The fresh green grass lay crisp with a hint of morning dew as the sun rose above my neighborhood park. The playground still stood proudly over the sea of messy wood chips, and the faint buzzing of the sprinklers could be heard occasionally throughout the day.
However, this familiar landscape felt stranger than ever before. The swing sets helplessly croaked, while the basketball courts were left as a barren desert. Fields that were once brimming with competition and excitement reeked of negligence and surrender. Sports had always been a major part of this neighborhood, but after months of isolation, the image of a bustling park on a Saturday afternoon before the weekly mini-volleyball tournament seemed like a foreign concept.
The realities of my specific neighborhood park can be applied to the rest of the nation, as sporting events have been canceled again and again while the pandemic passes. Sports have served as an important part of social interaction for many teens across the country and integrated itself as a favorite pastime of many people. Parents play catch with their kids in the backyard, families go for early morning walks, and friend groups ride bikes in the evening together. Every moment is a special instance of community in which actions can speak louder than words.
But after sports have started to return in recent months, athletes have recognized an important lesson from their times in quarantine, one that utilizes the Golden Rule to its full potential.
Mountain View senior Pratik Shah said, “Kindness and empathy really helps with forming a new bond with your teammates.” Hamilton High junior Megan Misener furthered, “Treating others with respect can really bring out the best performance from everybody.” These teens have constructed a compelling narrative about the personal development that sports can bring them during such a difficult time and how their normal routines have been drastically shifted.
The Golden Rule is a flexible principle that can be applied to any aspect of life, and through these shared experiences, living golden within sports can be as simple as being there for your teammates by cheering them on at practices and meets.
Resilient youth illustrate how deep the values of respect, honesty, civility and kindness impact the way we view and participate in sports today. Winning, winning, winning — is that what sports is really about? Well, according to these athletes, integrity must be placed on the same pedestal as winning in sports. Integrity is the foundational principle for creating uplifting and supportive environments that allow all of the athletes, whether they are on the same team or opposing team, to flourish. The Golden Rule is cultivated on the soil of integrity, and this is demonstrated by these youth who work hard and play hard.
So, my neighborhood park may not have as many people showing up to the mini-volleyball tournaments anymore, but I can still invite that warmth of community into my own home with my family.
Tune into our segment about sports during COVID-19 on March 23rd on AZTV Channel 7 at 8 a.m. or watch it on the AGREE Golden Rule website azGoldenRule. org under LiveGolden.
Anusha Rahman is the publicist for LiveGoldenAZ! She is currently a junior at Hamilton High School.
Anusha Rahman Guest columnist