There are 40 seconds left in this heart-racing match. The volunteers have stopped in their tracks as they feel the excitement coming from the court. The spectators are all on their feet, words of encouragement being screamed from the stands. One team is up by only 4 points. It still be could anyone’s game. My heart fell to my stomach as I saw my younger brother dribble the ball to the end of the court, keeping the ball away from the opposing team. The clock struck zero as the underdogs took the win.
This one match stuck with me as I realized sports does more than just provide a healthy lifestyle. It brings people together. The Regional Sports Tournament (RST) brought together athletes, volunteers and spectators from all over the Northeast region.
From table tennis, volleyball and badminton, to basketball, flag football, tennis and chess, there were a multitude of events for everyone to enjoy. Shakil Japanwala and Iqbal Moludeen are two table champions from Edison, New Jersey. They have been coming to RST for eight years. Shakil said that not much changed in this time, but the participation has grown tremendously. Shakil and Iqbal have left a legacy as they have held the number one and two spots in table tennis for six years.
This dynamic duo comes back every year to bring back the metal for Edison and to play against other amazing players in other Jamats. Shakil’s eight-year daughter also came to RST this to cheer along her dad and create her own personal legacy. The pride and passion coming from these two players was undeniably strong as they will come back year after year doing something they truly love.
Shakeel Panjwani, one of the youth basketball coaches and a flag football player, shared his experience about his years at RST. When he was younger, he didn’t have the same opportunities to play sports with the rest of the region. He also didn’t have the opportunity to serve the Jamat in the capacity he can now. Regional Sports Tournaments has given him the platform to express both of these passions. Being one of the youth basketball coaches, Shakeel had the chance to encourage the team and give them pointers. The youth athletes got a sense of reassurance as they knew one of their role models was looking out for them. His main words of advice to all the future RST and athletes and volunteers is to “Just work hard and be yourself”.
A group of girls ages 9-12, couldn’t hold in their excitement as they were sitting at the edge of the basketball course. I asked them what RST meant to them. Responses included, “It’s a time for everyone to come together; to cheer on our Jamat; to meet our diverse community.” These girls could not wipe the smile off their faces as they watched their favorite teams on the court. Saniya, one the DC Dragons, expressed such love for basketball. She said all the boys treated her equally because they were all there for a common goal: to have fun and win for their Jamat.
Looking around at the Spooky Nook area, the DC Dragons were wearing orange, New York was wearing black and white, Edison was wearing white and Richmond was wearing blue. But that day, we were more than just our Jamats. We were a community coming together to play sports and meet Jamati members from across the Northeast. We were a community that came together to promote a healthy lifestyle. We were a community who congratulated each other for every win. We ARE a community who will keep this tradition alive for the future generation.