(photo credit: Courtesy/Shiraliga)
For Talya Cohen of Beit El, there are very few opportunities to meet other girls
her age with similar interests and backgrounds. Thanks to the Shiraliga
Basketball League (a basketball league run entirely by women for women), Talya
and hundreds like her meet new people on a regular basis, and many friendships
have developed as a result.
Just this past week, for example, three of
the six divisions in the Shiraliga were active in the last tournament of the
school year, and more than 350 religious girls from ages 9-18 played in 75 games
for 32 teams in the Malcha Arena. The teams, representing their respective
schools, practice all year for various tournaments, and this particular event
marked the final championship.
Many of these young women come from as far
away as Gush Etzion, Modiin, Ofra, Beit El, and Kochav Yaakov to play in
tournaments; these competitions offer them an ideal opportunity to meet girls
from similar backgrounds.
No other activities between these schools
currently exist that allow for the interaction of these students on a schoolwide
With the exception of Shira Amsel, few believed that there was any
interest for religious girls to be active in sports, particularly basketball,
and compete regularly against each other.
Many of the religious schools
were highly skeptical, and reluctant to even let Shira through the door to
present her program – at first. But Shira herself (the starting center for the
Hapoel Jerusalem women’s basketball team for the past six years) had gone
through the religious school system in Jerusalem and felt the great need for
women’s scholastic sports.
Her dream was ultimately realized in the
creation of the Shiraliga. Once the schools gave the Shiraliga a chance, they
were blown away at the students’ enthusiasm and competitive desire.
years after its birth, the Shiraliga has expanded to include more than 60 teams
for women ranging in age from elementary school to retirement.
Shiraliga has been so successful that last year’s inaugural summer sports camp,
Liga Camp, attracted over 120 young athletes.
Due to overwhelming
enrollment demands, this year’s camp has been relocated to the much larger and
improved facilities of the new sports complex at the Keshet School in Katamon,
There, religious boys and girls will learn and play sports
such as basketball, soccer, volleyball, American football, tennis, baseball,
hockey, swimming and more – all from professional coaches.
recent achievements, Shira’s enthusiasm and energy has her dreaming about doing
more. She still believes that sports in Israel, and women’s sports in
particular, are not where they should be.
Amsel has received many
inquiries about expanding to more communities and venues, but she has been
limited due to the difficulty of finding suitable women coaches to instruct and
prepare new teams for competition.
Anyone interested in finding out more
about Shiraliga, Liga Camp or coaching opportunities should please visit the
website at www.shiraliga.com.