Before I left for my 3rd season overseas this year, I made consistent trips to Colorado to go skiing with a couple of friends who I also consider family. We made the decision to get season passes to take advantage of our love for the mountains and companionship that only a group of childhood friends can share. There is nothing like flying down the mountain with your best friends strategically planning your next cut with an endless view of the Rocky Mountains in the back drop. You have all the speed you can handle, as much difficulty as you want, and practically an endless playground to explore... (Sometimes when talking about the mountains I get lost in the moment succumbed by tunnel vision, my favorite music playing in my ears, and I feel the adrenaline rush as if I'm flying down the Frenchman.)
We did this at least 1-2 times a month for a 3 month spurt to ensure we made the most of our season passes. After our final trip to the mountains and nearing my departure over the pond, the sense of this ski season coming to an end was very evident. One of my friends asked me, "Shane, what are you going to gain from going overseas for another year?"
My first thought was the possibility of ending my career on a high note joining a club with NFL caliber players, a club with tradition, a large roster, and a proven Head Coach; all things of which I had not had the opportunity to experience yet in my professional career. I struggled to answer his question the way I wanted in a swift manner as I stumbled through thoughts of success, desires, love, pride, a willingness to not quit, and lastly a desire to endure once more.
After I blurted out a couple things we kind of sat there for a few more minutes and he said, "So, how much are they paying you this year?" Not flinching for a second to ask because of our open door policy when it comes to honesty between best friends, his girlfriend commented that he shouldn't ask such a question so nonchalantly. I told her it was fine and explained this aspect of European American Football Leagues in my own words...
I don't get paid a lot, but at the same time I don't have to pay for anything.
We get a house with electricity, water, cable, and wifi completely covered.
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner.
(For general European contract numbers check out this link:)
Everything in the city is within walking distance, and if you've spent ANY time in Europe you learn very quickly what "walking distance" really means. If the destination is within 20 minutes of walking, it's not worth calling a cab. (This is also my foggy American portrayal, for some Europeans an hour is within reasonable distance...)
Some clubs do provide a small car for player transportation depending on the city's structure and location of the accommodation given to the players. Some clubs also provide public transportation passes for brisk rides to and from random checkpoints around the city. I've also experienced this and it can be "interesting" trying to decipher a map you've never seen, in a language you don't understand, while everyone on the bus is staring and smiling at you because of the entertainment you're supplying them.
The things I listed are the tangible, standard contract clauses. The intangibles simply put are, priceless: imagine a vacation you get to go on where you get paid to do whatever it is you love the most in life, you have enough time to make friends that will last a lifetime, and when you come back home you're better than when you left because the whole time you were gone you were sharpening your craft; becoming a better human being, becoming a better friend, a better leader, and have a better understanding of who you really are on the inside. I'm not saying that you can only learn these things when you leave "home" but, when you leave your comfort zone it forces you to land running or fall onto your face. The more extreme the differences, the more we can cherish any scenario and learn to find the light in what seems like an endless amount of darkness.
E.G. You could move from Nebraska to China. Your house is gone, you have a room and only a room, all the food is nothing you've ever eaten, you can't speak the language, and all of your friends are gone, your family too. When you turn on the TV to relax you don't understand a thing, when you go in public you think people are talking about you but you don't know for sure, and when you see somebody that looks friendly you're afraid to reach out. You can adapt and find happiness that you have a TV at all, you should be happy that there are places in public that are pleasant to be in, and eventually you will find the nerve to try and talk to that friendly looking person. The other option is to curl up into a ball and cry yourself to sleep in misery every night mad at the world because what you knew before is no longer your reality.
When my contract is finished and I leave to go back to the US, I feel like the richest person on Earth. I always leave with a full heart, a brain that has learned more than it can fit, a body that is broken down by a long season yet strong because of the struggle it has endured, and a full pocket. Like I said before, probably the best part of the tangible contract is the fact that I don't have to pay for anything so my whole salary goes into savings.
Of course you can always find things worth spending your savings on depending on what you value in life, for me, I value experience. One benefit that you can take advantage of is living near so many vacation destinations. I have been to England, France, Netherlands, Greece, Montenegro, Serbia, Bulgaria, Italy, Belgium, Austria, and Hungary (as of this weekend). Travel is cheaper than you could ever imagine from an American standpoint. Last year I went on a 5 day vacation to the seaside town of Budva, Montenegro for the price of 150 dollars, that included transportation to and from and a condo for 5 nights. It was one of the best vacations I've ever had the chance to go on and I have so many priceless memories from that short 5 days that I will never forget.
I have family here, I have memories here, I have loved here, I have lost here, but most of all I have learned here.
So when people ask me, "What are they paying you?" I think I will start answering with, "Everything."
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