Source: HaYidion – Winter 2015
We believe that athletics have the power to be transformational in the life of a child and, for this reason, that athletics are essential to the Jewish and humanistic mission of our Jewish high school. With all of the hype around competitive sports in American society today, one might think that a robust athletics program is a “must have” for any Jewish school for pragmatic reasons, such as recruitment. One might also see athletics as an extracurricular activity—a nice outlet, an opportunity for kids to “run around” and “blow off steam,” or, more generously, an important component of physical wellness during years when teenagers are living less and less healthy, balanced lives. All of these are true. However, we see a higher and more integral purpose to high school sports. In our experience, sports are a unique vehicle for delivering on several of the defining values-added of a Jewish school. This article will focus on three of these: character development, community and spirituality.
Note: While athletics in schools incorporates both competitive and non-competitive experiences, and while recreational sports and fitness are critical for students’ well-being as well as for creating culture and community, this article will focus on competitive sports.
Especially during the high school years, Jewish schools offer the world an educational model that provides academic excellence on foundations of character, identity and community, infused with meaning and spirituality. We need to help our students and families see the extraordinary potential that athletics, and other less obvious elements of our educational program, help to achieve these goals.