Fuchs Mizrachi girls’ basketball teams show growth on the court

Izzy Wilbur, left, hits a three-point shot Dec. 28 against Garrett Morgan High School in Cleveland. 

There is a culture shift happening in the Fuchs Mizrachi School athletic department, most notably, on the court.

For the first time in the Beachwood school’s history, it has both a varsity and a junior varsity basketball team.

Josh Wieder, who is the athletic director and head coach for both the high school and the junior high school girls’ basketball teams, said the athletic department experimented with this idea just prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the original iteration of the junior varsity team was not allowed to play any Ohio High School Athletic Association games because the entire team was composed of eighth graders.

The girls will play 13 games this season, the most in school history.

Since taking over the girls’ basketball program in the 2018-19 school year, Wieder has tried to teach them to play basketball “as if they were boys” by putting a focus on making sure they are not only having a good time, but they’re also learning sportsmanship, teamwork and basketball skills. To him, it’s all about teaching the girls to be confident in who they are athletically, he said.

“One of the big moves that I tried to make when I took over as athletic director was convincing girls that sports isn’t just a boys’ thing,” Wieder said. “Girls can play sports and be competitive in it as well.”

Wieder said there are more players in the girls’ basketball programs than in the boys’ programs, with 21 girls in the varsity and junior varsity programs.

Wieder said this kind of participation is important because through athletics, a lot of problems are resolved. Schools like Fuchs Mizrachi have a lot of socioeconomic and religious differentiators, he said, as well as athletic differences. However, he said that once you get into a sport, none of those things matter.

“All that matters is teamwork,” he said. “There are some girls who are significantly more inclined athletically and then some girls who aren’t. But as long as they work together as a collective, they can together be very effective in athletics.”

The junior varsity team at Fuchs Mizrachi is 5-0, while the varsity team is 0-3. This is one of the school’s first years where it played many public schools rather than just the private Christian schools.

He said the high school girls’ basketball team will often come to practices at

6:30 a.m. before school begins to try advancing their skills, which is not something that he previously saw.

“The work ethic behind some of these girls is a public-school product,” Wieder said. “They’re taking the steps necessary to get closer.”

Wider said most of the varsity team played for him in eighth grade, finishing with a 13-2 record.

“They’ve tasted victory and they like what it tastes like,” he said. “They’re willing to put in the work to try and get back to where they were.”

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