Montreal hosts first Maccabi Sports Days 

JPPS.Bialik.2016 Hebrew Academy (1) Hebrew Academy (4) Hebrew Academy (7) Herzliah3Maccabi Canada offered a new initiative this spring for Jewish schools in Montreal to increase student participation in physical activity.

The Maccabi Canada Sports Days provided students attending United Talmud Torah/Herzliah High School, Hebrew Academy and JPPS-Bialik the opportunity for the first time to participate in sports clinics to improve their skills, learn about living a healthy lifestyle, and hear from former Maccabi athletes about their athletic journey.

Mark Singer, one of two recently named co-chairs of the Maccabi movement in Quebec, was thrilled to see the enthusiasm displayed during the first day of the event, held at Hebrew Academy. “It was the first nice day in Montreal so everyone was genuinely excited to be outside,” Singer said. “Everyone was just so eager to participate and just let go for the half-hour rotation.”

Daniel Smajovits, Singer’s co-chair, was optimistic the Sports Days would be popular in Montreal, after becoming a staple in Toronto’s Jewish Day Schools. Having former Maccabi athletes and coaches, he says, really helped the event run smoothly and engage the students to be eager to participate.

“Having the alumni there – having them talk about the games and their experience… you saw the faces of these kids light up when they thought ‘I can play my sport at a competitive level in Israel wearing a Canadian flag on my shoulder or on my back,’” said Smajovits. “They really turned this event from just a random sports clinic into a Maccabiah sports day.”

The clinics focused on basketball, soccer, softball, tennis and sports injury prevention, which taught the students about warm-up and general fitness. Yoni Lehrer, director of athletics and student services at Hebrew Academy, noted the importance of including such skills in the program.  “The kids really got a lot out of that,” said Lehrer. “They learned how to properly stretch and properly go about things so they don’t get injured while playing sports.” Lehrer called the event a success crediting the group of coaches and athletes for the extensive participation of the students.

Elad Ben-Eli, the Athletic Director at Herzliah also noted the positive reception to learning new skills. “A lot of [the students]… have been part of team sports – that’s not that new to them but the actual physical training was new to them and something a lot of them were questioning why we don’t do more of,” Ben-Eli said.

Liam Twomey, Athletic Director at JPPS-Bialik, describes the impact this day can have on the students long term. “I hope that, in terms of what they’ve learned in skills, they keep going with that training and see where it can lead. Since most of the people at the sports day were Maccabi alumni, they presents that there are opportunities if they stick with a sport and really work hard,” said Twomey.