Professor Tobias Barske normally teaches German, but decided to create a First Year Seminar class where students examine the cultural differences between Germany’s favorite sport and football.
FYS Football vs. Soccer explores the impact of sports on culture and American attitudes toward both sports.
Barske is a native German and had the experience of confronting football as an outsider.
“When I came to the U.S., I sort of got curious about this whole football business,” Barske said.
Barske grew up watching soccer because his friends and family enjoyed it. He compared his own gravitation toward the sport to what Americans experience with football.
“I ask students if they can pinpoint when they became Packers fans,” Barske said. “By the same token, I cannot really say when I became a soccer fan.”
The coursework for the class includes examining soccer rivalries, film viewings and playing both sports outside.
A discussion about Americans’ tendency to perceive soccer as a sport that lacks athletic ability is at the core of this class. The idea for a lesson came when Barske’s course description got some negative feedback from faculty. The description targets the idea that American media represents soccer in the United States as a sport without a hero.
“It’s probably one of the favorite lessons,” Barske said.
Barske said when examining soccer and football rivalries, there are big differences. Rivalries between soccer teams tend to be stronger and more meaningful than the ones between football teams.
Barske used the example of two Spanish soccer teams, Barcelona and Real Madrid, to contrast the rivalry between the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears.
“It has strong historical roots,” Barske said. “There are elements to why people embrace those rivalries that do not exist in the U.S.”
An objective of all FYS classes is to help first year students’ transition into the university setting. Barske leads students on short field trips to areas of campus they may not know much about.
Another activity involves students making posters for their fantasy university. Barske said it makes students think about their options for success in school and careers.
Barske enjoys teaching the FYS class because his upper level German classes limit the types of students he works with. Barske said student athletes are drawn to his class and he learns from them.
“I do not really have the chance to interact with incoming freshmen as much,” Barske said. “I learn more about why students come here.”
Naif Ali is an international student from the Middle East who is taking the class. He said the course is one of his favorites because they discuss the history and rules of football. Ali also enjoyed having the chance to play football because he had not played before.
“I’m familiar with soccer, so since I came to the U.S. to study, I wanted to know about football and expand my athletic knowledge,” Ali said.
Ali said the class helped him become more acquainted with college because they have read articles, taken notes and had different styles