PeacePlayers’ Under-14 All Star teams from Nahariya/Tamra and East/West Jerusalem came together for the first time recently at a retreat! These players graduated from the Twinning program and have recently started playing together on an All Stars team. What is an All Star team, you ask? Well it’s an integrated Palestinian-Israeli team that practices together and plays against unaffiliated teams in the official Israeli league.
We brought together these two teams to a retreat in Sdot Yam, a kibbutz along the coast of central Israel, to build friendships and develop as leaders from both Northern Israel and Jerusalem. These two All Star teams really hadn’t interacted together before, primarily because of the long distance between the north and Jerusalem. With the retreat, these two teams were able to connect with each other by playing on mixed teams in a PeacePlayers tournament.
The retreat featured some top-notch staff, including basketball expert Vito Gilic and Leadership Development Program (LDP) participants. The highly skilled staff helped to take the retreat to a higher level. The LDP participants gave back to the PPI community by volunteering as the coaches of the six mixed teams. Each of the newly mixed teams were assigned between two and three LDP coaches who helped guide them through the tournament. It wasn’t just the All-Star players who wanted to win the tournament. The LDP coaches were just as enthusiastic as they encouraged their teams to play well. The practices and warm-ups, led by Vito, helped bring the energy to the court and got the teams ready to play in the competitive tournament.
Before the tournament began, the LDP coaches led a short practice for each of their teams so that they could warm up to each other. I also led a Peace Education session filled with group challenge activities to help the players learn each other’s communication styles and get to know each other on a more personal level. After the preliminary preparations, the teams were ready for the tournament!
Throughout the games, the teams had to battle for each win because we made sure to split the teams equally according to skill. This helped keep the tournament challenging and engaging. Overall, it was amazing to see these girls, who had just met each other, play so well together. The girls were able to quickly formulate a strong bond. This of course wasn’t random. The players had great role model coaches to look up to. The LDP coaches perfectly reflected how the players should behave on the court. Through their coaching styles, the coaches were able to establish a fun, dynamic relationship with the newly mixed teams.
Thank you to all of the amazing staff for making this a successful retreat! The players benefited greatly by cooperating with each other. We hope to have another retreat like this in the future!