“Having team members from different Jamatkhanas and ages allowed me to learn from and interact with people that I usually wouldn’t,” said Arisha Keshwani, an athlete playing co-ed volleyball for the first time. This year’s tournament was especially unique for the diversity among the athletes, who ranged in age from 7 to 65, and experienced or novice. Similar to last year’s format, volleyball was offered as individual registrations so athletes of all skill levels and age groups could play together.

Badminton, basketball, chess, table tennis, throwball, and volleyball were a part of the tournament, featuring 300 participants at the Libertyville Sports Complex in Libertyville, Illinois. Organized by the Aga Khan Youth and Sports Board for Midwestern US, this was a tournament to qualify for the National Sports Tournament and had record participation, competitive and exciting events, and incredible support from volunteers.

While there were many successes from this year’s tournament, there was one common theme throughout the tournament—unity. Sara Ali, a badminton athlete, explains, “It was great to see athletes motivate each other and the supportive atmosphere it created in the community.”

Farhanaz Jiwani, a throwball athlete from Kansas City also highlighted this theme of unity by describing the invaluable support she received from another throwball team and coach while preparing for the tournament. She explains, "The coach from another team came all the way to Kansas City to train us and show us techniques. That was very motivating and humbling to see.”

The unity was on full display at the tournament, and the words of wisdom from the older athletes to the younger ones were well received. In fact, at the end of a tough loss for one of the basketball games, the two teams huddled in the middle of the court as the less experienced team members were consoled for their loss and told to keep their heads high. Sahil Lakhani, an athlete from the experienced team, commented, “You know we’re all here to have fun and to learn. It wasn’t too long ago when I was in their shoes, losing many games and feeling discouraged. It was the older players’ advice and consolation, however, that kept me determined to improve my game and come back stronger every year. Those boys will be back stronger next year, I know it.”

The tournament ended with the closing ceremonies as all Jamats, athletes, and volunteers were commended for their great sportsmanship and support. At the end of the event, AKYSB Honorary Secretary, Amyna Visram, highlighted the importance of participation and support in the tournament, stating “This tournament allows for all the Jamats to come and celebrate together. After today we are no longer Chicago, Detroit, Glenview, Kansas, Lansing, Milwaukee, Minneapolis or Naperville Jamatkhana—we are now representing the Midwest Jamat. I also want to congratulate all athletes for making a statement as we saw increased young, old, and female participation. This tournament was a success, and it was a success because of you.”

The athletes showed their skills and engaged in friendly competition, while the Midwest Volunteer Resource Management team provided outstanding logistical support for this tournament. The Midwest Jamat now looks forward to the National Sports Tournament and will be there to support its athletes.