This spring has brought new excitement for a group of girls who now have the opportunity to represent their day schools in the sport they love. A tournament on March 16 kicked off the Girls Division of the Hockey Association of Yeshiva Middle Schools (HAYMISH). With it came the realization of a dream for many who had been waiting years for the opportunity.
The floor hockey round-robin was played at Yavneh Academy in Paramus, and featured teams of sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-graders from Yavneh, the Moriah School of Englewood, and the Ramaz School in Manhattan. The hope of all involved is that the tournament’s success will be just the beginning for the new league, said organizers.
The Moriah girls hockey team (in white jerseys) takes on the Yavneh girls hockey team (in burgundy) in the inaugural game of the HAYMISH Girls Hockey League. Photo by Sheryl Elias
"We’d like this to take off, and there’s every reason to think it will," said Patty Borodach of Teaneck, the league’s founder and a Yavneh parent. "There’s been tremendous interest on the part of the girls."
Borodach began communicating her idea of a girls division to school administrators in November ‘006. "There have been studies that have shown how important being involved in athletics is for children’s development," she said of the significance of the league. "I think that the more opportunities the better it is important to have more middle school teams than just basketball, to get more kids involved in playing team sports."
Etana Staiman, an eighth-grader from Teaneck and Yavneh co-captain, remembered her initial feelings when she heard about the league: "I was so happy. We’ve been waiting so long for this, ever since the boys got their league [in ‘005]. We just really wanted it and are so happy to be a part of it."
Each school arranged coaching, held tryouts, and had been practicing in preparation for the tournament. Many of the girls have been playing floor hockey for years in a recreational league at Ma’ayanot High School in Teaneck, started by Mo and Rina Fuchs in September ‘004. The Ma’ayanot Junior Hockey League has approximately 75 to 100 girls in two divisions, ranging from second to eighth grade.
The HAYMISH Girls Division is the natural outgrowth of this extremely popular league, said Borodach. " [Since] many of the girls are playing in this recreational league, from second grade on, it really makes sense to make this opportunity available," she said. "I think this is a natural thing to start in Bergen County. There are a cluster of schools in a small geographical area. We don’t have to go that far to make it happen."
The new league offers "the chance to go out there and play the sport you love, but also represent your team and your school, and have a lot of fun while doing it," said eighth-grader Zoe Liebmann of Fair Lawn, Yavneh’s other co-captain, who scored her team’s first goal ever.
The plan is to have additional tournaments this year at Moriah and Ramaz, and to add more schools for the ‘008-09 school year.
"The hope is to have a bigger schedule for next year," said Borodach. "Girls hockey hasn’t necessarily taken off every place, yet. It’s still relatively new on the scene. I think it takes a little while to spread."
She’s hopeful though that "this summer, the girls who go to sleep-away camp will play, and they’ll talk about it and they’ll put some pressure for next year for more schools to join in."
Rabbi Noam Weinberg, associate principal of Moriah, is confident of the new league’s viability. "This year, in my mind, I viewed it as a preliminary year, seeing whether or not we could try something like this, to see the type of reaction and participation we’d get." He continued, "The participation, in my opinion, has been very well received. The parents are very happy, the children are very happy about it. It’s definitely something I’d like to see full force, as a real authentic league, like every other league."
In the meantime, the girls will continue to practice.
"It’s not only a matter of the games," Borodach said. "It’s also a practice thing. That gets the girls working as a team. There’s also physical exercise and skill building."