FC Bayern Munich big man Gavin Schilling's childhood helped prepare him for a career as a EuroLeague player long before he ever fell in love with the game. By the time Schilling turned 10 years of age, he had lived in three different countries and spoke three languages fluently.
Born in Munich, Schilling spent most of his early childhood in Strasbourg, France, before moving with his mother to Chicago, USA, when he was 8. He then attended a French-speaking school in Chicago and spent a year of high school at a basketball academy in Germany. Even today, his ties to the three countries he has lived in remain strong, though his connections to Germany and the United States are strongest.
"I really have two homes. Like Chicago is my American home and then here, I have my dad living in Germany, he lives in Augsburg, it’s like 15 minutes away from Munich,” Schilling said. “I am fluent in all three languages. I feel most comfortable speaking English. After that would be German and after that French.”
“Being multicultural, you get to see different things and to compare different cultures with one another. I’m grateful to be able to see that."
Looking back, Schilling has fond memories of his time in France and also appreciates what the move to Chicago gave him.
“I made a lot of friends back then. It was cool having the German and French culture at the same time because we were living right on the border. So it was cool going up like that with all three languages at the same time and it was a big adjustment moving to Chicago when I was 8 years old, moving back to my mom's side of the family because her family was from Chicago. That’s why we went back. It was a big adjustment, but I'm glad it happened because being multicultural, you get to see different things and to compare different cultures with one another. I’m grateful to be able to see that."
Little did he know then, but the ability to move to new places, make new friends and understand different mentalities would aid Schilling in his future as a basketball player, which has seen him call four different cities home in the last five years. After finishing his college career in 2018, he spent two seasons with ratiopharm Ulm and another with Basketball Lowen Braunschweig before joining Bayern over the summer.
“The hardest part was just getting adjusted to new environments, new people, new mindsets. But that's something I got used to. Getting adjusted to a new place is something that I look forward to now. I'm kind of used to doing it, it's easy for me now,” Schilling explained. “The biggest benefit is meeting new people and seeing different sides of different cultures and seeing the way people operate, the way people think and just listening to people’s sides of stories, their upbringings. It’s kind of interesting to see that and hear that. I feel that brings you further as a person."
Naturally, being a gifted athlete helped the young Schilling fit in wherever he landed and he tried his hand at many different sports before deciding to focus on basketball.
“Sports have always been a part of my life,” he said. “I grew up playing baseball, soccer, [American] football, basketball of course. I tried all of them out and up until my freshman year of high school, I played football and basketball and after that, I just stopped playing football and stuck to basketball.”
Interestingly, one sport he never got a chance to play competitively was handball. His father, Andreas Schilling, was a professional handball player and his best friend and Gavin's godfather was on Germany's silver-medal winning team at the 1984 Olympic Games.
“The only time I ever played handball was in gym class, P.E. I was never on a team or anything like that,” Gavin explained. “If I had grown up in Germany, it would have probably been a different story."
As a basketball player in Germany, Schilling's ability to speak multiple languages has helped him become a unifying social presence in the locker room.
“If they want to say something and not have me understand it, I'm still going to understand it. So that’s pretty cool.”
“You got the German guys speaking German with each other and the Americans speaking English with each other. I can hang out and relate to both groups. I’m kind of like the middle man,” Schilling added. “I enjoy it. If they want to say something and not have me understand it, I'm still going to understand it. So that’s pretty cool.”
Being back in the city where he was born, Schilling has found his connection to Munich expanding in different ways.
“I like it a lot. Munich is the biggest city I've played in so far And I can definitely see myself being here… I enjoy bigger cities in general. Chicago is a big city. I like big cities because they have more opportunities, more things to do, more things to see. That's just my kind of vibe,” he said. “Munich has a real lot of castles out here. You don't have that Chicago. You can travel an hour away and there are beautiful sightseeing mountains and things of that sort. Even the way the buildings are set up here.”