The well-equipped gym isn’t as intimidating as it was when the girls first walked in. They already know who to expect, what the balls sound like (every gym has its own sound), and what practice would be like. Confident, they stride onto the blue court, pick up a ball from the cart, and go to shoot some hoops.
Four girls from the PPI – ME All Stars, who are also in PPI – ME’s Leadership Development Program, are regular invitees to practices of the expanded roster of the Cadets Girls Israeli National Team. The PPI – ME girls are on the Jerusalem region roster, which will eventually make up part of the final national roster of the Cadets National team. For a 15-16 year-old female hoopster, there is no higher level of basketball in the country than this.
This group of girls meets twice each month for clinics from some of the best coaches in the country, as they shape up their technique and understanding of the game and measure themselves against the best players of the region in their age group.
But for the girls of PPI – ME, an invitation means even more than that. As members of the first fully integrated teams in the Israeli Basketball League, taking part in these practices is another platform to show the world that co-existence and cooperation are the best way. It’s another opportunity to change perceptions and bridge divides and send out a message of peace.
Ultimately, PPI – ME will have to prove its emphasis of teamwork and cooperation can thrive here as well. This team is where the big dogs play. You can’t just admire their skills – you’ve got to challenge them and eventually surpass them. Being invited is great, but the magic wears off once the first whistle is blown. It’s astounding to see – and this applies to all the girls on the roster – how professional and serious 15 year-olds can be.
With PPI – ME Managing Director Karen Doubilet and Manager of Basketball Operations Vito Gilic in the stands, the girls take the court with confidence. They know that not only can they measure up to each and every one of their competitors’ in terms of their basketball skills, but they also bring with them a special knowledge of the power of teamwork and peace. That already makes them winners in this group.