The culture of German Football, Sports and Hobbies.

Razorbacks vs. Wilddogs 3“Our goal for American football in Germany is that someday, tens of thousands will play and it will be a sport where people can take their families.” This quote from our head coach, Thomas Miller describes a major difference between the role of sports in Germany and America. For most Americans, football is a spectator sport. Few of the fans filling college and NFL stadiums ever wore pads, those who have, mostly hung them up as teenagers. In the US, football is successful because Americans watch it. In Germany success will be determined by the number of people who play.
US football is going in two opposite directions. Concussion fears has led to dropping participation while, at the same time, the sport has never enjoyed higher ratings and attendance, dominating all other sports and popular culture in North America.
Football will never approach this dominant position in German culture. But for Germans, sport is less entertainment and more a ‘hobby’. Hobbies are something I often hear discussed in Germany. First, I assumed the importance of this word in the German lexicon was just a translation fluke. But I’ve learned it has significance in how Germans approach leisure time. Germans have more free time than most Americans. Every week seems to hold a national holiday. Most Germans have an additional month off from their jobs (its two-weeks for most Americans.)  More important than the free time, is how its used.
“When we’re children, we’re expected to find a sporting hobby or take up a musical instrument. Most do a sport.” There is an amazing variety of physical and outdoor hobbies seen on nice days in Germany. Bicycles fill the many bike paths lining the highways. Mountain bikes, road bikes, older people on bikes with electric motors to help on the hills. Also on two-wheels are bike gymnastics and bikes/scooters/rollerblades & skateboards at the numerous skate parks in every town. Sharing the paths with the bikes are Nordic walkers (hiking with ski poles, usually done by late-middle aged women.) Groups of people jog together, ride motorcycles together and do stretches in public parks. By train tracks, plots are rented to hobbyist gardeners. Every town seems to have a public climbing wall, a skate park, a roller hockey rink, beach volleyball courts, clay tennis courts and a dog park with dog obstacles. The team sports; Soccer is everywhere but team handball, soccer on bikes, even American baseball can be found.
I recently asked a local how many he thinks regularly participate in some physical hobby in Germany. He estimated 80-90%, a number that fits what I see. Certainly exercise numbers in Germany are much higher than in the US. Except that so many smoke like chimneys and like their beer, Germans have very healthy lifestyles.
Where does football fit into the picture? Somewhere between soccer and basketball would be my guess. One of our linemen said football drew him because it was a hobby for big men; unusual in Germany, where big boys were often told that sports weren’t for them before football. I’m biased, but football has a lot to recommend it. No other sport has so many varied roles or demands such teamwork. No other sport demands as much collective discipline and organization, traits that fit the German character well. Several Germans told me they worry about physical toughness in German society, a necessary trait in football.
The goal of the German football community isn’t to rival soccer as a national passion, but to make football a viable option among many; an activity where men of all shapes and sizes can come together as a team and provide great entertainment for friends and families.

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2 thoughts on “The culture of German Football, Sports and Hobbies.

  1. Michael Adamczyk

    Hi,

    I’m a german football player :). I’ve read your article, because one of our coaches has shared it at facebook. If you wouldn’t mind, I would like to give you a reply.

    It’s really nice, that some people in the US recognize our efforts in this great game. But, I have to say there are a lot more attended sports than Football. Sure, most play soccer, but handball, volleyball, basketball, athletics, tennis and a lot more sports are more played than football. By the way, I have never heard of “soccer on bikes” 😀 no idea what that is.

    It’s really like that: a “hobby” is something what defines an individual. There is a phrase which says: “A hobby is to do something, that’s not really necessary, with the most effort.” I would say, that most germans put a lot of energy into their hobby.

    In football it’s all about participation. We rise or fall with our volunteers, which are players, coaches and supporters. Player train our youth, youth train our flaggies, it’s not working without them all.
    I’m watching right now TV, a sports news magazine. You will never hear something about football in german TV, except the super bowl. So, there’s just one chance to see that sport: get US TV or come to our games 🙂 And germans are like: “Hm, I like to watch this sport, why not try it?”

    We enjoy watching NFL or NCAA, but we really like to play it by ourselves! We are a few, but the community is growing 😉 It would be awesome to get more attention, we have some skills here too 😉

  2. Harrison, Bill

    Levy you have connections in the Leander school district ??

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