Congratulations to JCC member Ross Friedman on his recent signing to play professional soccer with the Columbus Crew through the league’s Homegrown Player rule.
“It was a lifelong dream fulfilled,” said Friedman of the signing that took place on his 22nd birthday this past January. Friedman, who recently won a gold medal at the 2013 World Maccabiah Games in Israel as a member of the U.S. men’s Maccabiah soccer team, started his soccer career at the JCC and on the Columbus Torah Academy recreational FIFA team.
Through hard work, practice, and sheer love of the game, Friedman established himself as a strong player who went on to play for the Columbus Crew’s Youth Academy team and played college ball at Harvard where he finished his final season this past year.
He attributes his success not only to his love of the game but also to the Jewish values instilled in him at a young age, beginning with the JCC and the education he received at Columbus Torah Academy. Because of those values, Friedman explained that he developed the dedication, drive, and determination to succeed.
“I definitely wouldn’t be here if I didn’t always have a ball at my feet or if I didn’t want to go out and juggle the soccer ball on my days off. I’m always looking for feedback and looking to improve, whether I’m writing a paper or I’m on the field. I always have that hunger to become a better player and a better person.”
A Bexley High School graduate, Friedman grew up right here at the JCC, where he attended preschool, camp, and the JCC Maccabi games. Friedman, who will likely play as an outside back with the Crew, still calls Bexley home as he finishes his final year of study at Harvard. He will graduate in May with a Bachelor’s degree in government and a minor in modern Hebrew.
“My first ever soccer clinic was at the JCC in the gym. So my roots are really at the JCC. The JCC has always been a place for me. That’s where I started playing sports at Camp Chaverim when I was young, ” said Friedman.
The Crew’s regular season kicked off this past weekend with a triumphant 3-0 result, but Friedman said, he still comes to the JCC regularly to work out whenever he can. “The JCC’s always been a place, for me at least, for fitness and training. It’s nice to be able to do that with people in the community and in a Jewish environment where I feel comfortable and to be with my family,” Friedman explained. Prior to the season, he would come to the JCC for much of his fitness routine, including practicing ball skills on the racquetball courts.
“That’s something that I’ve been doing for years—doing off-season training in those racquetball courts. It’s fun do some sprints, dribble the soccer ball. With the new updates to the gym it’s been unbelievable. So I try to get in there as much as I can. On my days off you’ll see me in there stretching.”
The recruitment to professional soccer comes swiftly off the heels of a year of successes, most notably the success Friedman saw in Israel at the World Maccabiah Games. He explained that the games were a highlight of not only his soccer career but also his life. The eye-opening experience was amazing not only because he was able to see and experience so much in his short time in Israel but also because that experience was shared with his fellow Jewish teammates. He believes the bond that developed over the course of a month spent touring Israel was one of the key reasons the U.S. men’s soccer team won the gold.
“We got to know each other on a different level – because we were traveling around Israel and experiencing our heritage together. There was definitely a stronger bond between this group than I’ve ever seen in my time playing. You want to be able to look at the guy next to you and have that trust, and you want to win for the other guy. And we had that. I totally credit that to our success. Seeing Israel together as a team really brought us together in a profound way, and it showed on the field,” Friedman explained.
Friedman’s desire to improve and succeed stems from an upbringing strongly rooted in Jewish values, thanks to the love and support of his parents, long-time JCC members Tod Friedman and JCC Board of Trustees member Cheri Friedman, who first met at the JCC.
“My parents were huge. My dad was taking me to tournaments every weekend. The commitment that my parents had for me and the sport played a huge role in me being able to pursue what I love,” Friedman explained of the time commitment and sacrifice involved in making it to where he is today.
For a young soccer player just starting out in youth leagues, here at the JCC or elsewhere, Friedman had the following advice: “Whether it’s sports or a vocation, whatever you want to do, I just say try everything and really find what you love. You’ll naturally gravitate toward it. If you really love it, that’s when you’re going to spend time practicing it and thinking about it, whatever it is. That’s where you’ll find your drive to succeed. I’m not the fastest or strongest guy on the field, but I just love playing.”