Monday, September 13, 2010

A Strange Game Down Under

Last fall I was able to spend 5 months living and studying in the Fremantle, Western Australia. On my return, most people when made aware of my semester abroad “Down Under” would ask me if I spent time in the outback, or ran into any kangaroos, or saw the Opera House in Sydney. The answer to all these question was thankfully yes; my time in Australia was a wonderful experience full of wonderful memories that will continue to shape my life. However, one experience that I had that is usually passed over when being questioned about my semester abroad is my encounter with the strange game of Australian Rules Football.
Footy as it is often referred to the by the locals, is a uniquely interesting game, especially to the outsider with absolutely no knowledge of the game. I once heard Australian Rules Football described as being a little like every sport we play in America, and unlike any sport we play or know. The ball looks something like a rugby ball, oddly shaped and large in comparison to a football. The field is a massive oval, resembling a cricket field. There are 18 players for each team trying to get the ball through the tallest set of goalposts at either end of the field (there are two sets of goalposts, two short and two tall on each side). Much to my confusion early on, in getting the ball down the field through the goalposts the ball can not be thrown; it must either be passed to a teammate by either kicking the ball, bouncing the ball, or by a sort of underhanded volleyball serve-pass. Players are allowed to tackle only anywhere between the shoulders and knees, making the game at first glance look a lot like rugby or football without pads.
My experience with footy began as merely an escape from the normal day of studying and school work. Whether it was playing a pick-up game in the park with classmates, or going to watch a game at the local footy club, Australian Rules Football was for me, an important athletic outlet during my time abroad. Growing up being a competitive tennis player, athletics and competition were an important part of my life. Much to my surprise and disappoint, I found opportunities to play tennis during my semester abroad relatively inaccessible in my situation; mainly because of the hefty court fees required. Thankfully though, footy stood in as an enjoyable substitute while I was abroad, speaking to the athlete inside me by giving myself and the other American students studying there a chance to get back on the athletic fields to compete and most importantly have a good time.
Ian Rangel
Social Foundations of Coaching
University of Notre Dame
Finance, Class of 2011