Community-Building Exercise

Zachary Coffin

“We never would have expected to have a football team before a debate club,” Head of School Stuart J. Dow joked, “but we’re committed to empowering our students and going above and beyond to enable new opportunities. Anyway, now we offer both extracurriculars.” Nine years ago, our young school fielded its first six-man football team. Now, in 2015, the football team has taken home two football championships, and the school and its athletics programs have seen tremendous growth and participation rates among students.


Emery can rightly attribute much of this growth to good old-fashioned teamwork, students and administrators working together to improve and expand opportunities. In 2012, Emery added a lacrosse program, born out of student initiative and brought to the administration by student-athletes. Similarly, in 2014, the school created a wrestling program to meet the expressed interests of its high school students. In Dow’s words, “It’s important to us that students are able to nurture their passions. If that passion is lacrosse, or football or wrestling, we find a way make it happen. Athletics is an important proving ground for students’ confidences and resiliencies.”


Just as the school’s administration has supported its student body in achieving these goals, so too has the school community supported the institution. In 2013, Emery completed construction of Helfman Field, a multiuse artificial turf field that’s best in class in the Greater Houston Area. In December, the school will complete construction of Caress Stadium, a stadium sporting a 500-seat spectator area, press box, concession stand and exercise facilities for the school’s athletes. Both projects were made possible by gifts to the school’s “Champions Campaign,” a capital campaign which will raise $20 million by the year 2020. The importance of community in achieving these ends stands at the forefront of the project. Caress Stadium is fashioned from a stone which mirrors the Jerusalem stone adorning much of campus.


The link between athletics and Judaism may not be immediately apparent, but the connection is strong, explained Jill Shoshany, director of Jewish life. “In the Torah, Abraham leaves his land to find a new place which God will show him. It’s a quest story, a journey. When our athletes suit up and take to the field, it’s a similar sort of personal quest—an opportunity for them to overcome a physical and mental struggle, and to be stronger for it. It’s also a community-building exercise. Bonds don’t have to be forged in the synagogue; that can happen on the field or in the classroom—any place Jewish students come together for a common purpose.”

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HaYidion Athletics Winter 2015
Winter 2015