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Chicago Sun Times: basketball camp combines fitness, faith

Deerfield basketball camp combines fitness, faith

BY PAT KROCHMAL

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Photo By: Joe Shuman~Sun-Times Media

Tamir Goodman cheers players on during a practice at Chicagoland Jewish High School on Sunday.

Tamir Goodman, nicknamed the “Jewish Michael Jordan” by Sports Illustrated, will present a basketball camp for youngsters in Deerfield and Chicago.

The camp, called “Coolanu Israel,” was created to improve the athletic skills of third- to eighth-grade boys and girls at all levels in a positive Jewish context.

Goodman, who stayed true to his faith by not playing on the Jewish Sabbath, participated in Division I college basketball and pro basketball in this country, as well as in Israel.

It made him the first observant Jew in recent history to reach the highest levels of his sport without sacrificing his religious belief.

During his career, Goodman was ranked as one of the top 25 high school basketball players in the United States; named Most Valuable Player of the Capitol Classic All-Star Game; and played professionally on several Israeli basketball teams.

Goodman’s rise to fame began when he was a high school junior being courted by big-name basketball coaches in 1999. Staying true to his religion, he refused to play on the Jewish Sabbath and had to change high schools to be accommodated.

Goodman received a University of Maryland scholarship, but returned it when officials insisted he play on Saturdays.

Then, he was recruited by Towson University in Maryland where he befriended a Muslim roommate and made international headlines through his performance and the adjustments his coach made for him and his faith.

After graduation, Goodman signed a three-year contract to play with a team in Israel.

He played six seasons of professional basketball despite injuries, including one requiring knee surgery at age 23. However, Goodman suffered even more injuries and by 2009, had to retire at the age of 27.

His story has been featured on ESPN, CNN, ABC and Fox News, as well as in several newspapers. He also has won the praise of such National Basketball Association stars such as Michael Jordan, Phil Jackson, Magic Johnson and Shaquille O’Neal.

Goodman, who also served as a soldier in the Israel Defense Forces, even earned the “Outstanding Soldier Award.”

Now Goodman, who is parent of four children under 7 years old with his wife, Judy, is presenting camps for kids with an emphasis on Jewish identity and a connection to Israel.

Each time he directs his students on the best way to pass the ball, position their feet or shoot a basket, Goodman talks about the mental and physical preparation it takes to be the best person possible as an athlete, student, friend and leader.

“There also will be universal messages of respect, tolerance and a good work ethic, as well as reaching goals and sportsmanship,” Goodman said. “One of the most beautiful things about sports is that it brings together everyone – and in Hebrew, ‘Coolanu’ means ‘everyone.’ So through the sport, we bring together everyone.”

Goodman decided to offer basketball camps when he realized he had talent not only for the game, but also to inspire others, he said.

Combining physical prowess and spiritual beliefs, he uses the basketball camps not only to inspire kids to become the best players they can, but also to learn life lessons through the sport.

Although the camps in Deerfield and Chicago will be the first in the area, Goodman has been coaching since he was 15 years old. In fact, he already has coached more than 30,000 youngsters though his camps and clinics in North America and Israel.

Through collaboration with The iCenter, an organization that serves as a connection to Israel for local Jews, Goodman will hold his Coolanu Basketball Camps at Joy of the Game, 158 S. Waukegan Road, Deerfield, from Dec. 20-22 and at Anshe Emet Synagogue, 3751 N. Broadway Ave., Chicago, from Dec. 27-29.

“Having Tamir Goodman come to inspire our young people through his gift and talent for the game of basketball is a huge asset for the Chicago Jewish community,” said Anne Lanski, executive director of The iCenter in Northbrook.

Bringing the Coolanu Israel Basketball Camp to the area was a result of The iCenter’s Incubator program, which encourages out-of-the-box approaches to reach young people and inspire them to connect to Judaism and Israel.

“This is such a win-win for young people to see an inspiring figure like Tamir Goodman who does what he loves and still holds true to his belief in Judaism and his love of Israel,” added Diane Kushnir Halivni, Coolanu’s program director. “We have much to learn from him as a role model.”

The cost is $150 for three days and financial aid is available. Register online at CoolanuIsrael.org.

For information, contact Halivni at diane@tamirgoodman.com, or (847) 254-2024.