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Eye on the Prize

Sports Awards and Senior Athletes Recognition

“Student athletes’ achievements should never go unrecognized,” said Athletic Director Coach Rodney Zimmerman. Therefore, on the morning of Lag Baomer, high school students and the Senior Class’s parents gathered for a sports awards ceremony. 

In recent years, sports awards have been given during the general awards banquet at the end of each year. Coach Z said, “In order for the athletics program to continue to thrive, I believe it is important that it gains its own recognition and provides a variety of accomplishments for each sport.”

One by one, Coach Z called up the recipients to receive their awards. The Leadership Legacy Awards went to athletes who presented “fair and generous behavior showing respect for the rules of the game and for all other athletes.” The Leadership Esteem Awards are given to athletes who have “shown considerable improvement, have a no quit attitude, and always give their best, no matter what the outcome.” The recipients of these awards are chosen by the teams’ coaches. These two awards were given to an athlete in each sport. 

The Jack Bleich Award is given to one senior “who displays good sportsmanship, plays at least two sports, shows courage and service to others always,” said Coach Z. “This student holds true to outstanding academic standards, is gracious, and possesses the character, integrity, sensitivity, and holiness which represents the AJA Jaguar.” The high school leadership team (a group of administrators) chose the winner of this award.

This year senior Simmy Wilson received this award, in addition to the Legacy Esteem Award for basketball and the Leadership Legacy Award in both baseball and basketball. Simmy explained that the Jack Bleich Award overwhelmingly meant the most to him, because he said, “It was only given to me out of all people in the school. It really shows me that all the hard work paid off.”

 Lastly, the combination of coaches, athletic director, and high school administrators selected the recipient of the Penny Eisenstein Award. Since Coach Penny will be retiring after this year, she was involved in choosing the student to receive this award. This year, Matthew Minsk was the recipient.

“This year’s additional element of senior recognition is an individual exception to the sports awards ceremony vision.”

In addition to these awards, Coach Z honored each senior athlete and gave them a personalized framed picture, which other students later signed with notes. Ideally, in normal times, every sport has a Senior Night during its season, in which the senior athletes are acknowledged. As with many events this year, the pandemic conditions made this unfeasible. 

This year’s additional element of senior recognition is an individual exception to the sports awards ceremony vision. The senior recognition served as “a compromised workaround for such a tough year during a pandemic,” so in future years, the entirety of senior athletes will not be specifically recognized at this event.

“Not having Senior Nights this year was very tough on our seniors,” Coach Z explained. “We were very fortunate to be able to have our senior parents attend the athletics banquet this year, to provide them with the acknowledgements both they and our seniors deserved.”

For example, senior Noa Mishli, who received the Legacy Esteem Award in basketball, mentioned that the award “makes [her] feel more appreciated, especially as a senior.” In addition, Coach Z stated that “the parents truly appreciated having their seniors honored.” 

Moving forward the school plans to continue having ceremonies to honor student athletes. Coach Z noted, “We want to continue to recognize how proud we are of all students, and for athletics, those who have committed to using sports as a tool for leadership and team development.” He believes that “without recognizing the efforts put in by our young people everyday, they may not have true insight on the purpose of why playing sports is important.” 

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