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The Friendship Games Basketball Tournament: A Short History

Green Meadow Waldorf School in Chestnut Ridge, NY had its first high school graduation in 1976 and four years later, the school’s sports program began.  As the athletics program grew and evolved, an important element was the middle school basketball tournament, where Waldorf schools from surrounding areas would get together and compete. The tournament was originally more of an elimination-type event held in Kimberton, PA, over three days – it even included a dance on one evening. 

A similar high school tournament was held at Green Meadow Waldorf School. The high school competition was incredibly intense, with strong teams from GMWS, Rudolf Steiner School in NYC, Washington Waldorf School in DC, and Hawthorne Valley Waldorf School in Harlemville, NY. As GMWS alumnus Brendan Oswald ‘93 recollects, “At certain points, the building was literally shaking with the crowd roaring our chant back then: ‘RED, RED, RED, RED!’” 

Somewhere along the way, it was decided to switch the locations, as the GMWS gym is better suited to the middle-schoolers and the Kimberton gym is a better fit for the high school players. A further evolution was the change from an elimination tournament to a more friendly atmosphere, resulting in the middle school Friendship Games.

The importance of creating connections and friendships with the visiting players was emphasized as much as the games themselves. Visiting players were hosted by families of the GMWS players, which further fostered the bonds between the players. Each team played 2-4 games against the other schools, with the coaches attempting to match skill levels.  There were different approaches over the years; at times, there were combined teams (1-2 players from each school came together to play on the same team), and more recently, there were Free Throw Competitions, with prizes for the female and male who made the most free throws. 

Over the years, the Friendship Games have included many Waldorf schools: Green Meadow, Kimberton (PA), Rudolf Steiner School (NYC), Rudolf Steiner School Great Barrington (now Berkshire Waldorf, in MA), Brooklyn (NY), Baltimore (MD), Washington (DC), and Hawthorne Valley (Harlemville, NY). The Friendship Games are an important opportunity for the Waldorf middle schools in the region to get together, play some basketball, and make some new friends. 

The 2022 Friendship Games took place earlier this month at Green Meadow Waldorf School. Although scaled back, with the Rudolf Steiner School (NYC) and GMWS playing, the games were full of heart and enthusiasm. The highlight for the students were the last two games, which were a mash-up of players from both schools on each team, giving new meaning to the term “Friendship Games.”