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Faith Kaplan

Alumni Basketball participants. Photo by Joyce Kerr.


By Faith Kaplan

I am not an athlete, though I am athletic. Or at least I used to be, before my right knee got old. My athletic endeavours are limited to a bit of gardening and cheering on my daughter Yael at her sport events because she really is an athlete. I have never been a sports fan, happily leaving the gossipy world of sweaty fellows to my pals Sheree and Nona, who are rabid and knowledgeable sport fanatics. If I have any questions relating to teams, games, rules, trivia, personalities, or sport scores, Hart is just a shout away. But I must admit I was taken aback at a remarkable sporting event on March 21.

The JWC/Gray Academy of Jewish Education Alumni Association hosted its first ever Alumni vs. Raiders basketball games, and they were unbelievable. I was a Raider when I was a young lady and acquitted myself admirably in Grade 8. By Grade 12 it was a different story: I was a bit chunky and out of shape, and only agreed to suit up so there would be the minimum number of required players to field a team. Small school;  no choice. But times have changed. Yael Kaplan and I had just returned from the provincial basketball championships in Brandon. We were very proud that the Varsity Raiders’ Girls had won the consolation side of the provincial tournament, finishing fifth in the Province – a school best. Our Junior Varsity Boys won the Zone 12 Basketball Championship and our Varsity Boys lost the Zone 12 by a squeaker. Gray Academy is now known for its basketball program, as well as Debating and Reach for the Top.

When we arrived at the Asper Campus for the Varsity Girls’ alumni match, an ambulance was outside. The Varsity Boys were playing a team of Alte Kuckers (I think that was the team name, in fact). I expected to see one of the old timers being wheeled out on a stretcher with angina pains, and was relieved that a younger alumn had “just” dislocated his shoulder. We walked into the gym and “boom”. It was packed!! There we were, on a Sunday evening, with over 100 alumni and parents playing, sweating, yelling, and cheering on parents, children, friends, students, classmates. My high school basketball memories are decidedly mixed and I completely underestimated the lure of basketball as a way of connecting alumni with the School. As Alumni Association Chair, I say Kudos to Alumni Association members Jon Waldman, Al Benarroch , Zev Faintuch and Yael Shrom who put this first effort together in record time.

Lots of people came forward with unsolicited suggestions for next time so I knew we were on to something special. And then I looked around and realized the gym was filled with nostalgic parents watching adult children playing in their old school gym. Old rivalries ignited, the smell of adrenalin in the air (feh), ankle and knee braces strapped in place, memories of youthful victories driving older bodies well past the point of sensible behaviour on the court. Pass the Ben Gay!

I am delighted to report there will be a next time, and it will be big. Jon Waldman has agreed to chair a committee of parents, students, and alumni and they are in the early planning stages for the second Alumni Tournament. The Alumni Association hopes to raise $10K to support the Gray Academy sports program and the Alumni Association with: alumni and Friends of Gray teams, 3 on 3 games, souvenir t-shirts, a program book, sponsors, bbq , shooting contests, prizes, photos and DVDs, 50-50 tickets, a social. Jon and his committee are looking at possible dates, and would be happy to welcome potential sponsors and more committee members. You can reach Jon at [email protected]

And if you don’t want to organize, but you would like to play, dust off your old jersey. Get some new orthotics. Grab a ball and practise your shots. Start building a team. Let’s go Raiders, let’s go. Or was it Here we go Raiders, here we go. Eh, whatever. Both work. Stay tuned for details!

Faith Kaplan is a Winnipeg-based independent marketing consultant working in the not for profit sector. Her writing career started in high school, where she wrote a regular column for the JWC Eye under the pseudonym Maureen Gossip.

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