Our community is privileged to have a recreational program for boys in grades one through beis midrash and college that offers wide-open spaces to run and have fun while learning sportsmanship and the Torah way to play sports. The Queens Flag Football League is now entering its sixth season. Under the direction of Rabbi Rafi Pearl, a rebbe at MTA, the league offers an opportunity for younger kids to learn the sport and develop basic skills. It also offers a competitive environment for all ages, while at the same time focusing on playing like a mentch. Playing ball like a Jew means that if your teammate misses a pass, you say, “Good try,” instead of yelling at him. You encourage each other. If you win, you don’t gloat over the loser. If someone misses a pass from the other team, you don’t make that person feel bad over his loss either.
Rabbi Pearl emphasizes that sports involve social skills. The boys are developing their athletic skills, but at the same time they are learning the art of working together as a team. The leagues help foster self-esteem. When boys develop sports skills at a young age, this helps them with social acceptance, as well. When Rabbi Pearl creates the teams, he purposely puts boys from different schools together so they meet new friends; it creates more achdus in the community.
The league offers two trophies. The smaller trophies are awarded to the Super Bowl champs and the runner-ups, while the larger trophies are awarded for midos. Rabbi Pearl shows the boys the two trophies in the beginning of the season and the emphasis on the importance of midos is obvious.
Everyone has his own individual talents and strengths. Those energetic kids who have troubling sitting still in class can be stars on the field. The league provides an opportunity for boys to shine who may not be excelling in other areas.
The leagues run, rain or shine. The boys are given jerseys in their team color with their names. The league meets in the fall and spring. The next season will begin Friday, March 1. They meet Friday afternoons at 1:45 p.m. at Flushing Meadow Park.
Parents have expressed appreciation that the boys have something productive to do on Friday afternoons, and this can make it easier sometimes for parents preparing for Shabbos.
In Flushing Meadows Park, all leagues play in three fields that are adjoining each other, which makes it convenient for carpools and parents with participating siblings of different ages. Also, it makes it easier for parents and grandparents to come, watch, and cheer.
There are 300 boys participating in the league. Rabbi Pearl commented, “What makes the league so unique is the diversity amongst the boys. There are boys from Yeshiva Ketana, Tiferes Moshe, Har Torah, YCQ, and from many neighborhood Sephardic yeshivos as well. Everyone joins together, and that is something special.” Most of the Queens yeshivos have limited space for the boys to run around. Also, these schools do not provide sports leagues, so this is their sports league. The leagues provide those huge spaces to run. Parents comment that the boys are more relaxed Friday night. They are going into Shabbos in a joyful, relaxed way. The staff members are all yeshivah students, which helps create a positive religious environment.
Boys comment, “It’s the highlight of my week,” and, “There’s no place I’d rather be on a Friday.”
The leagues are fully staffed with yeshivah bachurim, and a Hatzolah member is present at every game.
Everyone is invited to come out and see the league in action. To sign up or for more information, call 718-541-5672 or email Rafi Pearl at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Susie Garber