Nearly 20 years ago, Jim Smith of Pikesville represented the U.S. soccer team in the 1973 Maccabiah World Games in Israel.
"The experience I had was unbelievable," said Smith, a former soccer standout at North Carolina, where he was captain of the team for two years and received All-Atlantic Coast Conference honors.
"I remember seeing machine gun nests around the field, and in the opening ceremonies, Prime Minister Golda Meir waved to all the athletes. I'll never forget that."
Yesterday at Catonsville Community College, the atmosphere was drastically different from six years after the Six-Day War in 1967.
Smith, who is supervising all 13 sporting events, watched his 13-year-old daughter, Kim, take the left wing position on the Owings Mills soccer team against Rockville in the first day of competition of the Jewish Community Center's North American Maccabi Youth Games.
"I wanted to give something back," he said. "There's something about meeting Jewish kids from all over the world."
Smith took part in Monday night's opening ceremonies at the Baltimore Arena by leading the 2,600 athletes in the athlete's oath.
"I was real choked up when I gave the athlete's oath," he said. "My son told me around 11 p.m. last night, 'Dad, I could feel what you were feeling up there.' "
Smith's 9-year-old son, Joey, carried the Baltimore delegation's banner in the opening ceremonies while Kim marched among the 251 Baltimore-area participants.
"He's already asking when he can play in these games," Smith said with a smile.
Joey will have to wait a few years before he is eligible to participate (the Youth Games are for ages 13-16), but that didn't stop him from taking a few practice shots on goal with father Jim in the cage during halftime of Kim's game.
Kim, who plays field hockey, winter soccer and lacrosse for Park School, is writing chapter two of the Smith's family involvement with the Maccabi Games.
Even though Owings Mills dropped its first game, 10-0, to Rockville, Kim is optimistic about the games ahead.
"I really hope we can get some kind of medal," she said. Her team has been practicing for seven months in preparation for the games.
Kim said the most exciting parts of the week's activities are "meeting people, playing soccer and seeing everybody from the other countries."
Owings Mills will play Bergen County (N.J.) today at 10:30 a.m. at Catonsville Community College and Los Angeles later this week. Each team is guaranteed three games before the medal rounds begin Thursday.
Facts and figures
What: The North American Maccabi Youth Games
Who: 2,600 athletes, between the ages of 13 and 16, from the United States, Canada, Israel, Mexico, Venezuela, Britain, the Commonwealth of Independent States and Australia. They will be competing in 13 sports.
When: Through Sunday
Boys basketball Baltimore-2 vs. Montreal at UMBC Field House, 1 p.m.
Baltimore-1 vs. Cleveland at Catonsville High, 2:30 p.m.
Girls basketball Ann Arbor vs. Baltimore at UMBC Field House, 11:30 a.m.
Boys soccer Columbia vs. Wayne (N.J.) at UMBC, 8:30 a.m.
Owings Mills vs. Syracuse at UMBC, 12:30 p.m.
Girls soccer Columbia vs. Cherry Hill (N.J.) at Catonsville CC, 8:30 a.m.
Owings Mills vs. Bergen County (N.J.) at Catonsville CC, 10:30 a.m.
Boys softball Baltimore-2 vs. San Francisco at Catonsville High, 8:30 a.m.
Baltimore-1 vs. Detroit at Catonsville High, 10:30 a.m.
Girls softball Baltimore-2 vs. Toronto at Catonsville CC, 12:30 p.m.
Los Angeles vs. Baltimore-1 at Catonsville CC, 2:30 p.m.
Boys and girls swimming At UMBC, 9:30 a.m.
Table tennis At UMBC Student Center, third floor, 9 a.m.
At UMBC, Catonsville High and Catonsville CC, 9 a.m.
At Merritt Racquet Club, Security Boulevard, 8:30 a.m.
Girls volleyball Baltimore vs. Chicago at Catonsville CC, 1 p.m.
Girls competition, 9 a.m.
Track and field At Catonsville CC, 9 a.m.
At Suburban Country Club, 8 a.m.
At Catonsville CC, 9 a.m.