Caplan Shares Her B-ball Skills And Jewish Faith In San Diego

Caplan Shares Her B-ball Skills And Jewish Faith In San Diego

Cheshire teenager Tema Caplan has made countless friends through playing field hockey, basketball, and lacrosse. However, beyond the sports world, she is part of something that connects her to people throughout history.

As a member of the Jewish faith, Caplan takes pride in her heritage.

“It is definitely a big part of my life,” stated Caplan, a freshman at Cheshire High School. “I grew up going to Hebrew school. I had my bat mitzvah and still go to services.”

This summer, the local 14-year-old had the opportunity to share her faith and compete athletically at the same time. From July 31 through Aug. 5, Caplan played five basketball games in the Jewish Community Center (JCC) Maccabi Games held in San Diego, California.

This year, more than 1,500 athletes competed in baseball, basketball, flag football, ice hockey, soccer, volleyball, dance, eSports, golf, tennis, table tennis, and swimming.

“You felt a sense of togetherness,” recalled Caplan. “We are all Jewish female athletes. We are already connected together.”

She originally tried to sign up in Connecticut, but since her family was unable to find enough interest statewide, they were directed to get in touch with the Springfield JCC in Massachusetts.

To her delight, Caplan was contacted back in the spring about playing on a mixed squad in the Maccabi Games. As the only Connecticut resident, she was teamed up with players from Springfield, Boston, Detroit, and Cincinnati.

“It was a really good feeling,” said Caplan. “I had never been in an organization or anything like that before.”

After arriving in San Diego, the girls didn’t get to practice before playing in their first game.

“We met each other, warmed up, and then went on the court,” recalled Caplan. “I was excited to get to know new people, but I was also nervous to be playing with new people.”

The team had three round-robin games and then competed in two more single-elimination contests. The games consisted of four 8-minute quarters and a 5-minute halftime.

Caplan thought that it took time for the girls to get to know each other, as well as learning their strengths and weaknesses.

“By the end, we had better chemistry than in the first two games,” Caplan said.

Her squad faced off against three mixed teams with players from Paolo Alto, California; Baltimore, Maryland; Montreal, Canada; Houston, Texas; Nashville, Tennessee; and Phoenix and Tucson in Arizona. Caplan also played twice against an LA West Side team.

“It was definitely good competition with the big-city teams. They had tryouts and picked the best (players),” stated Caplan. “There were good mixed teams, too.”

She felt that her favorite experiences came against Philadelphia and South Beach.

“We lost those games, but our camaraderie was great,” recalled Caplan. “It was about more than just playing basketball. We had become friends with each other and were having fun together.”

Caplan contributed as a guard in the tournament.

“I like point guard because you get to dictate and set the tone. Even if you are losing, you are still going to bring the ball up the court and lead the team,” explained Caplan. “Being a (shooting) guard is closely correlated with that. You are still near the ball.”

As a 14-year-old, she faced off against multiple older players in the Maccabi Games. Caplan believes that seeing top competition forces you to make better decisions and choices on the court.

“You are not always on the winning side, so it teaches you the mental side of the game, as well,” stated Caplan.

Since picking up basketball at age 4, Caplan has developed an appreciation for the game.

“I like the quickness and decision-making,” said Caplan. “It is a great game and it has given me a lot of friends who I’m close with to this day.”

Following her summer experience, she feels more confident on the court.

“I learned a lot while playing and I can bring that into the future,” stated Caplan.

She would love to play in next year’s games, which will run from Aug. 6-11 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Next time, Caplan wants to form her own team.

“I’ve asked if my friends would like to join me and they are interested,” added Caplan.

She is currently focused on the start of school and sports at CHS. Last Thursday, she participated in her first field hockey practice.

“I’m definitely excited to go into the season,” stated Caplan. “We’ve had captain practices, conditioning, and (played in) the Nutmeg State Games. I think it is going to be a fun experience this year.”

She plans to play basketball in the winter and then finish off her freshman year with competing in lacrosse.

“It can be a lot at times, but it is a great experience to play those three (sports),” said Caplan. “It gives me an outlet to do something at all times.”


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