Senior Night and Recognizing Senior Athletes
On Saturday night, January 22, the AJA community gathered to celebrate the senior athletes on winter sports teams (boys basketball, girls basketball, and wrestling). Wedged between a girls basketball game and a boys basketball game, Senior Night served as a brief moment of celebration and recognition. Head of School Rabbi Ari Leubitz introduced each senior athlete with a short paragraph before they ran from their locker rooms to the center of the gym. Fans, many of them partaking in pizza or snacks from the concessions stand, cheered for each senior. Seniors met their parents near the half-court line to collect certificates and then lined up for a group picture.
In addition to celebrations planned by the school, many students found their own ways to celebrate the seniors. Sophomore boys basketball player Mikey Wilson, for example, explained how the boys basketball team decided to create massive cardboard cutouts of all the seniors’ faces. Indeed, the faces of many of the senior athletes, held up by fans, waved in the crowd throughout Senior Night. These floating visages contributed an air of ingenuity to the night. Another piece of student-led celebration came from the girls basketball team, who presented a homemade gift to each senior. The gifts were pieces of wood, painted different shades of blue and decorated with the individual senior’s name, number, and pictures of them playing. Wrestling team members, both middle schoolers and high schoolers arrived in their wrestling outfits to cheer for and take pictures with Micah Feit Mann, the only senior on the wrestling team. To support the seniors, each team contributed something of their own to senior night.
One reason AJA dedicates a night to recognizing its seniors is that seniors fulfill a unique role on many sports teams. On many sports teams, senior athletes act as leaders. As Mikey views it, “They are sort of in charge of the team, second to the coach.” He explained that senior players often give advice after games and practices. Junior girls basketball player Aviva Leubitz agreed that senior athletes have leadership roles. “They help people who don’t understand,” she elaborated. Athletics Director Coach Rodney Zimerman commented, “Since I’ve been here, I have never seen any senior that has not led by example.” Clearly, the leadership role of student athletes is one major reason they are honored on Senior Night.
Another major reason is simply their dedication and time commitment. “A lot of students play multiple sports,” Coach Zimmerman pointed out, “I think it’s important to honor them for their commitment. That’s a huge commitment to do a sport every season throughout the year.” Senior basketball player Yered Wittenberg also stressed the dedication required to be an athlete throughout high school. “We put a lot of hours into practice and a lot of commitment into this team to try and play for the program and represent [our] school,” Yered continued. On Senior Night, AJA chooses to honor all of the seniors who dedicate so much of their time to the sports program.
Framed by two basketball games which displayed the determination and grit that AJA athletes put into their sports, Senior Night took a moment to recognise the leadership and commitment of AJA senior athletes.