The Matzav Rant: Being the “Best in Mountains”: The Embarrassing Behavior at Inter-Camp Games


basketball-yeshiva1By Shmuel Miskin,

It’s not the first summer that we’ve seen what I am going to describe, but this year it has been quite awful. I am referring, dear readers, to the behavior and reactions of camp staff members during and after “inter-camp” games.

For those who are unaware, it is quite common for boys’ camps in the Castkills to arrange games – mostly basketball, though baseball and other sports are played as well – amongst themselves. The idea is a nice one. The camps, often with campers from different backgrounds, get to meet each other and involve themselves in some healthy competition.

But the idea has gotten so far removed from its original design, and now the competition is so fierce that all manners and etiquette are ignored for the prestigious title of being the “best in the mountains.”

Last summer especially, and this summer in several instances, the actual counselors and head staff members of certain camps went ballistic after a referee made a call against their camp team that they thought was off the mark.

What kind of role modeling is this for the campers? Is being “the best in the mountains” in basketball for summer 2010 more important than setting an example for the campers?

I have no idea whether the ref blew the calls or not, but that isn’t the point. What is the point is that when camp staff members, whether head staff or counselors, react and respond to inter-camp games like those who attend professional sports events, and lose all control of themselves, there is something very wrong. It doesn’t reflect positively at all.

I know a parent from one camp who found out that a head staff member in the camp his child attends actually yelled at a referee after the opposing team hit a three pointer at the buzzer. (The parent told me that there is no way his son will attend the camp next summer.) I am not sure what the dispute was, but the staff member obviously didn’t think the points should have been counted. So he embarrassed the ref in front of the entire camp! Is this normal? Why do we let this go on summer after summer?

After one such altercation last summer during which there was a disputed call, the team members began shoving each other. A camper I spoke to who was present at that incident told me that he was scared, but he was more bothered by the fact that he had lost total respect for the counselors who were on the basketball team and behaved like “babies,” in his words. It would seem that they behaved worse than that. And he told me that not only did a head staff member not stop the altercation, but he got involved as well, saying that his camp team had been cheated! With role models like these…

Something must be done. I propose that we, as a community, establish an understanding that if a camp allows such conduct on their premises, it will be publicized, no matter whether they were right or wrong, no matter whether the travel was really a travel, whether the player did go off or not, and whether the basket came after the buzzer or before. This unacceptable behavior has gone too far. All in the name of winning a game and getting the title of being “the best in the mountains.” What a shame.

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  1. WEll, we’ve finally managed to get Americanized – despite wearing black hats and eating only glatt. The triumph of chitzonius over pnimius is that we don’t even realize it’s a struggle.

    And we ask why some of our kids are going off the derech?

  2. The basic idea of sports is originated by the YEVONIM. The only reason why they allow ball playing in the Yeshivishe velt is, to be mechazek the GUF so that we should be able to learn better. However, if we follow and admire the sports of the GOIYISHE VELT, it is mamesh like the AVOIDE ZORO OF THE YEVONIM. Unfortunatly, it had become part of our lifestyle and especially among the younger generation. In some chasidishe schools, they do not allow playing with a ball AT ALL. The Satmarer rebbe zu”a gave the hadracha that the children can play games that they will outgrow once they mature, but not games that they might grow more INTO. HATZLOCHO!

  3. And what about the cut-throat competition, win-at-all-cost mentality of the heilige Color War? I recall even davening being perverted by the necessity of earnng an extra point.

  4. Why are you so surprised that people have become so American? You”re living in America! Our Torah & history tells us over & over & over again not to get comfortable living among the nations & the Jewish people have………once again.

  5. In Chaim Day Camp around 10 years ago the camp wanted to breakout color-war during a staff volleyball game, the problem they did not tell the staff members playing. So as the head staff who was the ref made bad call after bad call, the staff just played and did not say anything. How could we expect the kids to follow our calls if we argue with the ref? So after 15-20 minutes the camp had to change the plan and take a garden hose and spray the game with water!! I still remember how both the staff and campers even though they grumbled about the calls just played with out making a fuss, it truly was a kiddush Hashem.

  6. bs’d

    I suppose this is why here in Israel “sport” is not for the frum.
    It all seems so innocent at first and oh so healthy, but look where it can lead.

  7. Get over it. You are making a big deal out of this. Take a look at the recent chinuch round table about competition and see what Rabbi Kamentsky wrote. The way camps do things were designd by Gedolim. No one is perfect and if someone who accidently loses his temper in the heat of the moment should not be vilified. Be dan l’kav zechus for a change!

  8. hot chulent your comment is so wrong the gedolim never said go out and play inter camp games and yes they should be vilified we are dan lekav zechus them that it was an accident but yet it can’y happen in the face of an impressionable camper if you can’t take the heat stay out if you didn’t work on your middos but your jump shot go back to the bm and learn a little and then play.

  9. it depends which camps are playing. I was just by a Camp morris and rayim mesivta game that was a true kidush hashem.

