Who doesn’t love sports?
Well, I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t. You see, I hadn’t been consistently playing sports for over five years already, and I sorta hated it because I sucked at it and didn’t get proper classes for the sports I was able to try in the past – like golf, ice skating, and futsal.
I never loved it – not until I attended TMA HIGH Unite’s Sports Fest. It’s a one-day sporting event for our awesome and homeschooled high school community to get together, work in teams, and compete in sports! I had the opportunity to attend it last November 2015.
I also fall under the category of the homeschooled kids who only see their classmates at least three times a year (since I’m based in Kathmandu, Nepal). Though I was used to being with people older than me, it was something I was really looking forward to – unlike sports.
I was mostly counting on learning how to be a teenager again, and working with my classmates as a team, so I just planned to wing it while playing the actual sports.
At 8:30AM, I excitedly arrived at our sunlit classroom hall to see new and old faces, and was welcomed by some volunteers, who were all my fellow students.
My old friend, Sam, approached me before I entered the room, handed me a blank nametag and marker, and asked, “Can I have your autograph?” But as I chuckled and wrote my name down, he changed his mind and said, “Just go and keep it. Thanks!” Oh, well, Sam never fails to impress with his sparkling wit.
Other homeschooler talents shone through as an all-highschooler music team – including two guitars and a kahon – came to the front, and led the whole classroom to sing youthful and heartfelt praise and worship songs. After, we had a quick devotional talk.
We then dove straight into dancing to Uptown Funk; the first warm-up exercise led by Anton (another good ol’ friend), and Dione – who are members of a dance crew called the Iron Saints.
After, we followed them in the most difficult workouts I’ve ever went through (and yet Anton told me that they were only ¼ of the amount of workouts his crew had to do)!
It was a good challenge, but my lack of constant exercise paid its toll. So, I ended up feeling spent – my legs felt like jelly and I had a headache that made me want to throw up – and felt no will in my body to continue. I missed out on the second half – which included important stretching exercises – by taking a break in the girl’s restroom.
I returned as they were calling up the members of the four opposing teams: Green Lions, Purple Wolves, Red Bears, and Blue Whales.
I found myself huddled with the Blue Whales. This was great, since blue’s my favourite colour, plus, my favourite stories as a child were about Jonah (the prophet who got swallowed by a whale) and Free Willy.
At the huddle, our assigned leader and another old friend of mine, Jaul, asked everyone to give their name, age, and favourite Disney princess (as well as the reason why they liked that particular princess).
That, my friends, is how you break the ice. Everyone cracked up, and also answered the last question for me before I did, ’cause I chose Princess Merida (she and I have similar hairdos – the resemblance is obvious).
We were also handed a tub of blue face paint, and this was the result:
Once everyone was orderly assembled, we began with the first activity of Sports Fest: the Amazing Race. Here, we would have to perform a series of tasks as a team in the fastest time possible.
Running around and completing the tasks proved to be easy for us – until we were met with this: “Write down the lyrics to Lupang Hinirang (the Philippine national anthem), and sing it as a group.”
Pretty simple, right? And yet it put our teamwork to the test. The pen writing the lyrics changed hands four times, because the first person worked at a slow pace, and then the people helping would get flustered and confused – so it took us more than five minutes just to write a minute-and-a-half-long song. When we’d finished all the tasks, we were disappointed to discover that we were placed last in the standings. 😦
Another activity was a charade-type of game, and we lost even harder by missing the strategy in putting the right people in the right places. There was one point that I became that right player, but in the end, we failed just by missing two words.
In contrast to our disheartening show of teamwork in those activities, we shone in the next task of building a tower with spaghetti pasta sticks and marshmallows. We were brought together as a team, by someone’s understandable plan for the tower-building, and by each of us being a teachable team member with careful hands. We won second place with this architectural beauty:
Spirits were lifted! Then, lunchtime arrived, and I sat with a new friend – Aleks – while we ate and enthusiastically talked about our lives. I also made a connection with the bubbly Ani, because of our love of all things from India.
Later, I looked around to see almost everyone finished with their food, which worried me because I was still eating – an age-old problem of mine. To my surprise, Jaul and Ani dismissed my claim as the slowest eater in the world by showing me their plates, which had more food than mine! Ani even graciously offered to eat my food, which I happily accepted.
When everyone finally finished, we moved to the building’s sports hall to compete in sports! All teams had to play basketball, dodgeball, badminton, and beach volleyball. And all of these sports I have never played before.
