This summer, I set out to Greensboro, North Carolina, to one of the Reform movement’s newest camps, 6 Points Sports Academy, to investigate how to integrate sports and Judaism. From my experience on staff at OSRUI, I have learned how to create learning opportunities for our artistic students in the areas of music, visual arts, drama and film. Now I wanted to concentrate on our sports minded students.
I am always excited to go to one of our URJ camps but this year was different. All my life I have played tennis serious tennis at a Division 1 school in college, national tournaments with my father, and most recently in women’s doubles. My experiences in tennis and in my Judaism have always seemed separate. The opportunity to go to a place with high school, college and even professional level coaches who connect their teaching to Jewish life and values was exhilarating. What an opportunity for me personally as well as professionally. How much fun it was! My wheels are turning about how to bring what I learned into our school and congregation.
6 Points Community
The community feel at 6 Points is instantaneous as campers, counselors, faculty and staff share a love for sports. The campers’ ability represents a wide range. In tennis, there was range of player ability that stretched from a top Florida player, national caliber, to high school team members, to those who were just learning the sport.
Campers Grow in their Sport and Life Skills
I watched and listened to campers as they showed and shared the ways they gained new, and strengthened existing, skills; increased their conditioning; and built their confidence and self-esteem. Campers all wanted to be “king” or “queen” of the court or have their team win, but they did this in an atmosphere where they high fived one another, encouraging and supporting the wide range of expertise. At the end of the session, every camper enters the “circle of trust” receiving feedback from coaches on how they improved and goals for the year; parents receive a report too. Coaches, counselors and faculty recognized campers for living by life values tied to Judaism such as “gevurah – courage” or “rachamim – compassion” giving them bracelets proudly worn by all recipients. You can visit my office to see the 5 bracelets I was awarded by coaches, staff and even campers. I will proudly tell you why I received them.
A Seamless Totally Jewish Environment
All of this athleticism happens in a richly Jewish environment. The outwardly Jewish aspects like Shabbat, meal ritual with blessings and kosher food, and song session all occur. Connections made to Jewish values that are both universal and sports oriented is the key to how it all works, binding together camp rituals, program and staff in a compelling, natural way.
Campers leave better athletes, better people and proud to be Jewish!
Dr. Roberta Goodman, RJE
North Shore Congregation Israel