Gaithersburg-resident Jeanne Ellinport has a cardinal rule for her children: If you don’t go to Jewish day school, you go to Jewish summer camp.
When Ellinport’s youngest daughter was in fourth grade, she wanted to go to an overnight soccer camp, something that didn’t exist in the realm of Jewish overnight camps. Being an avid soccer player, it was a delight to both her and her mother when they heard about 6 Points Sports Academy, a Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) specialty overnight camp that focuses on specific competitive sports.
The camp, which opened in the summer of 2010, offers campers state-of-the-art athletic facilities located on the 100-acre grounds of the American Hebrew Academy in Greensboro, N.C. With baseball and softball fields, an eight-lane indoor pool, tennis courts, multipurpose fields, a gymnasium and more, 6 Points provides an option for fourth- to 11th-graders looking to improve their skills in basketball, soccer, swimming, baseball/softball, lacrosse and cheerleading/dance.
Ellinport’s daughter is one of the few campers who’s attended every summer since 2010, and her other two children decided to follow suit after her youngest had a great experience. A member of the camp committee, Ellinport says 6 Points is great for anyone interested in sports, not just athletes at the top of their game.
“The big misnomer is they have to be really good,” she says. “Your kid doesn’t have to be the best athlete. They just have to enjoy it and want to do it a few hours
During the three, 12-day sessions (with two intersessions for those who want to extend their stay), campers from across the country come to 6 Points to improve their skills in their particular sport and, as with any other Jewish overnight camp, make new friends and build their Jewish identity.
Elinor Josephson, the camp administrator for 6 Points, says the idea for the URJ specialty camp came about after the movement realized that Jewish community camps were losing youth to private specialty camping. With the launch of 6 Points, Josephson says URJ was providing youth with both an incredible camp and a wonderful Jewish experience.
“You are coming for skills and drills, and to really improve on your own personal sports skills in your particular [area],” she says.
Led by professional coaches and Jewish counselors, 6 Points allows campers to focus on what is known as their sports major for four hours a day. No matter the sport, the campers experience a variety of training, both competitive and drill-based. The camp also offers two daily sports electives to give campers a break from their major. These include rock-climbing, volleyball, kayaking, flag football, rugby and Zumba.
Josephson notes that a child attending 6 Points won’t be left out. The example she gives is when campers are split into teams during a soccer scrimmage. In the middle of the game, she says, a coach might stop it and ask a particular player what they were thinking, what their goal was and how they saw the field.
“In the course of playing, they’re learning from every moment,” she explains. “There are always interactions, instructions and positive feedback from coaches. The whole point is we take advantage of every single day and every particular session so we maximize what kids are learning, how much fun they’re having and the life skills they’re learning.”
While 6 Points is indeed a sports camp, it tries to balance the sports focus with the ordinary Jewish camp element as well.
Of the camp’s “six points to a well-rounded athlete,” a proud Jewish identity is one. And the camps six values are community (kehilla), respect (kavod), courage (gevura), compassion (hemla), diligence (haritzut) and humility (anovah).
“What makes it unique is the balance of Jewish experience,” says Lori Hulak, the communications and development associate for 6 Points. “On a day-to-day basis, there’s some sort of presentation on Jewish values,” something that the coaches will incorporate throughout the day.
They know “they’re in a Jewish environment,” Hulak says, and not just with the presence of Shabbat and 6 Points’ own Maccabi Games.
The campers participate in a tikkun olam project that involves a 5k run to raise money for a local charity. Last year, they raised money for a local Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Ellinport also notes that each week, the camp focuses on a different Jewish value, whether it’s courage, determination or loyalty, and the kids get a bracelet to remind them of that value.
“It is the coolest thing to pick up your child and see their arms filled with rubber bracelets (one for each value), and have them tell stories of how and why they got them,” she says. “It’s a great way [for the camp] to cross over into Jewish life and learning. It’s a good balance of sports and Jewish identity.”