By Laura Seymour
Many years ago, I was asked to add a “Jewish value” to the weekly notes for junior basketball players at the Aaron Family JCC. With junior basketball at the J going strong, I have looked again at these values. It is an interesting challenge to look at values and competition.
As I continue to read the sports page, I think more and more about how we can teach our children important values that are in line with the competitive spirit.
Here are a few of my favorite “Jewish Sports Values.” I continue to struggle with this: Is it ethical to foul someone on purpose in basketball? It certainly opens up great conversation with the children.
Hachnasat orchim (welcoming guests)
For the opening week of junior basketball, let us remember this very important Jewish value of welcoming others. This can include welcoming new members of your team, showing hospitality to visitors in the stands and, most important, creating an atmosphere of kindness toward all who come to play, watch, coach and officiate.
A most important Jewish value for us to remember is kavod — respect for our teammates, our coaches, our referees, our fans in the bleachers and ourselves. Showing respect and honoring those we play with makes the game a positive, learning experience for all. “Who is honored and respected? One who honors and respects others.” (Pirkei Avot)
Shmirat lashon (guarding your tongue)
An important value in life and certainly in sports is the value of shmirat lashon. The rabbis teach us so many lessons on the importance of watching our words — both the ones we say and the ones we listen to. In the heat of a game (or in the heat of anger), we often say things that we wish we could take back, but once the words are out, the damage has been done. We all know this but it is so hard to control.
Even — or maybe especially — in professional sports, we hear of athletes, coaches and even owners saying or tweeting things, then wishing they could take the words back (this would make a good discussion topic). Let us practice the skill of “guarding our tongue” as well as the skill of “guarding the ball.”
Sayver panim yafot (a pleasant demeanor)
This is an important value in all areas of life, but how does it relate to basketball? Basically, this value can be translated to “put on a happy face.” When we show the world a smile, we usually get smiles in return.
On the court, let us not show our competitive face looking angry. Competition is fun and our faces can show that — and when our faces show smiles, our spirit changes.
Laura Seymour is director of Jewish life and learning and director of camping services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.