During my years as a player, coach and now athletic director I have always viewed yeshiva sports as a vehicle to teach athletes life lessons. Ryan Turrell and Tamir Goodman are the exceptions, as the vast majority of yeshiva athletes need to look outside of sports when they enter into adulthood. With this in mind, when schools can incorporate teaching midos, teamwork and chesed into team sports, everyone walks away a winner.
Last week the Yeshivat Noam Knights hockey team traveled to Livingston to play the Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy Cobras. It was an exciting game, but the on-court action is not relevant to this story. The major takeaway was what happened after the game.
Elie Salomon, mother of JKHA middle school hockey player Jack Salomon, saw a Facebook post about snack bags that the ASHAR (Rockland County) hockey team sent home with the visiting team from Hillel (Deal), with drinks and snacks for the road. Elie shared this initiative with the JKHA administration, who ran with the idea and made snack bags after school to give to the Knights for the ride home. Acknowledging that the teams in the league often have to travel distances to go to and from each game, traversing the tri-state area, the JKHA players plan to make these snack bags for all their future hungry opponents to eat on their way home.
In an email to the JKHA principal, Noam’s hockey coach, Alan Teller, expressed his team’s hakarat hatov: “On behalf of the Yeshivat Noam hockey team, I wanted to thank you and the JKHA middle school Cobras for your extraordinary hospitality hosting us for our game last night. It was great to see the boys from both schools enjoy seeing their friends that they don’t get to see on a regular basis, both before and after our game. However, the added touch of providing our team with snacks for the long ride home late at night was very much appreciated. It showed the boys on both teams that derech eretz and good midot are more important than the game itself, and it was nice to see everyone play the game the right way on both sides.” A Noam parent shared, “It was so thoughtful and the boys were completely stunned. What a beautiful gesture! It truly humanized these organized sports... very heimish.”
The project continues to gain momentum as the JKHA 7/8 basketball team sent JEC home with snack bags and the Hillel hockey team did it for RPRY on Thursday night. A JEC parent said, “The bags were so cute; what a great idea.”
It is all too easy to get lost in the competition—the us versus them mentality of youth sports. With moms like Elie Salomon spearheading projects like this, we are guaranteed to not lose track of the fact that we are all one nation.
By Steve Gutlove