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I must start out with the disclaimer that those who know me would more than likely pin my personality as mildly competitive. Okay, so that’s likely an understatement, but you get the gist—I hate losing. Whether it be ping pong against my little brother in the confines of our living room, or a NCAA conference match against a top 20 competitor, I have this insatiable desire to win.

Little did I know that as I stepped off the plane at Ho Chi Mihn City I would soon face my strongest opponent yet: the mighty and unwavering Language Barrier.

I honestly came into this trip with a clearly misconceived notion that the inability to speak another’s language was not a huge deal. Rest assured, I quickly came to the understanding that I had underestimated the power of the Language Barrier. Not only did it briskly knock me down as I attempted to tell the students my name (clearly to no avail as was evident by the tilted heads and confused faces), but it then threw a good old one-two punch when the class realized my inability to communicate and proceeded to go about their socializing as if I, the teacher, were not even present. Luckily I was able to tap in my Vietnamese teaching comrade who quickly got things back under control.

Current score: Language Barrier-1 Madison-0

After a brief rest period the next round began and, although the Language Barrier may have thrown me for a loop, I was ready to get back out there and give it another go, confident my comeback would transpire in Round Two: Soccer.

“Sports are universal. The motions and movements transcend land and language. As does, the love of the game.”

Luckily for me, the students were not only crazy eager to learn, but truly seemed to adore the sport of soccer. This is where I finally found my footing. Sports are universal. The motions and movements transcend land and language. As does, the love of the game. With this, I once again entered the ring, knowing full well that I not only had the ammo I needed to win this round, but I could slowly and surely dodge the punches the Language Barrier threw along the way.

And that is all thanks to the beauty of sport.

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