Competitions are serious business here in Mongolia. Teachers take off days, sometimes weeks, to compete in a plethora of competitions. Today, let’s talk about the sport variety.
For some reason, October seems to be packed with competitions. While I cannot discern if there is an official competition season (aside form the Olympic tests in March/April), the fall seems packed with them. The weather is great and there is fresh excitement and enthusiasm for the new academic year.
Most sports that are popular in Mongolia are represented, although two sports definitely reign supreme: Volleyball and Basketball.
We had a multi-aimag (state) competition in Erdenet last week, with representatives from 11 different aimags converging on our schools and sports complexes to compete. The opening ceremonies had the usual fanfare: coordinated dancing, national anthem, lots of photos to be taken. My school hosted the women’s volleyball competition, and it was quite the sight to see.
Most volunteers fear the competitive nature of Mongolians when it comes to these competitions. We are, more often than not, asked to participate. There is a stereotype that all Americans are great at sports, so they are eager to get the American on their team. Most, however, are left with a taste of disappointment in their mouths as they learn the horrible truth: Most of us are not athletic or aggressive enough for their teams. Filled with remorse, they usually bench the American and shake their heads. “What is the world coming to when an American cannot compete well in volleyball?” they ask themselves quietly.
I’ve never been asked because, thankfully, I don’t look athletic enough for them to have ever asked me to compete. I also think they don’t think of me as very competitive, based on my demeanor. I do get invited to watch them quite a bit, which is something I feel I am far better suited for. I appreciate my school’s perceptiveness on this front; it has saved everyone a lot of heartache.