When teens join their local JCC Maccabi Games Team, they often come in as individual athletes, without anyone else from their junior highs or high schools. For some teens, this can be nerve-wracking and even a little scary to set off with a bunch of new people to a city you might have never visited before.
Fortunately, the JCC Maccabi Games have this amazing and lasting effect of turning individual athletes into a team and making them feel like they are part of a bigger family. This year, Team Cincinnati ventured out to San Diego to compete.
The team had several remarkable achievements during the 2022 Maccabi Games. Ivy Miller won gold in 16U girls singles tennis, and Chase Klugo won gold in 14U boys singles tennis. In boys doubles tennis, Jacob Peerless and Casey Bernstein won silver. Participants in the team sports also excelled: the girls soccer team won their first match, the girls basketball team moved on to the second game in the tournament, and the boys baseball team won their first game in the tournament.
While the teens were playing and winning games, they had solid support from the sidelines from parents, other delegations, and teammates that weren’t playing during that time.
Delegation Head, Anne Goldstein, has loved and supported the JCC Maccabi Games for many years. After learning about the games in 1999, she jumped in and got excited to start leading the teens to victory. Goldstein quickly saw, however, that the games weren’t just about competing.
“I loved seeing the delegations come together as one family, watching other games and cheering on their teammates,” Goldstein said. “It’s about the community and the connections created by being part of the team.”
Athletes on Team Cincinnati came from different schools in the region, so they did not necessarily know each other before heading out for the games.
“It was really fun to play against teams that I made friends with,” said Deena Mayers, a ninth grader from Atara High School. “It made the game more fun and enjoyable to play in. What impacted me the most in Maccabi is that I was playing with Jewish people from all over and that I made friends while playing the sport that I love.”
The Maccabi experience continued off the field, as most teens are housed with host families. The families typically take the athletes out to dinner or take a trip to a local attraction to get to know each other better—and show them their city.
This year, some teens spent their time in dorms nearby and were able to check out a Padres game while they were there. Coach Mike Creemer served as a resident assistant to supervise in the dorms with the teens to ensure they had a fun experience and spent time together as a team.
“For teens, I think it provides a connection with a national and international community that they would never get elsewhere,” Creemer said. “Teens can connect with someone from anywhere and stay connected if they want to!”
The teens were given the opportunity to meet with others from different cities as well. One way, is through the formation of “mixed” teams. This year, Team Cincinnati had a girls basketball team with teens from Boston, Cincinnati, Springfield, MA, and Detroit. Creemer notes that while coaching a “mixed” team is challenging it is very enjoyable watching the team come together!
“The JCC Access Bowling was also a great opportunity,” Creemer said. “Teens with special needs participated in the JCC Maccabi Games for the first time, and our basketball girls bowled with them!”
In fact, sisters Shoshana and Deena Mayers won gold medals by participating in the Access Games. Next year, there will be two Maccabi delegations. One will travel to Israel from July 5-25, where teens will participate in the games for a week and then explore Israel with a guided tour.
The other athletes will travel to Fort Lauderdale in Florida from August 6-11.
“I know they had an amazing time, and it’s something they will always look back on fondly,” Goldstein said.
Any athlete 13-17 that would be interested in either the Israel or Ft. Lauderdale games please reach out to Anne Goldstein at email@example.com
Team Cincinnati sets off for the 2022 Maccabi Games in San Diego, California. The team came home with 7 medals.
From Left To Right back row: Eric Goldstein, Anne Goldstein, Chase Klugo, Simon Ronis-Tobin, Mimi Goldstein, Jordana Ronis-Tobin, Nina Friedman, Winnie Zolla, Ivy Miller, Olivia Swift, Jacob Peerless, Shoshana Mayers, Deena Mayers, Mike Creemer, Casey Bernstein
From Left to Right front row: Asher Compton, Evan Leader