By Ellen Davis, Southwestern University Director of News and Media Relations
Heavy practice schedules often keep student-athletes from pursuing study-abroad opportunities.
But Joe Austin, head football coach at Southwestern University, and Erika Berroth, associate professor of German, have come up with a program that will enable members of the football team to travel abroad while at the same time keeping up with their practices.
The two plan to offer a study-abroad program in Germany just for football players over the May Term. About 30 members of the Pirates football team are expected to participate.
The trip will include visits to a variety of businesses and cultural sites as well as practices and a game with several different American semi-professional football teams in Germany.
Austin said Southwestern will be the first college football team in Texas to take advantage of the "Foreign Tour" provision in the NCAA rules that enables Division III athletes to compete abroad. There is no such provision for athletes who compete in Division I or Division II sports.
Austin has been a pioneer is developing programs that enable football players to study abroad. He developed his first such program when he was offensive coordinator at the University of Dubuque and did a similar trip for his players at Hanover College, where he served as head coach before coming to Southwestern.
Associate head football coach Tom Ross, who worked with Austin at Hanover College, will be joining the group for the trip in May. Ross used to coach the Stuttgart Scorpions, which is the team the Pirates will play while they are in Germany. They will have practice sessions with two other teams – the Munich Rangers and the Franken Knights.
Austin said he approached Berroth about developing a study-abroad program shortly after he came to Southwestern in the spring of 2012.
"Everyone kept telling me I should talk to Erika," Austin said. "She jumped in with both feet."
Berroth received a $7,000 grant from the Associated Colleges of the South to develop the academic component of the program. The course, which is called "Global Players: Leadership, Football and Intercultural Learning in Germany," will be cross-listed in both German and Business/Economics.
Berroth said some or all of the modules she is developing for the course may be able to be used by German professors at other liberal arts colleges.
"We have to be creative about collaborating and sharing resources since many liberal arts colleges only have one tenure-track faculty member in German," she said.
Laith Tucker, a first-year student who plans to major in business with a minor in economics, is among the players who have signed up for the trip.
"Although going on the trip was optional for us as players, I knew immediately it was something I wanted to be a part of," Tucker said. "I committed to going on the trip not only for the athletic reasons, but because of what I would be able to see and do in Germany that would provide invaluable experiences and perspectives and really provide a unique opportunity.
Tucker said he has been fascinated with history since he was a child, especially the time period surrounding World War II. He is one of two players on the trip who took Berroth's "Berlin Stories" course for their First-Year Seminar.
"Growing up, I would read books relating to the time period, watch movies and engage in discussions about the time period with my family, which also shares an interest in the time period," Tucker said. "I felt this would be a fantastic opportunity to get a firsthand glimpse of some of the historical sites I had read about, or seen in movies, as well as to immerse myself in the culture of the country. In doing this, I would be able to reflect upon my prior knowledge of how Germany was viewed during World War II and beyond and compare it to my own perceptions that I have formed throughout my education and from my FYS course."
Berroth and Austin are hopeful that they will be able to continue the program beyond this trip so that all members of the football team will have the opportunity to participate.