By Bill Christy, JCC Sports & Leagues Director
This Sunday, July 31, a group of Jewish teenage athletes 13-16 will head to Birmingham, Alabama for a week to compete in Boys Soccer, Girls Soccer, Flag Football, Golf and Tennis at the 2017 JCC Maccabi Games and represent South Jersey.
On Sunday, August 6, a second group of Jewish teenage athletes will head to Albany, New York to compete in Boys Basketball, Girls Basketball, Baseball and Swimming.
The JCC Maccabi Games, which began in 1982 here in North America, blends Jewish identity with Olympic style competitions in what has become an international experience. Over 3,000 athletes compete over the course of three weeks in three different cities across the US. International athletes travel from Israel, Great Britain, Canada, Mexico and even Australia to compete.
All of our SJ athletes heading out have visions of winning bronze, silver, and gold medals in their heads. And while all the coaches and delegation heads look forward to seeing some athletes receive the medals, they also know what these teens are in for; an experience of a lifetime no matter what the medal count.
The JCC Maccabi Games provide an experience that cannot be duplicated. These young athletes will begin to gain a sense of pride starting on Sunday night when they walk out as a delegation at Opening Ceremonies in front of over 5,000 spectators. For four days, athletes will compete, cheer on other teams and socialize throughout the day. In the evenings, they will be treated to night activities that vary from enormous inflatable parties to indoor amusement parks. By the end of the week, they will have met other young Jewish athletes from not only all over the country, but all over the globe. They will exchange phone numbers, Twitter and Instagram handles and begin to develop a network of friends that typically withstand the test of time.
While these athletes get ready to leave for competition, we lest forget our over 70 local athletes, ages 10-12, who competed in the old Mid-Atlantic Maccabi Games this past May that took place in Delaware. Boys and Girls Basketball, Boys and Girls Soccer, Baseball, Tennis, and Swimming were all represented by our athletes. We hope most of these youngsters go on to compete in the “big games,” the JCC Maccabi Games, in the near future and help us continue the strong tradition of South Jersey in the JCC Maccabi Games.
More to come post-Games on our experiences and success. In the meantime, wish us safe travels and good luck!