Basketball breaking barriers

Basketball tackles communication issues when a language barrier stands in the way.


Fiona Dunn

Yok Nuntipak partakes in a two-on-two game with junior Maxim Wu as his teammate. The boys won the half-court game by a small margin, and both were instrumental in the win.

Sports are a foundational part of high school, whether you are a competitor, a fan, or a peer. As COVID regulations and restrictions slowly lift, the rebuilding and rehabilitation of communities through sports has been a reoccurring theme in all facets of life.

Camaraderie and sports always seem to come hand in hand, the strong bonds forged between teammates displayed time and time again. However, how do you build a community when a language barrier sits in the way?

Five months ago Yok Nuntipak was living in Thailand–now he is enrolled as a junior at Wilsonville High School. Nuntipak started playing basketball at the age of 12, and his favorite part about playing basketball is “because I can play with my friends and practice and compete with my friends.” 

Every weekday after the 3 pm bell, Nuntipak walks 1.5 miles to Edge Family Fitness, where he works out and plays basketball in their downstairs gymnasium. This is where he has been “meeting people who play games and help me improve my skills.” Nuntipak is now considered a regular for the routine four-on-four games at Edge, alongside a few of his classmates. 

I want to speak English so I can talk to other people.”

— Yok Nuntipak

Despite relying on developing English skills and even apps like Google Translate, Nuntipak is able to positively interact and laugh with the other participants. However, he is not content with the current level of his fluency, and he admitted, “I want to speak English so I can talk to other people,” at school. 

At this point in time, basketball is emerging triumphant over the isolating language barrier–as well as actively creating an environment that allows Nuntipak to reach out and develop real friendships with classmates in a comfortable setting.