I want to start an ongoing conversation about the differences between sporting and fitness lifestyle mentalities in the UK and US.
Despite the fact that our two countries share a ‘Special Relationship’ politically, we both know that we could not have more differences. With a similar theme in my previous article, Men in Group Gym Classes, let me start by trying to explain how we view sport in the UK.
If we are going to look at fitness and wellbeing, particularly in this country, then it is important to start here and look at our general mentality towards sport as a whole.
Being “fit” in the UK
We are an old country with thousands and thousands of years of history.
And we are proud of this history and our culture. We have the pageantry through our Royal Family (although the US has quite a vested interest in that now too). We like tea (which we found in China but made English and drink with milk), we had an Empire, which is not a very popular thing to have had nowadays, and we have our accents.
In between this, we also did invent many sports. Soccer, rugby, tennis, downhill skiing, cricket (the one played over 5 days, after which you can still draw) among others are just some examples. And, having done this, we then exported these sports all over the world to countries who became much better at them than us. But I think there is a reason for this.
Sport is of course important in the UK
We love our soccer, and have just as many sport fanatics for that as any other country, but in a general sense, sport has never been our primary concern. This is definitely true in schools, firstly for the fact that we are not a big country (the whole of the UK is slightly smaller than the state of Michigan) and many schools don’t have land for sports fields, and the schools that do have land want their students to focus more on academic studies.
High school sport in the US blows me away, and also makes me very very jealous. I read an article the other day that said the Prattville Lions High School football team in Alabama averaged a crowd of 2,120 paying attendees per game. Paying??! It would never happen in the UK at high school level. In Kentucky, the annual football game between Trinity and St Xavier has 38,000 people tailgating; these are numbers that we simply couldn’t imagine here. That’s because the average attendance for a Premier League soccer game in the UK is 38,297.
Rising to Greatness in the US
In the US, the mentality towards sport is totally reversed. My understanding of it (and please let me know if I am wrong) is the factor of the American Dream. In the US, people are brought up believing that they can change their lives and rise to greatness, which is certainly a very admirable way to live. In the UK, we are far more negative and pessimistic. We don’t like people to succeed, and when they do, we put them down. This creates a culture of fear where people are afraid to make money, afraid to be sportspeople, afraid to succeed in their lives. Mostly this is also down to the fact that the UK has a very defined class system which formulates a lot of the thought process and stereotypes that are associated with it.
This mentality runs all the way through society and extends to sport and fitness lifestyles, and next month I’m going to explore this more and show you the reality of how we exercise and look after our wellbeing here in the UK, and the ways in which we are changing as a result of influences from the US.