Counting to Ten: Lessons on the Basketball Court

Written by Jordan Marcovic
Sports Department Head

Kids have so much to teach us, you know?

What a wonderful challenge it has been combining two of my greatest passions into one job. This summer, as the Sports Department Head of Camp Kalsman, I have had the amazing opportunity not only to spend the majority of my day on the sports fields and courts, which I love, but also to be able to work hands on with campers all day, something that has always been important to me and is an area where I feel like I always have room to grow. Sports and kids–for me it really doesn’t get better than that.

Having the title of “Coach” this summer, I take on the responsibility of always trying to be a teacher on the sports fields, constantly looking for ways to help kids improve their skills. What I didn’t anticipate happening was how much I could truly learn from these kids. I was so focused on thinking about different ways that I could coach that when Kaitlin from the Goorim Unit came along and taught me something, I was caught a bit off guard.

One of the great new things that has been incorporated into sports this summer has been components of Jewish Education throughout sports activities. Though it has been a challenge in many ways, our sports staff has really gotten on board with the idea, specifically with regards to helping kids who come to sports learn Hebrew. Ideally by the time a camper finishes a four day chug of basketball, he or she will, in addition to being a better dribbler and shooter, be able to count to ten in Hebrew. Most of the kids work on it during sports time but don’t give it a second thought after they go to their next activity. Not Kaitlin. When we introduced the challenge of learning to count to ten in Hebrew to Kaitlin, she made it her mission at camp over the next five days. She went straight to her cabin after sports and asked her counselor to write down the transliteration of the numbers on a sheet of paper for her to practice. The next day she brought it to basketball chug, and when it was time to do our stretches, she pulled it out of her pocket and began to practice. After the second day of the chug, she approached Cory, one of the sports specialists and said, “By the end of basketball chug, I’m going to learn how to count to twenty!” Hearing that was something I never expected. And she did it!

I always tell kids who come to sports chuggim that my goal for them is to get better at whatever sport we are playing from the first day they play the sport until the last day of the chug. If they improve in only one area, well, that is good enough for me. But Kaitlin showed me that playing sports isn’t always about getting better at that particular craft. It can also be about becoming a better person, and more specifically, a better Jew. That is what I learned from Kaitlin and now I can’t help but get excited about another camper coming along, wondering what they will teach me next.

Kids have so much to teach us, you know?

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