SILVER SPRING (Md.) —Dr. Joshua Hollander was frustrated that his community didn’t have any organized sports leagues for his son, so last year he did something about it: he launched Ko-ach Sports. Starting with soccer last fall, a spring baseball league currently in session, and a summer track program planned for this year, the healthcare consultant and former chiropractor is hoping to provide year-round athletic activities that are tailored to observant Jewish families.
“My six-year-old son wanted to play soccer in the fall of 2016,” said Dr. Hollander. “I asked around for recommendations, and heard that there was no Jewish league.” The other county or private leagues tended to have games on Shabbos and were not very accommodating of an observant lifestyle.
Dr. Hollander decided to invite his son’s friends to create their own mini league. “I reached out to some of my son’s friends’ parents, and within two weeks, 20 boys were signed up,” he said. “Ko-ach Sports was born.”
The current baseball season has 73 children divided amongst seven teams, which played in their first games on April 30. The league runs games and practices at local schools and park fields close to the Jewish communities in Silver Spring, including Sligo-Dennis Avenue Local Park, White Oak Middle School, and Burnt Mills Elementary School.
Hollander himself is an athlete, having run seven marathons, but as a child and teen he was very influenced by access to multiple sports leagues. He explains that doing sports is about “learning to win and lose as a team, and to try new things in a safe and supportive environment … To be able to dig deep, to really try at something within a group — that’s where the name Ko-ach came from. Strength. ‘Building internal strength as we develop our external strength.’”
Local families have really connected with the Ko-ach mission. Devorah Saltzman, a local parent, said, “Our boys look forward to baseball all week long. They can’t wait to put on their uniforms Sunday mornings and are so excited for the games. We are so grateful to Ko-ach Sports for enabling our boys to be active in such a positive environment with their friends!”
“The beauty of Ko-ach sports is that it allows the boys to have a great time while building social skills, learning to work as a team, and, most importantly, learning that there’s more to the game than just winning,” said Rabbi Shmuel Lichtenstein. “The coaches are focused on building each child and helping them succeed and enjoy sports.”
“Ko-ach sports is most impressive not just because of the beautiful uniforms and equipment, but because of the great work they do with our children,” he said.
Rabbi Nati Stern, parent of a Ko-ach Sports participant and volunteer assistant coach for the Saltzman HealthMarkets Insurance baseball team, said he was impressed with the children’s cooperation and dedication during the season’s opening day game. “They really played together nicely,” he said.
More than just organizing games, Dr. Hollander is helping to strengthen the community. “Boys from all the Orthodox day schools in the DC region are represented,” he said. “I also invited teenagers and young men of the community to be involved as assistant coaches, umpires, and concession stand workers. In keeping with the value of bringing the community together, several local businesses came forward to sponsor teams, including Ben Yehuda Pizza, Gabriel Bensimon Mortgages, Saltzman Healthmarkets Insurance, and Brooklyn Sandwich Co.”
Soccer, baseball, and track and field — what else does the future hold for Ko-ach Sports?
“We’re hoping to expand next fall with a girls’ soccer league and after that, just listen to what families want, maybe basketball or flag football down the road,” said Dr. Hollander.
For more information, visit www.Ko-achSports.com.
By Kol HaBirah Staff