Tamir Goodman Basketball Camp
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CJN – Israel and Jewish Ed Through Sport

Sports camps focus on personal success

Coolanu Israel camp

Coolanu Israel camp

Posted: Thursday, March 22, 2012 5:35 pm

Sue Hoffman
Staff Reporter | 0 comments

Should sports camp offer more than training? Absolutely yes, according to basketball star and trailblazer Tamir Goodman.

Goodman is founder and director of Coolanu Israel, a nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening Jewish identity and connection to Israel through seminars, camps, clinics and other venues for Jewish students, professionals, athletes and coaches. Some 30,000 Jewish boys and girls have attended Coolanu sports camps.

“Coolanu,” Goodman said, means “everyone.” The camps bring everyone together through the universal language of basketball.

“When we’re working with kids, we’re not only teaching basketball, but also values,” said American-born Goodman, who played for top Israeli team Maccabi Tel Aviv for six seasons. Dubbed the “Jewish Jordan” by Sports Illustrated as a top high-school player, Goodman played NCAA Division I basketball on an athletic scholarship without playing on Shabbat. He’s now a renowned public speaker.

“Behind every pass, dribble and shot, there’s a metaphor for life, Judaism and Israel,” Goodman said. For example, players are taught to dribble low to the ground while keeping their head up. The metaphor, he said, is that Judaism emphasizes humility. “They can’t just be satisfied with their own accomplishments in life,” he said. “They have to help their teammates achieve their potential.

“We train coaches on these values,” Goodman said. “We speak to kids through the language of sports. This is my mission.”

Goodman, who just held a Coolanu camp in Chicago for 130 children and 40 coaches and has held clinics at The Agnon School in Beachwood, said he’s working on the logistics for starting Coolanu Cleveland.

Camps need to emphasize individual training, said Goodman, a University Heights resident and the father of four. “We look at each athlete as a special individual and help them reach their potential on and off the court. Some kids may be going through challenges and having a tough time. This is our opportunity to enhance these kids’ lives.

“The Torah says you save one person’s life and you save the whole world,” Goodman said. “We realize the power of sports to help people in ways other things can’t.”

Every child attending Coolanu gets his or her own ball to emphasize personal improvement, Goodman said. “When each kid has his own ball, we recognize individual accomplishments.” One person does three shots a minute, another 10 a minute. “It’s all about how you define success.” For a child who wouldn’t take a shot before and now takes one, that’s success, he said. “It’s just as important as a game-winning shot. We tell them, ‘You need to reach your own potential. Then you’re a true winner.’”

When selecting a sports camp, talk to the coaches and staff, Goodman said. “Some elite camps are invitation only. Other camps are like ours, where the staff knows how to realize the beauty in each kid. We look at each athlete as a special individual. We help them reach their potential on and off the court. We can use sports as a tool to enrich their lives and help them overcome obstacles.”

Like the Coolanu camps, Blue Streak camps attract a range of abilities.

“We try to make camp as noncompetitive as possible,” said Blue Streak camps president Tim Baab. “We try to downplay competition and give every kid a chance to kick it, hit it and throw it.”

Blue Streak camps, located in several Cleveland-area sites, including Ursuline College in Pepper Pike, University School in Hunting Valley and Fairmount Early Childhood Center in Beachwood, offer sports, from archery and baseball to basketball, football, golf, soccer, hockey, tennis and more.

Blue Streak offers specific sports camps as well as an all-sports camp where children sample a little bit of many sports. Outdoor education, rappelling and compass reading are also offered.

Besides providing the opportunity to play sports, the camp “is about motor development and coordination” for all skill levels, Baab said. “I have had kids who are not that athletic and those that are terrific and everything in between. You don’t have to be a star to be in this camp.”

That atmosphere brings campers back year after year, he said, and they eventually work their way up to being junior counselors and counselors.

“I think kids should participate in and play as many different sports as they can,” Baab said. “There’s a different type of coordination and set of social skills to be developed” for each sport.

A noncompetitive atmosphere and wholesome environment are among the qualities parents should look for in choosing a sports camp, Baab said. If they’re looking for competition, they should look at specialized camps, he said.

shoffman@cjn.org