Coaches-in-training recently attended a second Conflict Resolution training for the Coaching for Reconciliation Program, a two-year professional certification course that combines basketball and conflict resolution education. PeacePlayers International – Middle East (PPI-ME), the Arbinger Institute and Zinman College at the Wingate College, the premier sports education institution in Israel, are teaming up to lead this two-year bilingual diploma course for coaching hopefuls who are interested in learning how to use basketball to bridge divides. The course combines basketball coaching certification classes and conflict resolution facilitation training and is made possible by the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The course also includes Hebrew and Arabic language training and a practicum, in which coaches in training get to use their new skills with PPI youth.
At the training, held at Hand in Hand School in Jerusalem, the students began in the classroom with PPI-ME peace education facilitators Renana Gal and Nissreen Najjar. It’s important to note that about half the students had previous involvement with PPI-ME before the start of the course, while the other half had not. I asked Nissreen what differed between this training and the first one that occurred about five months ago. “There was a connection between the students that had prior experience with PeacePlayers and the ones that did not. This was good to see, because the first time we met there was a divide between these groups.” Nissreen and Renana led an activity where the students performed dramatic interpretations of stories that were written on cards which the students chose from an assortment. This activity allowed the students to indirectly discuss peace-education themes such as seeing people as people versus seeing them as objects. Another focus of their session was to discuss the importance of the coach as an educator. According to Nissreen, “it’s important for the coaches to bring the peace education ideas into their relationships with their players.”
After the peace-education session, PPI-ME Basketball Operations Manager Vito Gilic took over. Vito led a discussion regarding the differences between educators and coaches, and then he explained how these two roles can combine into one. For this training, Vito’s main focus was to get these student coaches to feel what the kids feel, so they can relate to them and understand them. One of the students who was not previously involved with PPI-ME shared her thoughts on the session with Vito and the importance of this training. Dorit, who is from a city just west of Jerusalem, exclaimed, “Vito was great — so professional and experienced. He’s all about the kids and he really believes in the cause.” After the classroom session with Vito, the retreat became even more interactive.
Vito also taught the participants the principles of leading a Twinning followed by an opportunity to observe an actual Twinning to see these principles put into practice. Dorit continued, “this was the first time we got to see a joint practice between Israelis and Palestinians and Vito was leading it. It was actually a bit overwhelming in the sense of how simple it really is. Put the kids together, and let them play. The politics go away when we are focusing on playing the game.” After the Twinning, Vito led a debriefing session to discuss what the participants observed and what they learned. The students will continue their conflict resolution training next month when they come together for a retreat at Kibbutz Sdot Yam.