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Coach Daniel

After years on the field as a player, today Daniel changes kids’ lives as a coach.

Graduate of the Habonim Dror youth movement in Australia, Daniel Crook moved to Israel in 2013. Today Daniel lives in Dror’s Tel Aviv educators' community and works as a coach in Dror’s HeChalutz - Education through Sport program.

Hechalutz’s sports program teaches kids and teens about equality and solidarity through sports. They train diverse and underrepresented groups of young players, mainly in soccer and basketball. The players learn to work together and see sports as a way to build trust and cooperation both on and off the field.

Daniel wrote for us about his experiences as a coach and the importance of sports education:

"I started playing football (soccer) at a very young age. In addition to just being a sport I love, I learned many incredibly important life lessons from it. I learned lessons about myself, about other people, and about the world around me.

Through sports, even at a very young age, I learned about inclusivity. It started with learning how to include others in a game, which carried over into my life off the field as a desire to make sure that people around me were included, that they had a place. I learned how to create an inviting space where everyone feels welcome.

I also learned leadership. Not just how to be team captain, but how to be a leader who really looks out for other people, who cares about other people and who leads by example.

I’ve come to see that these aren’t the norms in the world of sport. Many programs encourage competitiveness. Players are pushed to pit themselves one against another. The programs often foster exclusiveness- kids are left out of games for not being good enough, or for not being in the “in crowd” socially. These rejections and exclusions, this competitive environment can have long lasting impact and damage on kids as they grow up. Feeling excluded from games can lead to kids being isolated and alienated socially.

Daniel in action - creating positive sports experiences from a young age

I started coaching because I wanted to impact kids’ lives. I wanted to give them an experience of sport that’s in line with what I think it should be - something that teaches us to be better people, not just to compete. Through sport I teach them to be leaders who look out for and include others, who encourage others to learn and grow. Most importantly I help them to be the best versions of themselves - both on the field and off.

I’ve coached all sorts of teams, but this past year I have been coaching a team in a rough neighborhood in Rehovot. Mainly coming from Ethiopian or Yemenite backgrounds, most of the kids in the neighborhood have tough home lives and spend most of their time unsupervised, getting into trouble.

Instead of an organized team with sign-ups and gear and all of that, we decided that what these kids needed most was an open, supervised field. Once a week I come to their local soccer pitch and run a training session for whoever shows up. When they’re hanging out in the streets, they learn that violence is their source of strength. It’s how to get what they want. That really shapes their lives and how they interact with the world around them.

Daniel and his soccer players

I come and invite them to a soccer practice where they learn that violence isn’t the answer - on or off the field. They learn other ways to deal with conflict and other ways to prove themselves. Instead of needing to be the scariest, they can gain respect through being a good leader, a good team player, a good competitor who handles losses well. They prove themselves, not by being someone who can fight, but by being a good sportsman.

It’s very important to them that I’m there every week. It gives them consistency and structure as well as a stable adult in their life. A role model who sees them and loves them.

It’s also very meaningful for me to be able to see the changes in their choices and their behavior. My goal is to help them to be better athletes on the field, but also better people everywhere they go."

Today there are more than 200 HeChalutz teams coached by 70 sports educators all over Israel.

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