Perception Is Not Reality

Team USA in Dresden, Germany

Editor’s Message – By Tricia Cable

My seventeen-year-old traveled abroad recently.  It wasn’t her first time outside of the country, she has had the privilege, through her sport, of traveling quite extensively throughout the United States and overseas.  Having been to Communist countries previously (Russia and China), this trip across the pond took her to Dresden, Germany.

The athletes traveling on behalf of the United States, although focused on the competition, often times get the opportunity to tour the host cities and play tourist for a least a little while during their trips.  Dresden is a beautiful city and the history and the architecture was not lost on this group of young Americans during their stay.

As you can imagine on an international stage, there is pressure to perform and represent your country the best that you possibly can.  That can be said for my child as well as every other athlete during competition.  The same can be said outside of competition as well.  They tend to be on their very best behavior; throw in a little cultural diversity and a language barrier and you typically have a pretty buttoned up, “toe the line” group of travelers.

That is, until the competition is over and on the final evening before everyone travels to their respective homelands.  You see, there is a farewell celebration post-competition.  So you have eight athletes from 22 countries ranging in age from 14-18 converging on the dance floor of the host hotel with the sole purpose of letting off a little steam…who wants to chaperone that?

Oh, what I would have given to have been a fly on the wall that evening.  This has to be international relations at its best.  Our world leaders may have something to learn from a group of kids with different backgrounds, interests, and beliefs, all coming together for a moment in time to simply have fun and dance.

This evening is where my daughter learned that perception is not reality.  She watched young adults who had nothing to say to each other earlier in the week- and from two different countries with opposing world views I might add- laugh, dance, and cheer one another on.  No longer confined by the team gear that identified them as either an American or a Russian or a Brit, they were free to be just another human sharing the planet and enjoying a little moment in time.

She had perceived some to be rude or standoffish, when in actuality, they were just shy or required not to engage with anyone other than their teammates.  She met boy from Great Britain who will be attending the University of Tennessee in the fall.  She got to know a boy from Spain who was incredibly funny and also came to her defense when a boy from a country that I will not name, got too “handsie” on the dance floor.  And she shared a room with her own female teammates who live on the west coast that she has literally competed with for more than six years and had never, prior to this trip, really had a conversation.

Communication, and apparently dancing, is key to breaking down perceptions and finding our way to reality.

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