This week’s blog was written by International Fellow Courtney Boylan.
It has been quite a long time since my first blog entry. I’m excited to be writing to you again and to share what has been going on here in the Middle East! At the center of all the wonderful things I have been able to experience here is my work with Peace Players. Working for PPI-ME has truly given me purpose, and I feel so lucky to be able to work with the other fellows, employees, coaches, and players.
Reflecting on my time so far with Peace Players, one of the teams that I have been able to spend a significant amount of time with is the Nahariya/Tamra All-Stars. I am able to see the girls at least once a week for a practice and in our short time together I am already starting to see some really remarkable improvements.
While working with their team, it made me think back to my four years spent playing basketball at the University of Michigan. I arrived at Michigan in 2008 with a new coaching staff and a chance to help build a culture of winning. One of the challenges in building a winning culture is creating team unity and togetherness. We had to find a way to bring players from all over the country, from different backgrounds, races, religions, and values to work together as a team toward a common goal. One of the things that really helped our team build chemistry was being together off the basketball court. In getting to know one another outside of basketball, it created a stronger bond between us both on and off the floor.
In my final season at Michigan, we made it to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 10 years. I still remember the feeling I had seeing Michigan flash across the screen on the Monday Night Selection Show. Our whole team watched together and immediately erupted with loud screams and tears of joy. I vividly remember hugging one of my fellow senior teammates for a solid three minutes straight, no joke. What was so gratifying about this moment was being able to share it with my teammates and coaches, and just know that all of the hard work we put in truly did pay off.
The creation of that team unity and getting to know teammates off the floor is what I’m seeing happen right now with the All-Stars team. This is their first season playing together, and they really are just starting to get to know one another. We recently went on an overnight retreat in the Upper Galilee, and the girls were able to spend two full days together. They spent every waking moment with one another; playing basketball, doing team building exercises, walking around the Kibbutz, playing games, and tons of time spent in their rooms talking, listening to music, and munching on snacks. In the practices that I have been to since the retreat, I am already seeing some very positive changes starting to happen. You can’t force team chemistry; it is something that happens over time, but the players have to be open and willing to make it work. I truly feel that the Nahariya/Tamra All-Stars are open and willing and it is so exciting to being a part of watching them grow together.
“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” – Henry Ford