception for U.S. military personnel and civilians, and their families who are stationed in Germany. There are many sports activities established on U.S. military bases in Germany that satisfy the sportsmanship and the camaraderie that comes with them that we Americans crave. Outside the confines of bases’ gates, though, is a cornucopia of German team sports and recreational activities that mimics our own selection of such events. From soccer, ice hockey, sailing, kayaking, football to bowling, tennis and golf, Germany has it all - and then some - that our own great nation has to offer in respect to recreation and sports. In time, driven by their inherent longing for adventure and lust for more sports and recreational options, many Americans stationed overseas look beyond what their respective base can offer at the gyms and sports fields. More so this sense of adventure impels Americans to explore their host nation’s diverse sports and recreation arena. This of course is a major step towards not only maintaining peek physical and mental health, it’s also an optimal manner to groom community relations between the military community and their German neighbors. Since Americans and Germans view the effects and pleasure or recreation and sports in the same manner, this is a perfect neutral ground to meet and enhance each society’s positive ties to one another, as well as a way to get to know one’s host nation when just arriving in Germany. And what better way to pick up the German language than to participate in a sports event with one’s host neighbors wherein both parties share the same interests.
As mentioned early in the article, Americans can pretty much find whichever recreation or sports they left behind in the States here in Germany. However, the American sports and recreation mentality spoken of earlier as well in respect to being nomadic participators coming and going as one pleases, and never really certain if one sees – or cares to join - a respective quickly-assembled team again, is not as common in Germany. This is one of the only differences compared to many other locations in the English-speaking world: the extent of organization and levels of regimentation that epitomize Germany’s leisure sports and recreational activities. This outlook on sports organization is nothing like the U.S. or Canada, Australia or New Zealand because Germany thrives on its historic inclination towards organized activities. This partiality to regimentation is prevalent to Germans’ nature just as Americans and other New World nations as mentioned above often discount it for leisure athletic activities. When taking into account the fact that Germany is far more compact and so highly-populated for this small space as compared to the U.S., this regimentation may even be considered a good thing.
Taking part in amateur recreational and sports activities for leisure pursuits in Germany, for the most part, means that one becomes a member of a Verein (club) so they can take part with people having the same interests in such activities as water sports, football, baseball, basketball, soccer, gymnastics, golf, parasailing, ice and field hockey, fishing, bowling, sports shooting, and the list goes on. These Vereins can be found in most towns and cities, although they’re more populated in the larger of such communities.
In order to be a part of a Verein, one pays an annual fee and a one-time initiation fee after being recognized by a current member, and seconded by another. This initial initiation period is short and sweet with no intense testing or proving periods needed. Many clubs and associations undertake intense social schedules, regular and infrequent special meeting days and club events, which also demand attention and active participation by the membership. This type of Club membership, however, isn’t the case in regards to joining a fitness studio, gym, dance instruction, acting or singing lessons or the like.
The downside of a Verein for a fast-paced American leisure sports and recreation enthusiast is its extremely active membership that is part of the regimentation in respect to all the requirements active membership demands. The array of activities that Americans are accustomed to enjoying in a nomadic sense back in the States that are offered in Germany can be curtailed by Americans due to sheer lack of time, energy and money required for several of the Verein setups. In general, historic American membership in given Vereins illustrates Americans have time for one or two favorite leisure athletic activities since there is simply not enough time to attend practices and games, training sessions followed by occasional group meetings.
However, in defense of various Vereins, especially those that are based on American sports such as baseball as well as German soccer, there isn’t much thought given to the formality of meetings, events and concentrated drilling or planning typical of other types of Vereins. This makes enjoying one’s favorite sport while living abroad all the more accessible while soaking up the host nation culture, and meeting German contacts and friends. Vereins are everywhere and can be found through word of mouth or contacts through base sports facilities. A simple call or visit to the Verein will reward one with all the information they need to join it, and possible membership on the spot; now what could be more adventurous than that!