Reform Judaism Builds World Class Sports Camp
Education & CampCommunity

Reform Judaism Builds World Class Sports Camp

The 6 Points Sports Camp in Asheville attracts campers from a cross section of Jewish life.

The mountains outside Asheville, N.C., provide the setting for 6 Points Sports Academy.
The mountains outside Asheville, N.C., provide the setting for 6 Points Sports Academy.

Just 200 miles northeast of Atlanta in the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, the Reform movement has created its 6 Points Sports Camp for young Jewish athletes from around the world. In its 13-year history, the camp has been a popular attraction for students from 36 states and from countries as diverse as Poland, Spain, England, and Israel.

For each two-week session, campers pay nearly $4,000 to get personal coaching in a dozen major team sports. But even at those lofty prices, these summer sessions are said to be almost totally sold out. The camp’s new director, Jaclyn Gordon, began work March 1. She’s worked there as a coach and a staffer since it began in 2010. Gordon touts it as place where young persons from a variety of backgrounds, both athletically and Jewishly, can come together for an enriching experience.

An immersive Jewish cultural and religious experience is a feature of the 6 Points Sports program.

“We have campers who love sports [but] maybe are not very good. We also have athletes who are really trying to make their high school teams or get to college to play, And then, we also have the same spectrum as far as the connection to Judaism. But one of the goals at camp, especially with my work, is to try to create moments where somebody connects with something that’s really important to them. Where an individual can relate to something in sports or Judaism and take a part of that home. Something that elevates camp and the whole camp experience.”

Each camper has a choice of sports, such as baseball, basketball, tennis, golf, gymnastics, or lacrosse on which they will concentrate. There are four hours of coaching in that sport each day, with experts like Gordon. Last summer, she coached Israel’s women’s lacrosse team during the world championships, which is held every four years. Of the 29 nations competing for the world cup, Israel came in sixth. It’s the kind of coaching that is typical of what is available during each of the three summer sessions.

Individualized instruction is offered in 12 major sports.

“Our campers get the best of both worlds. They get to experience an immersive Jewish summer camp and they also get some really unique and sports-specific training by head coaches that have professional experience. Most of them are college level coaches and elite level. Then, in the middle of the day, our athletes participate in electives. We have a climbing wall, wiffle ball, kickball and nine square in the air, which has elements of volleyball to it. We want them to develop their athleticism and build community in lots of ways.”

Gordon, who was the director of the Jewish Life Program at the camp for the past several years, has worked to bring Jewish values onto the playing field. The six values that she works in to each coaching session are pride, growth, intention, teamwork, leadership and sportsmanship. It’s a practice she’s developed in her 20-year career both on the field and off.

The URJ Sports Academy attracts over 800 campers each summer.

“I think that’s the community that we build, being a part of a team, learning understanding and finding your role, Our goal on the field is to help each athlete, each individual, get better at whatever he or she needs to get better at. We’re building that perseverance; we’re building that mental toughness that kids need nowadays for every aspect of their life.”

The Union for Reform Judaism, which runs the 6 Point Sports Academy in Asheville, has made summer camping a major part of its national program. It runs a national network of 14 overnight summer camps, including Camp Coleman in Cleveland, Ga., which serves six states in the southeastern United States.

Numerous studies have shown that young people who attend a Jewish summer camp are more likely to identify with Judaism as adults, build Jewish families of their own, feel a deeper commitment to Israel, and actively engage in the local Jewish community.

Rabbi Daniel Greyber, who has served as the USA team rabbi for World Maccabiah Games and been a Jewish camp director, believes that camp offers a way for young people to develop their identity as Jews by immersing themselves in daily Jewish practice.

“In an age when few families are living full Jewish lives at home, too many of our educational initiatives ignore the critical nature of creating communities – ongoing and temporary – in which kids can encounter Jewish life in action.”

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