Growing with the game
The American International School Muscat (TAISM) recently took part in the South Asia Inter-School Association 2017 (SAISA) which saw the participation of around 300 children from nine schools (Bangladesh, India, Jordan, Nepal, Oman, Pakistan and Sri Lanka).
Nearly 30 children from TAISM participated in various events, excelling in different sports. Three records were set by TAISM students - 800m and 1,500m in the boys 10-12 years category by Liam. Aliya set a record in high jump. She cleared 1.55m, which is also a national record for Oman.
Returning back from the competition, members of the girls’ football team, boys’ basketball team and the track and field team along with the coaches sat down to share their experience.
Nabaa and Arielle from the girls’ football team, went to Mumbai, India to participate in the games. For them, competing with participants from other cultures was an elevated experience. “It’s very diverse with the kind of people you play against and it is always great to go for the SAISA competition because you meet and make new friends,” said Arielle. For Nabaa, being in Mumbai city was an added advantage as “you can go out sightseeing after the tournament”.
“It’s an experience you can’t think of getting elsewhere. You stay with host families and you get to make friends from every culture,” said Nabaa. Students from TAISM have been a part of the SAISA competitions for five years now. “It is a great experience for the kids because they are not just meeting other international students but they are also experiencing the different cultures of the countries they visit and compete with,” said the girls’ football coach Scott Brink.
The basketball team from TAISM went to Kathmandu. For the boys, Jack, David and Mohamed, the trip was about building relationships with students from other teams and “seeing how others played the game”.
“Travelling and meeting people from different cultures, has helped me understand the world better in a way,” said Jack, who had visited Kathmandu the previous year also to participate in the games. Their coach, Nick Wood, feels that such experiences shape youngsters as good sportsmen and global citizens. “It’s a rewarding experience,” says Wood as he feels such international platforms are all about “celebrating diversity”.
“There are a hundred different nationalities that participate over there and you share a common bond of sport. We all have our cultural differences but we are all there playing a sport we love.”
The track and field team that came back from Sri Lanka had similar experiences. Vansh who has participated in SAISA competitions for many years now, says that over the years he has bonded with students from different schools.
Aliya, who participated for the first time adds, “everybody was welcoming and friendly”. They found the hospitality of the host country and the supportive spirit of the competitors extremely helpful. “I found it surprising how supportive the teams are towards each other even though we’ve never met before,” says Isabelle from the track and field team.
Luther Rauk, Athletics and Activities Director at TAISM feels that these kind of interactions that the students have with athletes from other countries, helps them grow as sportspersons. It teaches youngsters how to foster healthy relations with competing teams. It also shapes them up to be more accepting and to respect people who are different from them. This, in turn, helps them gain a deeper understanding of other cultures.
“Different countries have different methods of playing. As soon as the game is over the children are all shaking hands and are all friends, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t compete against each other,” points out coach Brink.