But my faith in my team AND sports was completely restored when my team members kindly took their time to teach me how to play badminton. They even gave me tried-and-tested advice, plus a chance to practice what I learned on the court, with a borrowed racket. It paid off when I discovered that I actually had a knack for playing badminton! It was the first time this happened with me and sports – so I was sold out!
Unfortunately, I got cramps on both of my feet, because I missed the stretching exercise. My team stood up for me yet again when they encouraged me not to worry, and brought me to Anton and Dione, who helped relieve the cramps.
Later, I could play again, and took part in bringing my team to the first and second places in the dodgeball and beach volleyball games, respectively.
Our strength in these games was letting our best sport-players take the front lines, and boy, did they slay those courts.
For the not-so-efficient (AKA: me), we stayed near the sidelines, took the fray balls, and just listened to Kuya Ken’s hilarious and animated commentary. And that was alright – for me, at least.
As the games ended, and the sun sank low in the sky, our teams were tasked to come up with a winning group cheer. The points won or lost here would make it or break it for us.
Sad to say, we felt doomed from the start. Early on during the planning stage, our innovation was dampened by the older Blue Whales members relating their failure and overall corniness from the last year’s cheer. We ended up with a half-formed plan when the time was up.
Still, Jaul attempted to make us smile by asking us to choose one food prize we all wanted from the trophy table. It was a unanimous “Oreo!” – but then, we figured that it would belong to the fourth-placers.
At least, if we placed last, we’d still feel like winners, because we had our hearts set on those delicious Oreos.
Joking aside, we nervously waited for our team to be called on for the cheer, and next – awkwardly walked towards the center of attention, to perform something that my sister, (who was watching from the sidelines), called “cute”.
Not the sort of reception we, a team that had a killer whale as its mascot, were looking for. We resigned to our fate, and contentedly and excitedly watched the other teams perform more excellent and fierce cheers. Our bets were placed on the Green Lions for the winners of this one, but still wished to somehow not be in the overall fourth place.
With the cheers completed, then came a special section when the team leaders called on their MVP’s.
The other teams called on their exemplary sports players, all of them dudes and the big shots. Before I reveal the Blue Whales’, let me admit that I felt we were the underdogs most of the time. Yet – I guess we made up for it in the hugeness of our hearts. From what I’ve seen, we were just a bunch of happy kids who wanted to have a good time – but placed value in making sure not one member was left out.
And instead of choosing the best sports player, they chose the loudest; the player who enthusiastically cheered us on to stick together and do our best, and made it a point to befriend most, if not all, of the kids on the team. Guess who?
If it were up to me, I’d vote Jaul as our MVP, (even though he wasn’t technically a member of the team, he just oversaw and assisted us) – ‘cause he brought us together, and, with his kind words and jokes, made us feel like we belonged. I’m still not sure why I became the MVP, but I felt awesome, and loved the t-shirt prize that came with it haha.
Next, they announced the winners! Ahem- drumroll, please.
4th Place (WOOHOO!!!):
But, as much as we didn’t want it to, the Sports Fest finally had to come to an end.
Yet, amazingly, it became the beginning of a new passion for sports in me – something I thought I’d never have. It only sunk in with me then: knowing that playing a sport is a good way to take care of my body and keep it in the best shape – as God intends it to be.
And it was no longer about proving myself in becoming better than others at a particular sport – which I never innately excelled at, and spent lots of tears and frustration on. But I realised that sports is a way to challenge myself to become patient, teachable, and to leave my comfort zone.
In other aspects, I learned valuable lessons about friendship, teenhood, and being secure in my identity. I also grew in terms of communication, teamwork, and sportsmanship.
All of this, thanks to the Sports Fest – plus my team, of course! I don’t know about you, but I loved the Sports Fest so much – not only because of my revelations about sports, but also because of the relationships I was able to flourish in. The new and old friends I had were gems of people!
So, let me tell you out of experience, whenever there’s a social event happening in your school, or anywhere else that’s interesting enough, don’t be afraid to join in. It’s a great opportunity to make new friends, reconnect with/bring your old buddies, learn new skills, and apply lessons about life you’ve learned!
And, me? I’m certainly looking forward to attending the next TMA HIGH Sports Fest – whenever I’m in Manila! They’re having the next one tomorrow, and I’m sad to say I’ll be missing it. But for you cool classmates who are so lucky to be in Manila that time, please GO – for me! You’ll certainly enjoy. And I’ll be with you in the spirit 🙂
(Photo credits go to Nico Belasco, Euri Reyes, and Lorenzo Pastoral – except for the last and “MVP” shots :D)