On the weekend of August 25, over 500 hundreds of athletes, volunteers, and spectators from across the Northeast came together to compete in the 2018 Northeast Regional Sports Tournament, held at University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. This was the first ever two-day tournament held for the Northeast region, providing more opportunities for all involved. Most athletes competed in multiple sports over both days with hundreds of families and friends who joined as spectators to show their support for each other and come together as one Jamat.

This year the tournament brought together 317 athletes, 61 of whom were junior athletes, 21 of whom were children under the age of 10, and participated in a professionally-coached soccer clinic on the first day of the tournament. This year, with the addition of women’s throwball, ultimate frisbee, carrom, and soccer, there was even more for athletes to participate in at the tournament.

Women’s throwball led to record female participation at this year’s tournament as the new sport saw increased dedication, competitiveness, and camaraderie among female athletes. While a majority of the women on the throwball teams had never participated in a regional sports tournament before, the novelty was not an issue. The NY Smashers throwball team, for example, met daily for 4 weeks at 6:30 a.m. to learn and practice leading up to the tournament.

The addition of so many new athletes this year did not go unnoticed. Sahir Karani from New York City competed as an athlete but so did his younger brother and mother, while his father joined to support and cheer on the entire family. Reflecting on the tournament, Sahir said, “I’ve been to many Northeast Regional Sports Tournaments before, but I think now with the addition of throwball it’s definitely more of a family event. Usually, it was just the youth coming, playing and spectating but now you have the whole family participating and it was a great 2-day event!”

For the Richmond Volleyball team, the experience of the tournament was heightened by traveling together and enjoying the beautiful facilities. Athlete Fahim Janmir said that the tournament was a good idea because “it gives you enough time to relax, get ready, and enjoy the area.” Faheem also stated his hope for more volleyball teams in the future to add to the competition and fun of the tournament.  

For attendees, this weekend offered more than just sports. On Sunday, parents and high school students had the chance to participate in a tour and information session at the University of Pennsylvania. This tour gave prospective students and their parents a chance to see an Ivy-league campus and learn more about student life and college admissions. Some of the other activities for spectators throughout the weekend included a yoga session and a card-making activity with I-CERV (Ismaili Community Engaged in Responsible Volunteering).

With such experiences, this year’s tournament was about more than sports and brought out regional unity on multiple fronts. This message was emphasized at the evening celebration on Saturday, where approximately 500 athletes, volunteers, and spectators from across the region came together to celebrate. The celebration was also attended by Philadelphia City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, who welcomed the Ismaili community to Philadelphia in her remarks and awarded medals to athletes who had won on the first day of the tournament. The evening culminated with dinner and dancing, bringing together athletes, volunteers, and spectators.

This year’s Northeast Regional Sports Tournament was a unique and special experience for all, which was highlighted by first-time athlete Reza Ali from Philadelphia, who shared: “I enjoyed the competitive nature, while still understanding we are all brothers and sisters in the end. The Regional Sports Tournament will be a focal point of the Northeast Jamat if it keeps on going like this.”