By: Noam Feifel  | 

What are you doing at 5:46 AM?

At 5:45 in the morning, the average YU student is still sound asleep from the past night’s slumber. The mere thought of getting out of bed is terribly disconcerting. Either nightmares are haunting him of performing poorly on his midterm later that day, or he is blissfully dreaming of the steaming cup of coffee that he will soon consume for breakfast. But these average students can wait, because neither of those scenarios will transpire for hours to come.

Simultaneously, a small group of not-so-average YU students experience a very different reality during these premature hours of the day. The men’s basketball team, now under the direction of Coaches Elliot Steinmetz and Yogev Berdugo, have adopted a completely new schedule and clock to revolve around. The team practices six times per week, with weekday installments commencing at 5:45 in the morning. When practice draws a close over two hours later, and other responsibilities become more difficult to manage, the players quickly learn just how valuable time is. One of the captains on the team, senior Shaje Weiss, offered how the strenuous schedule has affected him. “Waking up that early is hard enough and both Coaches expect 110% effort every time we step on the court. The day is much harder because you are that much more tired throughout the day. On top of that we have to get our schoolwork done and try to be in bed by 11, so there is basically no free time beyond basketball and school.” Sophomore Judah Cohen, playing his first year on the team, echoed that exact sentiment, “Because of the early practice, it’s rough to rush back, shower, make it to Shacharis, and then Seder at 9. After that, a full regular day.”

To some, it appears bewildering that college students, already combatting a challenging dual curriculum, would under their own volition sign up for for such a vigorous, demanding program. But others, like senior captain Shelby Rosenberg, see matters from a very different vantage point. “I play basketball because I love to compete. I've been playing basketball my whole life and there's no thrill that compares to the thrill of competition.” For Rosenberg and the rest of the team, the love of the game undoubtedly trumps the extra stress or lack of sleep that accompanies the basketball schedule.

Moreover, according to Rosenberg, the game actually adds valuable elements to his life that would otherwise not exist. For Rosenberg, the intense schedule instills in him core values, such as, “keeping to a strict commitment and learning to be prompt.” Another sophomore in his rookie season, Jamie Cappell offered insight congruent with that of Rosenberg, and explained that being on the team promotes “working hard, helping each other, and learning your role.” While participating on the team has proven to be a difficult, enduring task, the players have discovered ways to maximize their gains from the sport, rather than sulk in the stress and fatigue that consequently stems from it.

Beyond the virtues it oft instills, perhaps the most gratifying aspect of playing on the basketball team at YU is the chemistry and camaraderie that it develops amongst the players. Throughout a long, trying season, players share all kinds of experiences together. Overcoming failure, celebrating success, and merely making it through the gruesome daily routine with one another are only some of the countless situations that build relationships inside and outside of the locker room. Regarding these inter-player relationships, Weiss commented, “The team chemistry is fantastic. On the court we are one of the best passing teams and last year we were nationally ranked in assists in all of Division 3.” Rosenberg added, “the guys are close and I think that's why we can be so unselfish and communal on the court.”

Excellence on the court is obviously imperative and is the reason why students elect to play in the first place, but when the final whistle blows, the relationships formed from the team experience is what remains, and what ultimately reigns supreme. Weiss elaborated on how the players interact beyond the court. “Our chemistry off the court is so great. We are a very tight group and love each other unconditionally and are always there for each other. That is one of our keys to success: how well we mesh together.”

The men’s basketball team invests countless hours everyday at perfecting their craft in hopes of ultimately winning the Skyline Conference playoffs and earning a trip to Yeshiva University's first NCAA tournament in school history. Unwilling to relent, the team is determined to accomplish its goals, no matter what is entailed. Regardless of the turnout, though, the players have transcended being just a sports team. In much more profound terms, they have matured into a bonded, cohesive unit, who find meaning in the game, and who dwell on the values embedded within it.