Illustration by Alessia Piciatelli

In-person Sports Practices Are Back: Here’s What Students Have to Say

The feeling of togetherness that defines NYUAD sports is finally back. It is not about winning a tournament or two — it is more about the commonality that binds us all.

Oct 10, 2021

Covid-19 has influenced various aspects of our lives. Consequently, when other disciplines hit a speed bump, in-person athletics events at NYU Abu Dhabi were also paused.
For many, online athletic activities have not been easy. For Mehak Sangani, Class of 2021, the biggest challenge of doing sports activities virtually was having to do it alone. “A lot of the reasons that I do sports, go for fitness classes and things like that, is because it's a community for me,” he said.
Therefore, many shared the joy of finally being able to transition to in-person sports practices. “It's just really nice to be able to [participate in sports] around people or have them encourage you,” Sangani added.
Student Government Athletics Committee Chair Nuha Azhar, Class of 2023, had played NYUAD team sports before the pandemic hit and is looking forward to playing with other universities.
“When that happens, boy, that's gonna be how I felt when I was a freshman. When it comes to the court, I don't see [the other players] as freshmen; I don't see them as sophomores; I don't see them as juniors or seniors; to me, they're just my teammates.”
Many students have found the entire transition to be surreal. A few months back, teammates were geographically separated, but now they can play, practice and excel in the presence of their team.
“There's a time of adjustment of what it means to actually start training… to be training in smaller units despite the team being such a big team… trying to work through the practical aspects, and also having to be safe at the same time,” shared Hannah Chu, Class of 2023, regarding the adaptations made when transitioning to in-person training sessions.
Speaking of the transition from virtual to in-person, Azhar commented, “I think one of the biggest challenges was probably trying to be as transparent as we can with the student body.”
And the transition was not an experience unique only to the student athletes. Farzan Ahmad Khan, coach for NYUAD’s Cricket Team, shared: “I think a lot of people were out of fitness which was expected. So, we started slow, but now we're really getting back.”
He also appreciated how students are ready to devote extra time to sports practices. Since most of the sessions initially were scheduled to be in the evenings only, a few of the team members approached him and asked if they could get more opportunities to practice. As a result, a new 7 a.m. session was added.
On finally being in-person, Sangani said, “I know it's still not the same, but our coach is putting a lot of effort into making the practices fun.”
Even the freshmen who joined the teams this year are motivated by the enthusiasm, team spirit and dedication of fellow team players.
Avishek Bist, Class of 2025, described how the enthusiasm has increased exponentially as many had not played team sports in quite a while. “They have inner intention to play, and it comes like a bursting factor. So, the guys extend their playing hours from one to two or even three hours.”
In the same way, Chu believes that there is nothing that can replicate what it means to train side by side with your team members. “Being able to train as a team, finally in person, means a lot to team sports. So having finally returned to in-person, it's made such a big difference. It's such a privilege,” she said.
Everyone in the university is aware of the transition period and is carefully following all the safety protocols and public health guidelines. For instance, everyone makes sure to wear a face mask and maintain the recommended physical distance during practice.
The feeling of togetherness that defines NYUAD sports is once again back. It is not about winning a tournament or two; it is more about the commonality that binds us all — whether that be upperclassmen supporting underclassmen or the administration’s flexibility to assist with the transition.
After two years of being on Zoom, we expect to witness an elevated level of determination in the days to come as students finally return to in-person team sports.
Samyam Lamichhane is Deputy Features Editor. Email him at
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