Teaching Jewish sports values to kids

Dear Families,

The football season is almost over and basketball is in full swing, plus there are always more sports. 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.” It certainly opens up great conversation with our children!

Jewish basketball values
Hachnasat orchim — welcoming guests

Teams travel throughout the country playing in different cities. Whether visiting or welcoming another team, 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 referee.

Kavod — respect

A most important Jewish value for us to remember is “kavod — respect.” Respect for our teammates, our coaches, our referees, our “fans” in the bleachers and for 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.” (Pirke Avot)

Shmirat lashon — guarding your tongue

An important value in life and certainly in sports is the value of shmirat lashon — guarding your tongue. 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. In the recent past in professional sports, we had the case of pitcher John Rocker (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

Another great sports value is 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 camp director emeritus and Jewish experiential learning director at the Aaron Family JCC.

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