15 Oct

Years ago while living in Belgium, I was invited by a French lady, a friend of a friend,  to an event at her house. The idea was to listen to French music, with French lyrics, try to guess or understand as much as you can, get some help if needed, discus the songs and meet new friends all in French. 

Let’s put this in perspective.  I had just recently moved to Brussels from Israel and

  1. I didn’t really know French; No real reason to say NO.

  2. I didn’t know anyone there and expected to feel very uncomfortable;  No real reason to say NO.

  3. I didn’t even like French music or know much about it; No real reason to say NO.

So I had to say YES.

Many years ago, I did what many of us did; I left my home country and embarked on an international adventure, moving from Israel to Belgium. This wasn’t my first international transition in life, and I was already a well defined adult. I knew it would be challenging so I decided to stick to the old rule of saying “YES” to every opportunity that was presented to me, unless I had a very good reason to say NO. It meant that, stepping out of my comfort zone, or having no experience in something, does not count as a legitimate reason to say NO.  I had to say YES. That was the deal, with myself obviously. 

Getting back to the French music party: I entered the room full of unfamiliar faces, sat down in the only available place and tried as hard as I could not to be noticed.  You must understand, the conversations were only in French or English none of these languages are my first or second language, so I thought, you better go unnoticed.

The activity started and I tried as hard as I could to concentrate and identify some familiar words so at least I could know the context. My brain was working overtime, this was after a long day of getting lost in an unknown city, being late everywhere and ending up buying the wrong ingredients to whatever I was cooking, as everything is so different when you are in a new environment. 

As I am trying to make sense of what I am hearing suddenly the lady beside me whispers 

“Do you play basketball?”

I said in my best French: Qui?She answered, with an accent I could not at the time recognize, all I knew it was not American, said again: “ Do you play basketball?…..It took me a few seconds to understand and believe what my brain was telling me:  she is speaking in English; she doesn’t give a damn what the song is saying; she is probably about to invite you to play basketball.

Following the same golden rule I said: YES!  A few minutes later when we walked outside I realized I just said YES to a very tall athletic lady (almost two meters tall), knowing that the last time I played basketball was probably 20 years earlier. Very intimidating.  Yes, being new, and out of your comfort zone can get you in trouble.

The only information I knew was where to be and when.  Once again, I didn’t know anyone, couldn’t remember the lady’s name, not even her nationality… nothing. I felt so lost I couldn’t think of what to wear: shorts or leggings? I was happy to be saved by anything, a crying child, work, but I wasn’t. I went.

For the first time after many years I was assigned to a team only by looking at my height, and the game started. I was like this little kid running on the court praying silently: “please don’t pass me the ball”. Well I don’t really remember how I did, probably nothing to write home about. What I do know is that in the years I played with these ladies, my basketball skills may not have improved dramatically but my social life did.

My GNW  Co-Founder, Lisa Travella Murawsky once gave a talk at the FIGT (Families in Global Transitions) conference about transitioning, entitled: “Finding your Tribe through Sport;” explaining that sport is a wonderfully soft way to find a community for each member of the family, including adults, in times of transitions.  And I did just that!

You see, these ladies became my community, my best friends and friends for life. We brought to that court our most authentic self, we laughed hard, we sweat, we cursed, we cared about each other and we created a secure space where we could be us, not our professions, not our roles as moms or students, not wives; just pure simple us.

I will be grateful forever to my Aussie friend Kat for including me. This experience shaped not only my life in Brussels but my professional life. Lisa Murawsky and I own a company today that among other things is very involved in sport for development, but this is for another story.

Look for a team sport wherever you land

Following the YES rule, here is the next golden rule in transitions: "Look for a team sport wherever you land!” I found the Catchball league in my transition to Boston.  Again the same drill, some hesitation, followed by fun and a strong sense of community and belonging. My Catchball team is my community here and I can’t be happier.

I tend to say about myself that I am not a sporty person, I am a social sporty person. The social emotional benefit you can gain through team sports in hard to measure but it can change your whole experience especially if you are in global transition.

So if there is something I would encourage you take away with you from this story are these two golden rules:

1. The rule of saying YES to every new experience.

2. Wherever life takes you make sure to look for a community through sport.

So, go out, spread the word, invite new friends to join us and if they need encouragement to give them the gift of the two golden rules.

Wishing you a great sport season wherever you are!

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