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Reflecting on the Sports Leadership Summit

February 13, 2020

Delray Beach, Florida, United States

When I chose to go on the Sports Leadership Summit at International Convention this year, I had no idea what to expect when I walked into the room we were told to go into on Wednesday. Once I got there, I saw some friends I had made at ILTC, sat down with them, and prepared myself to hear all of the amazing speakers that had been chosen to speak to us. 

Estee Portnoy, Michael Jordan’s business manager and BBYO alum and Board Member, spoke first. She spoke about her experience working with Jordan in the last 23 ½ years, how she got involved in the sports industry, and how her time and skills she learned in BBYO have helped her reach the success she has earned. She began her sports career by chance, when she was placed in the athletics department at the University of Michigan for her work study. The coach took an interest, and thus her sports career had begun. 

Once she opened the floor to us for questions, teens asked questions across all topics, from BBYO, to Michael Jordan, and more. One question that was asked to Portnoy that I had found interesting was about the late Kobe Bryant, who passed away last month in a helicopter crash. She shared memories of her and Bryant’s meetings about the documentary being produced about Jordan, and how he wanted to help make the video. She also told us how she found out the news of his passing, when she was flying home to see her daughter—who is serving as the N’siah of her chapter—give her states speech. Portnoy recalled to us how she found out, and how she went about telling the breaking news to Jordan, who had landed after Portnoy. Before the Q&A session was over, she showed us a short video about the impact Jordan has all over the world, across all sports, including basketball, football, etc.

After Portnoy spoke, there were five more speakers on a panel. Daniel Gurevich, Dan Kurtz, Seth Goldberg, JJ Davidson, and David Zimmerman. They all spoke about their experiences in Maccabiah, and how the Jewish world is united through sports and these events that occur. Goldberg talked to us about how he has hearing loss in one ear and some hearing ability left in his other ear, as well as a physical disability that has put him into a wheelchair, how he was able to overcome these challenges, and still play the sport he loved, which is basketball.

Once all of the speakers were done, we all left the room and got onto buses! It was time to go to the Toyota Stadium, home to FC Dallas. We pulled into the parking lot, got off the bus, and then hopped into line for food from the food truck that was waiting for us. I ordered a grilled cheese and french fries, which was super good. After everyone was done eating, the tour had officially begun. We were shown the field from all different vantage points of the stadium, the heat lamps that were on the field to keep the grass warm, the locker rooms, trophy cases, and more. It was so cool to hear about the Hunt family and how two other teams, the Kansas City Chiefs and the Chicago Bulls, were connected to FC Dallas. As we were walking the hallways of the building, we saw old jerseys from when FC Dallas was still called Dallas Burn, and it was so cool to see all of the jerseys of the players who have since retired. Fun fact: the youngest player to score an MLS goal was only 14 years old!

For day two of the Summit, we took a bus to the Sportsplex, where we heard from more speakers, ate lunch, and got a chance to play sports. One of the speakers there was Joanne Pasternack. Pasternack, a BBYO alum and Washington D.C. native, shared that she found her way to the sports industry in an interesting way. She told us when she was five years old, she happened to be in a bad car accident. This accident made it impossible for her to play most sports, but one day she went to a birthday party at an ice rink, stepped on the ice, and fell in love right away. She then became involved with the Special Olympics through her ice rink. Sports have the power to change people, and an example of this statement being relevant in Pasternack’s life is her son. When he was seven, he was playing in a soccer game on a team of 12 boys who spoke eight different languages. She went on to say that when her son’s team won the championship, they all ran to the center of the field and piled on top of each other, and they didn’t even consider the differences between all of them, the languages they spoke, and what their parents do for work. 

After Pasternack was done speaking, we broke out into groups to play sports. I was placed in the lacrosse group. I have been playing lacrosse for 10 years, so I was very excited to play. We did a game called “Messy Backyard” where the group was split in half, the lacrosse balls were split in half also, and the objective of the game was to have the “cleanest” backyard and move all of the lacrosse balls onto the other teams side. The second game we played was “Hungry Hippo”. The group was split into four groups, each at a corner of the space. The balls were all in the middle of the room, and one person at a time went to go get a ball and bring it back to their corner. Once all of the balls in the middle were gone, we were free to go steal from the other teams. After both games, we scrimmaged until the end of the sessions.



Jessie Budin is a BBG from Acharit BBG #2543 in Gold Coast Region #51 and she had her Bat Mitzvah at Perlman Camp.

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