Monday, July 20, 2009
Courtesy: Princeton Athletic Communications
PRINCETON -- Men's basketball assistant coach Scott Greenman is coaching the U.S. youth basketball entry in the Maccabiah Games in Israel in July. His team has won its first four games over Germany, Canada, Israel and Australia by an average of 48 points and has two games left in the round-robin. The U.S., the only undefeated team in the seven-team standings, will play Argentina (2-2) Sunday and Azerbaijan (1-2) Monday. Tuesday will feature the final placement games, including the gold-medal game.
Here are Greenman's thoughts on his experiences in Israel so far:
The Maccabiah Games are known as "Jewish Olympics" and occur every four years in Israel. It is the third-largest gathering of international athletes in the world (only surpassed in numbers by the Olympics and World Games) and the largest gathering of Jews each year in the world. I participated in the 2005 Maccabiah Games as a player and now have the privilege of coaching the 17-18 year old youth men's division. I couldn't be more excited for the opportunity.
Our team, selected during three separate regional tryouts last summer, in Princeton, Chicago, and Los Angeles, has been in Israel since June 29. From June 29 - July 3, we conducted a training camp to prepare for the upcoming games. From July 4 - July 9, we practiced early in the mornings and then took a number of day trips to different regions of the country, including Jerusalem, Masada, The Dead Sea, Golan Heights, Tel Aviv, and a Druze village. Competition will begin on July 11 and most gold medal games are played on July 22.
During the traveling portion of our trip (July 4-9), our activities and tour guides were phenomenal. We did everything from cave diving (spelunking -- it was very interesting watching 6-7 basketball players try to fit through spaces I barely made it through) to water rides and walking through underground water tunnels for a half-mile. The Holocaust Museum was especially moving, as one cannot help to be touched by the graphic photos and innumerable stories of suffering. For many athletes and coaches with grandparents in the Holocaust, it resonates especially deeply.
While many day trips were focused on a historical significance, we did get to enjoy some of the more relaxing elements of Israel. Perhaps the most unique physically (and spiritually) cleansing aspect of our travel was the day we visited the Dead Sea. It is the lowest point on earth (over 1300 feet below sea level--Death Valley, the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere, is 282 feet below sea level) and the water consists of 27.5% minerals and salt. Because of this, people simply float on top of the water rather than sinking to the sea's bottom. The salt and minerals from the Dead Sea are believed to heal many skin problems and are also known for relieving stress and cleansing the body.
If there is one thing that is true about Israel, it is that many aspects of modern-day Israel go unnoticed by Americans. What we see on the news is very misleading, and as Americans, we tend to associate Israel with daily strife and war. For 99.9% of Israeli citizens, this couldn't be further from the truth. In actuality, their daily routines are essentially the same as ours (the major difference exists in the fact that most Israelis believe they are driving bumper cars and not actual automobiles!). In particular, the Tel-Aviv region has an incredibly vibrant lifestyle. Beautiful beaches, great restaurants, and incredible shopping are the norm and the population's willingness to enjoy such luxuries enables foreign travelers to feel welcome. As someone familiar with Israel [Greenman played one season for B-nei Ha-sharon in Israel's top division basketball league], I felt that I would be doing my Maccabiah team a disservice by not showing them around Tel Aviv. As much as the historical significance of Israel has been stressed by the delegation, the players have been learning about the day-to-day aspects of Israeli life and present day culture.
The basketball experience thus far has certainly rivaled the cultural and social facets of this trip. The guys on the team have been working very hard in practice and have shown a willingness to implement our team strategy. With only ten days of practice, our coaching staff (consisting of myself and Jordan Marks - Director of Basketball Operations at Robert Morris University) has tried to find the happy medium between teaching certain aspects of what we are trying to do while making sure we don't get caught up in too many details. During a collegiate basketball season, plays, concepts, and details can be meticulously explained and illustrated throughout the year; the format of the Maccabiah Games and our limited practice time makes detailed instruction much more difficult. In those 10 days, our team needs to feel comfortable and understand our man-to-man offenses, man-to-man defensive principles, zone offenses, zone defenses, presses, press breaks, out of bounds plays, sideline out plays, etc. Additionally, the FIBA rules impact the way the game is actually played. With the 24-second shot clock, the pace of play is quickened considerably. Most players on our team do not have a shot clock in high school (and for those that do, it is 35 seconds). It will be very interesting to see how we react to a new type of game, in a new environment, with players who have only been playing together for a week and a half. Our team is very excited to start the games and I believe we have prepared ourselves to be successful. We are especially anxious because we have no idea what to expect, as nobody has seen any other teams play.