The Language of Sports

On a cracked basketball court next to the Corporal Burns playground, overlooking Massachusetts’s Charles River, a 6-foot-5-inch Argentinian 17-year-old dunks a ball through the rusty hoop.

Less than a minute later, a five-nine Croatian senior drains a long shot from beyond the arc. “That’s three,” he said in slow, cautious English as he held three fingers over the crest of his Dinamo Zagreb soccer jersey.

Out of the ten of on the court, only two of us—a kid from down the rode in Boston and I—spoke what could be called even remotely fluent English. Everyone else knew enough to get by with hand gestures and the occasional use of Google Translate, but that was about it.

Right then, the only thing we had in common was basketball. I don’t play on the school team. I never have. But it allowed us a way to connect, a way to have fun together where nobody even had to talk. We could just divide up the teams and tip off.

That’s not to say it’s not the same with other sports. It absolutely is. That’s what this month’s Olympics are all about. Putting aside any barriers and competing for your country against athletes from across the globe. In a way, that’s what we do here, just on a much smaller scale.

Every week, teams from our school go out to compete against private schools from Dallas, Houston, Oklahoma City and more. Though we aren’t separated by language barriers, we still rarely come together, save for those Friday night basketball games, and yes, even the occasional freezing soccer game.

In November, the soccer team shared a post-game dinner with soccer players from Kinkaid, who had driven up from Houston to the game. Outside of sports, where else would that happen? Nowhere. There would never be a reason for us to share a meal or a handshake with high schoolers from across the state, but athletics take us there.

More than anything else, sports offer us a way to connect. To connect with our community. To connect with new people, both inside our community and out of it.

If you’re out on the field or court, seize the opportunity to know the guy you’re guarding, the guy standing next to you on first base or the guy sitting across the field on the other team’s bench.

But don’t stop competing. Dunk over that guy. Dribble past him and put one in the back of the net. Rob their next double with diving catch in the outfield. Then—the next possession—do it again. That’s the start to any good friendship.

If you’re in the stands, know someone in other set of bleachers, whether it’s across Hunt Family Stadium or 20 feet away in Hicks Gym.

But don’t stop cheering. Yell louder than that guy. Chant, “D-up,” more than him. Make more noise than him when the Lions take home the victory. Then—the next week—do it again. That’s the start to any good friendship.