The Jewish Youth Group Sports League (JYGL) is being formed by local chapters of BBYO, NFTY, USY and NCSY and the Valley of the Sun Jewish Community Center’s Maccabi program, according to co-founder Jennifer Schwarz. The league will provide Valley teens in grades 8-12 an opportunity to represent their respective youth groups in a variety of sports on Sunday evenings throughout the year.  

Teams are now forming for basketball, which is scheduled to start on Jan. 17, and a co-ed kickball season is set to start in March.

The league is modeled after those in Jewish communities like Atlanta and Houston, where BBYO has had successful athletic programs for decades, according to Schwarz, who founded the league with her husband, Steven. The couple have three children in grades 5, 7 and 10. “Other communities have leagues that are as strong or stronger than they were in the 1980s, when hundreds of teens came to play, to hang out with friends and to make new friends,” she said in a release. “Growing up in Houston, I knew that every Sunday I wanted to be at the JCC for ‘Athletics’ and my friends and I planned around it. These were some of my best teen memories.”  

The goal of the program is to have another touch point for Jewish teens in the Valley to connect with each other and to a Jewish youth group, said Schwarz. But, the league will go beyond the bonding that happens on the court; it will also be about the bonding that happens off the court with teens coming to root on their chapter or just to hang out. A partnership between JYGL and Jewish News will offer the opportunity to have student reporters and photographers report on the games, which will be held 5-7 p.m. Sundays at the VOSJCC.

“So many Jewish teens love to play sports, which can be such a strong bonding experience,” said Alexa Wollach, VOSJCC director of youth sports and recreation, in the release. “We want all of the Jewish teens in town to know that the place to see other teens on Sundays – whether they are playing the sport or not – is The J.”

“We hope that the league becomes part of the Sunday routine,” said Steven Schwarz, who is also the Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix board chair, in the release. “We chose the early evening so there would still be time for family dinner and homework.”

“We are very excited to be working with so many of our local youth group chapters to build this program and are beyond appreciative of the support we are receiving from so many other organizations,” he added.

Prizes will be awarded to the winning team and the youth group chapter with the most ruach (spirit) and there will be a season-end attendance raffle for players and nonplayers. Participants must be a member in good standing of a local Jewish youth group to play for its team. If teens are members of a group that is not forming a team, they may play on a different chapter’s team.

The deadline for basketball registration is Dec. 31, but early registration is encouraged and may be required by some groups as space is limited. For more information, contact Alexa at 480-483-7121, ext. 1283, or alexaw@vosjcc.org

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