By Rick Press
Special to the TJP
Anyone who watched Dallas golfer Jordan Spieth win the British Open on Sunday knows that sports is about more than who can hit a ball the farthest, run the fastest or jump the highest.
Spieth started the final round with a comfortable three-stroke lead, but by the 13th hole it had vanished and his drive on that hole was so far offline his chances of winning seemed buried — much like his golf ball.
But somehow, the 23-year-old gathered himself, and mounted one of the gutsiest comebacks in sports history, playing the final five holes in 5-under par.
Spieth’s triumph took perseverance, problem-solving and mental toughness — exactly the kind of life skills the organizers of the Dallas JCC’s new J-Social Youth Sports Program hope to teach their aspiring young athletes.
“That was amazing what Jordan did today,” sad Artie Allen, CEO of the Dallas JCC. “He showed how to get up when you’re knocked down, and that winning and losing are all a part of life. We’re going to teach those life skills at the JCC.”
On Sunday, Spieth had caddie Michael Greller to help him navigate the ups and downs at Royal Birkdale.
The JCC is turning to Joshua Goldstein, a former high school and college basketball coach, who energized the youth sports programs at the Columbus, Ohio, JCC before joining the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center of Dallas two months ago.
“I wanted to create a program that helps our kids develop as athletes,” said Goldstein, “but we’re also going to build their character, one fundamental at a time.”
Goldstein said his focus will be on youth basketball and soccer at first. Participation for tennis, gymnastics and swimming is already very strong, he said. Registration for the revamped J-Social Sports programs begins July 30.
So what can parents of young athletes expect?
“Each year will build off itself,” Goldstein said. “Our kindergarten and pre-K kids will learn to play as a team, play by the rules, give their best efforts, and develop listening skills.”
Then they will transition to working on perseverance, patience and goal-setting, he said — and playing with honesty and integrity.
Along the way, they will also learn to run multiple offenses and defenses, and hone their individual skills.
“We will be developing an educated athlete,” Goldstein said, “Because most of the athletes who come through our program are probably not going to play pro sports, but some might become the top sports medicine doctors in the game, or the top sports reporters. And they will have found a love for the game at the JCC.”
Allen said the social aspect of sports will also be a hallmark of the JCC’s new programs.
“We had that approach to our youth sports years ago,” he said. “We want to try to bring that relationship-building back. We want to create a league they can be proud of, and where they can meet other Jewish kids.
“But if it’s not a great league, they’ll go elsewhere.”
Goldstein said finding the crossroads between competition and what’s best for the kids is the key.
“We’re shaping our future through these kids and these programs,” he said. “It’s about more than just sports. But we don’t hit you over the head with that.”
So even if your kid doesn’t become the next Jordan Spieth or Steph Curry or Tom Brady, there’s plenty they can learn from just getting in the game.