Local fans of college athletics have a lot to celebrate, as a number of Jewish high school athletes are signing on to play sports at a collegiate level.
Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School announced that six of its high school senior athletes, a record number, will continue to play their sport of choice during their college careers. A special signing ceremony, during which five of the six students placed their John Hancocks on their respective letters of intent, was held in a Beth Tfiloh auditorium on Nov. 11.
According to Stacy Fuld, Beth Tfiloh’s athletic director, their achievements came from no small amount of dedication and sacrifice. “The athletic success achieved by these students came at the cost of giving up time with friends and family, dedicating free time to club sports, waking up early and staying up late to practice — all while maintaining a high academic curriculum.”
Of the six athletes, four will be playing lacrosse: Alison Krieger, who will be attending Lafayette College; Drew Goldscheider, who is headed for St. Mary’s College of Maryland; Brady Palmer, who will attend Eastern University; and Marissa Ross, who’s been accepted to Fairleigh Dickinson University.
Additionally, Shoshi Dondes will be playing tennis at Gettysburg College, while Emily Feldman will take to the ice as a synchronized skater at Adrian College.
But Beth Tfiloh isn’t the only school sending Jewish students on to play college sports. A student at Franklin High School in Reisterstown, Kira Cohen, will be playing soccer for Goldey-Beacom College in Wilmington, Del.
“I most enjoy the relationship you have with your teammates,” said 18-year-old Krieger of Reisterstown. “It’s definitely a special feeling, that connection. … I don’t think you can find it in other places, other than sports.”
Krieger has been playing lacrosse since she was 5, she said. She started out in a recreational league along with several of her friends. She continued playing in recreational leagues until the fifth grade, when she began to play in a somewhat more competitive club league. She noted that the real turning point came during eighth grade, when she began to become “pretty good” at her sport.
According to Krieger, part of what makes lacrosse special is how “it takes a special kind of talent, because you’re not so much using just your body. You have a stick that you have to control and use to your advantage, and that stick, if you don’t know how to use it right, can also be to your disadvantage.”
Krieger also enjoys how competitive the sport is; it forces her to work hard to stay in the running.
As would be expected, finding a way to juggle competitive high school athletics with a full academic workload is not easy. Krieger has had to prioritize and find ways to balance lacrosse training with her coursework and social life, and on occasion has had to cut short time with her friends in order to meet her responsibilities. The fact that, as Krieger describes it, Maryland is the “hub for lacrosse” only ratchets up the pressure, as the competition is all the fiercer.
Krieger, who has received a scholarship to play at Lafayette, will be competing at the Division I level when college begins, calling it the achievement she’s been most proud of in her lacrosse career. “That’s been my dream,” she said, “ever since I knew what it was, to play against teams like Loyola and Navy and Army.”
“You learn a lot of life skills when you’re playing on a team, especially on lacrosse,” said Goldscheider, 18, of Pikesville, who spoke on how the sport had taught him the importance of “having someone else’s back, taking responsibility either for your job playing defense or playing offense.”
Goldscheider estimated that he began playing “soft stick,” which uses no pads, around the age of 5 or 6, and graduated to playing with full pads the following year.
In addition to lacrosse’s fast pace and the opportunities it provides to meet new people, Goldscheider also spoke on how lacrosse allows for a creativity aspect that is not found in other sports.
“You go for a layup in basketball, or you just kick the ball in soccer,” Goldscheider said. “Lacrosse, you can score in many ways, really.”
Goldscheider admitted that, in the beginning, lacrosse was not something that came naturally to him. “To start, I wasn’t the greatest,” he said. “I couldn’t really catch and throw. I was just the big kid who played defense. I just hit kids, and that was my job.”
As time went on, though, Goldscheider began putting more and more time and effort into practicing in his backyard. By middle school, he said, he’d realized he was fairly good at lacrosse, and far better at it then some of the other sports he played, such as basketball or soccer.
Through all the hard work, Goldscheider was glad to have his family backing him every step of the way. “They supported me through everything,” he said, noting how his family had taken him to lacrosse events all over the East Coast and to tournaments as far away as Denver. He made particular mention of how his parents had given their unconditional support when, during eighth grade, he made the decision to switch positions from defense to offense.
“They were like, ‘Yes! We are so for it,’” Goldscheider said of his parents’ response. “‘We’re here for you, we support you in what you do.’ And it was really nice to have that backing from my parents.”
“I started playing [soccer] when I was about 4 or 5,” said Cohen, 18, of Reisterstown. “I started to realize that soccer was kind of what I was meant to do was when my parents would try to put me in other sports, and I just would always come back to soccer. I wouldn’t even be interested in any other sports besides soccer.”
According to Cohen’s father, Adam Sean Cohen, he encouraged her to try other sports out of a desire to ensure she was well-rounded. In the end though, he said, “she just didn’t want to really focus her energies on any other sport. She wanted to have laser focus on soccer.”
Cohen, who will receive a partial scholarship to play at the Division II level at Goldey-Beacom, enjoys what she calls the “natural high” she gets from soccer, and its power to, no matter her troubles, make her problems seemingly fade away.
Cohen stated that the pandemic caused her to miss out on three-months’ worth of practice and games, forcing her to depend on self-discipline to stay in shape. When things began reopening, she said, she was even better than before. “So I think quarantine definitely affected me in a positive way,” Cohen said.
Cohen also spoke about how her soccer experience was affected by her being the only Jewish or minority member of her team. “I didn’t get off for a lot of holidays, but we always got off for Christian holidays. And so I always felt kind of like an outsider, because I couldn’t relate to anyone on my team.
“But over time,” Cohen continued, “I’ve learned to embrace it, and I think it’s actually made me happier on the team. And once I realized that it’s OK to be different, I think I’m able to bond with people more now.”