OREM — Emotions and tensions were high during a high school soccer game Tuesday night when an ambulance had to be called for an injured player.
But Sariah Brady — a team captain for the opposing team — said she only felt calm as she and her teammates knelt to say a prayer with the other team.
Earlier, Orem High School junior Rebekah Shelley intercepted a corner kick from a Timpanogos High School player and headed the ball out. At first she seemed OK, but then she began stumbling and dropped to her knees. Then she laid down and wasn't moving as a trainer and a physical therapist examined her, stabilized her head and neck and called an ambulance.
While they were waiting for the paramedics, Natalyn Lewis, a Timpanogos assistant coach, talked to the team captains and suggested that they come together with the other team to show their support. The captains gathered up their teammates and approached the Orem team and asked to say a prayer together for the injured player.
The two teams put aside any competitiveness and knelt in a circle and put their arms around each other to say a quick prayer for Shelley.
"It was a moment where we wanted to show Orem our love and support and to set the rivalry aside to come together as a community and as friends," Brady said.
Parents and coaches from both teams had tears in their eyes as they watched the prayer. When it was done, they all clapped to show their appreciation for the demonstration of faith.
"They were stepping up in that moment. After all, they are all from Orem and live five miles from each other. They play on club teams together and have a lot of friendships and common bonds between the teams," Timpanogos head coach Robyn Bretzing said. "A lot of people talk about rivalry, but sometimes there's more to it than rivalry. It was a good display to everyone that there's more than just the sport. There's sportsmanship. There's friendship."
After the prayer, the Timpanogos team got up and went back to their side and patiently waited until the ambulance arrived a few minutes later and the paramedics carried the injured player out on a stretcher.
Lori Egbert, whose daughter Abby plays on the Orem team, said she was "very touched" by the experience.
"Timpanogos is No. 1 in our region right now and we knew we were going to lose and probably lose badly, which we did 5 to 0. At that moment, the score didn't matter or whether we won or lost. But our girls showed that faith and unity and love and friendship is stronger than rivalry. Truly touching to all of us parents," she said.
For Bretzing, this moment was so much bigger than just a game or even just a sport. She said it sends a message of humanity in a time of worldwide catastrophes.
"It was a moment of just being really proud of these girls to think that they were willing to come together, even if they're not of the same faith, and show a sign of support," she said. "There is so much turmoil, but we can take a step back and realize that we should be more kind and come together in a crisis. We can set the 'game,' so to speak, aside and come together as human beings."
"There's so much more that these young athletes can learn about life when they play sports. And that's one of our biggest jobs as a coach: to raise these athletes to be better people and contributors to their society. To teach them, 'OK, I can let my faith take over and my compassion take over,'" she added.
According to Egbert, Shelley seems to be recovering from her injury and is moving and talking again as of Wednesday.