  10. Lemaseh, Camp Ma-Na-Vu has the best overalll win/loss record. case closed! if you don’t agree we are going to din torah!

  11. As a former Catskill ref, I can honestly say that most of the guys who played were true mentchen. Yes, there were those who lost it in the heat of the moment, but they usually realized you were trying your best. Any head staff member who argues with a ref or a call should be chastised, and yes, maybe his camp should not play inter-camp games.

  12. There are many life lessons that can be learned from sports and rooting for your team. I always loved the intensity and excitement level of inter-camp games, which can not be replaced. I encourage my children to be competitive on the court and they are developing to be very complete bnei Torah.

  13. To “the emes” Did you read the article in the Yated? Gedolim are aware of inter camp games and you have never heard a word against the games from them. You know they are aware because there are many Gedolim who spend a portion of their summer in these summer camps. And if they felt strongly against them the camps would have stopped the games years ago. Also when campers spend a month or two with their counselors and head staff. And I know some very good ball players who have excellent midos even if they are not the best in the BM. Playing in these games help their self esteem as well.

  14. First of all I can’t think of anything that is increasing the holiness of our young ones more then our summer camps! There is no other enviorment on earth that protacts our kids from the rampent tumah -that peaks in the summer season- then summer camp. Second of all the fact that a competitive event can get personal -even by us Jews- is nothing new. Third of all when it comes to middos, most people still have plenty to work on,this is also nothing new. Any questions ?

  15. this entire posting is not true!!! None of this happened in any camp. I have spent 20 years in camp and this is balony!!!! It makes for nice reading and starts a good conversation for the bashers but it is not true. This never ever happened.

    Please don’t make our wonderful Torahdiga counselors who work so hard to make summers so great – don’t make them out to be hoodlums. Shame on you for this post.

    In our camp the kids get so excited for games they love it! I was in another camp and saw a camper holding an oaktag in camp that says “who needs Lebron we got J.T.” with a bunch of kids all excited about their camp team. (I don’t know who JT is but the kids seem to love him) they were having a great time and had such ruach. Don’t ruin this 40 year old tradition of inter-camp games with your wrongful rant. It NEVER happened and you know it!

  16. This is a problem with bungalow colonies as well. When the parents act like immature babies, what do you expect from their children? What goes on at some of these inter – bungalow colony games is shreklach! The language, the dress code, the attitude are unacceptable.

  17. As someone who has played in these intercamp games for many years, I agree that they invariably bring a certain level of intensity that can sometimes go overboard, particularly when the opposing teams have a competitive and heated history. That being said, there are many games in which the teams, even those that are highly competitive, play fairly and with respect to each other and the referees. I can honestly say I have become friends with so many players from other camps that I have played against. If it is done right, it can be a great thing. If not, there will no doubt be collateral damage and possibly even a chilul Hashem. But isn’t that true for almost anything?

  18. Remember that story?
    IF this kind of thing happens, maybe there should be mandatory readings and showings of the story before all games.

  19. When I was young we played Torah baseball we didn’t do any of this gashmiyus sports shmutz pritzus its a sad state of affairs that kids even know what basketball is. Soyf maisa if absolutely neceSsary our kinder can play curling but anything else not

  20. I wasn’t brought up frum, so I never went to a frum camp. When I heard about “color war” and all the shtus that goes on with it I was appalled. Now this business with “sports” competition.

    How can we teach our kids this kind of cut-throat competition and then ask them for achdus? In business training there is a slogan, “Telling ain’t teaching.” Telling people something is fine, but having them do it is what sticks. So we can tell our kids all we want about achdus and ahavas Yisroel, but if we then send them out to the ball court or the color war to compete no-hold-bars, what is going to be learned – the words or the actions?

    Let’s get our actions in line with our stated priorities.

  21. All I can say is all you people making comments should be in the bais medrash learning and not doing bitul zman bitul Torah issur dioraisa internet surfing shmutz pritzus. If all of you delete your internet youtube blackberry iphones imirtzeh hashem moshiach will arrive swiftly in our days.

  22. Give me a break. I’ve been going to camps in the mountains 4 years and ive seen the games their all fine. Only once in a while someone gets a little over excited and raises their voice a drop.
    As 4 Rabbi gershon Kramer I can tell you I witnessed with my own eyes he didnt let his camp Bei Kyta’s starting 5 team to continue to play because he feels that there has to be a certain derech Eretz in basketball.
    he was even offered an NBA contract when he was younger look it up if you dont believe me u do have internet access.
    And no Ma-Na-Vu doesnt have the best record in the mountains. They lost to Bei Kyta 3 out of 4 games in the past 2 years and over the past 2 years Bei Kytas record is 18-2-0 and we only lost 2 games last year because we were missing 3 out of 5 of our starting 5 both of those games including our point gaurd, shooting gaurd, and center so beat that.

  23. i tell my kid to scream it raises his derech eretz and his self esteem!!! and eventually he will grow up!!!! and u shouldnt even be on the issurnet writing about this so called chilul hashem …its the prizus net u should be going to the beis medrash according to u!!!!