About Chai Athletics

Chai Athletics was founded by Lee Gruen in 2017. Lee grew up playing sports both recreationally and competitively, which prompted him to pursue a career in coaching youth athletics. He recognized that there was not a consistent professional athletic organization dedicated to teaching Jewish values such as confidence, courage, and leadership. Chai Athletics was created to help provide the communities Jewish values with excellent youth leagues, clinics, and camps for the community to claim as their own.

USA Basketball


  • Consistent

    Starting over every year with a new coach or new director can be frustrating for a family. That is why we are dedicated to offering consistent, quality programs to the Jewish community. When joining the Chai Athletics community, you can be assured that you will be working with the same people for years to come with all of our programs. Our athletes are coached to progress from year to year, and the best way to accomplish this goal is having a familiar staff.

  • Challenging

    We don’t just run through the motions of sports. It is a goal of ours to making every day a challenging day, by introducing new skills and lessons. From competing against their peers to growing up within the Jewish Community, we want our athletes to feel comfortable when facing all challenges that life and sports have to offer.

  • Community

    Chai Athletics is tailored for the Jewish community’s needs. From our participants, coaches, and management we value every person that is a part of our organization. Becoming a community within a community is our top goal, and it is important to us that everyone feels that Chai Athletics is their athletic club. Whatever is needed to provide the best experience in our programs, we will make sure to do everything we can to accomplish those needs.

Meet Our Team

Lee Gruen

Lee Gruen

Coach Lee Gruen has coached youth for 15 years working with kids of all ages and skill levels, gaining the wide-ranging experience necessary to start Chai Athletics. He has been an assistant director at an overnight camp, a sports director at a local community center, and has a Masters from Spertus Institute in Jewish Professional Studies. Lee has coached basketball for the North Suburban YMCA and JCC Chicago travel teams as well as other AAU teams in Illinois. He also coached basketball at St. Cyril Middle School in Tucson, Arizona. He was also the Maccabi USA Head Basketball Coach at the 2018 Maccabi Youth Games in Israel and Assistant Coach of the 2019 Pan AM Open (19 & Up) Team.
Lee Gruen

Bryce Jones

House Basketball League Director/Coach
Coach Bryce is going into his seventh year of coaching and teaching PE. Originally from South Bend, Indiana, he has been teaching PE in Arizona since graduating from Lake Forest College. Coach Bryce was a four-year starter in football while attending Lake Forest College (Division 3). He would continue to play football professionally overseas, most recently playing in France for the Bordeaux Lions. As a coach, he looks to develop an athlete’s character and strives to encourage them through all challenges.
Lee Gruen

Wes Baker

Coach Wes Baker has over 10 years of experience working with kids, from recreational day camps to competitive sports. He has coached AAU basketball for the past six years, including on the national level. He was a varsity basketball player at Glenbrook South High School and is currently attending Northeastern Illinois University majoring in physical education.
USA Basketball

We are proud to say that Chai Athletics is an Official Youth Organization for USA Basketball. We follow the USA Development model below found on usabasketball.com:


Introductory Level

Learn fundamental movement skills and build overall motor skills. Participation once or twice per week in basketball but daily participation in other sport activity is essential for further excellence. Group skill competitions recommended throughout the level. Introduction to team principles/concepts ONLY, avoid actual 5x5 competition until fundamentals are further developed.


Foundational Level

Learn all fundamental and basic basketball-specific skills, establish building blocks for overall basketball skills. 70% of time is spent on individual fundamental training and only 30% of the time is spent on actual game competition. Teach position concepts, but DO NOT assign player positions at any point in the level. Divide actual competition between special games (1x1, 2x2, 3x3, skill games) and 5x5 play, trying not to focus on actual 5x5 competition until later in the level.


Advanced Level

Build the aerobic base, build strength towards the end of the level and further develop overall basketball skills. Build the “engine” and consolidate basketball skills. Early in the level, 60% of the time is spent on individual training and 40% is spent on competition including 5x5 play, special games (1x1, 2x2, 3x3, skill games) as well as team-oriented practices. Later in the level, depending on mastery of skills, the switch can be made to a 50:50 training to competition ratio and positions can be assigned.


Performance Level

Maximize fitness and competition preparation as well as individual and position-specific skills. Optimize the “engine” of skills and performance. Training to competition ratio in this phase shifts to 25:75, understanding that the competition percentage includes team-oriented practices and other competition-specific preparations.