jlink
Thursday, October 17, 2019

It’s the last week of August and your son has just returned from an amazing adventure at camp. As you look at the daunting mound of laundry before you, realization sets in. I am not talking about the realization that you have hours of laundry and delousing ahead of you. The yom tovim have not yet arrived and the kids have not yet had their first day of class, but it’s time to come up with a plan next summer. In Bergen County we are blessed to have many terrific local summer camp options, but I would like to present you with a new option. If your son is serious about basketball and is looking for a life altering experience, it might be time to Step It Up.

Step It Up is a mere two-hour flight away in West Palm Beach. It is the only kosher/Shomer Shabbos/ sleep-away basketball camp of its kind. A few weeks ago, the camp’s founder and head coach, Yogev Berdugo, sat down to discuss his innovative camp with the Jewish Link of Bergen County.

Coach Berdugo is currently the head coach of the Weinbaum Yeshiva High School; he played his college ball for both Hofstra and Brandeis University. After going undrafted in the 2005 NBA draft, Berdugo headed to Israel to play the game that he loved. In 2009 Yogev was in the early stages of a successful pro career in the Israeli Premier League when a death in the family forced him back to the States, ending his playing career. Israel’s loss has been America’s gain. Over the past three years he has worked with hundreds of young men both on the court and off.

The camp started out with 27 campers in the Boca Raton Jewish Center. In only its third summer the camp had 250 campers and moved to the Northwood University Campus in West Palm Beach, Florida. They had campers from 18 states and 9 different countries; at least 40 campers extended their stay.

Step It Up is very proud of its one staff member for every five campers ratio, insuring every camper individual attention. All staff members have played college ball, but more importantly are hired because they are role models and big brother figures.

Berdugo believes that the game of basketball is “overplayed and under-taught,” thus a large part of the Step It Up program is aimed at creating discipline and teaching the game. The coaches at Step It Up believe in an on-the-court, off-the-court philosophy. Using yoga, strength and speed training to augment the skills taught and drilled on the court, significant time is spent teaching the mental aspects of the game along with helping to mold the campers into good people on and off the court.

The daily schedule has time allotted for three minyanim and time to learn. All food served at the camp is certified kosher by the Orthodox Union (OU) and under the supervision of the ORB. Please note that not all of the campers or staff members are frum, or even Jewish. Berdugo observes that the religious mix “helps to strengthen the camper’s individual identities and inspire confidence in every aspect of their lives.” The camp is also very big on instilling in its campers the responsibility to give back to the community—every other week the camp takes a community service trip. Whether it is Habitat for Humanity or feeding the homeless, the boys get the opportunity to give to those in need.

The campers range in ages from 10 to 18, but there is also a dad camp option for those of us still trying to relive our high school glory days. If your ballplayer (regardless of age) would like to work on his game and himself, it is time to Step It Up.

For rates, applications and complete information, visit their site at http://timetostepitup.com/

By Steve Gutlove