Hapoel Bank Yahav Jerusalem forward Isaac Rosefelt is the club’s One Team Ambassador for a project which was developed jointly with the Jewish Federation of Canada, UIA, for teenagers from poor families within the Neve Yakoov neighbourhood, with a special emphasis on working with teenagers of Bukharian descent. Rosefelt attended a session last week and shares his experiences here.
What can you tell us about the kids you’ve been working with on Hapoel’s One Team program?
They’re from poor families in a neighbourhood which doesn’t always integrate so easily with the community. They are less fortunate children and that means it’s especially important to reach out to them, try to keep them out of trouble, show them there are fun things to do in life. And also I guess to have someone speak to them that they can look up to, and share my experiences. I’ve had a bumpy road in basketball, so hopefully telling them my story gives them something positive to hold onto. Basketball can be a way out and bring a positive light into their lives.
What happened at the session you attended last week?
They were playing some full court games, and I also played some knockout games with them, and it was fun to see the progression they’ve made in basketball because most of them have only just started playing. Then I sat down and talked to them, and my theme was the importance of staying the course. As they’re beginners in the sport, things can be hard and frustrating, but I emphasised that you’ve got to keep going and maintain a positive attitude, trusting the process.
You mentioned that you’ve had a bumpy road in the sport. What are the specific stories you share with the kids?
In my first year in Europe I played at a low level in Spain – LEB Bronze, with Cordoba…it doesn’t even exist anymore! I got released from that team midway through the season. I went home to the United States and retired from basketball, and started working for my college as an admissions officer. But I wasn’t happy doing that, so I decided to give basketball another try. Eventually it worked out and this season I ended up playing a EuroCup Final Four…it’s crazy!
What do you tell the kids about your time at Hapoel?
A lot of kids ask me: “Hey, why don’t you play so much?” And I tell them on every team you have a role to play and you’ve got to think of the team first. Of course, there are moments you could get down or frustrated, but it’s better to stay positive and maintain that good attitude. I’m new to the Hapoel team this season, and I’m embracing my role and trying to show that I deserve to play. I tell the kids the same thing: when they get onto their next team, yeah there will be players who are better than them and play more than them, but if they stay positive and keep working, only good things can come of it.
Do you think the lessons the kids are taking away from One Team can help in other aspects of their lives?
Absolutely, yes. It’s nice to have a foundation in basketball, but at the same time these lessons also apply to life outside the court. For example, when you talk to a kid about the importance of showing up for every session throughout an entire season, it gives you a groundwork for commitment, setting goals and working hard. That also applies to their studies at school, and for when they get older and start working. Basketball is a great way to bring fun into the program, but we’re teaching them about a lot more than just sport. If they can take a few things from what we’re doing and apply them to their whole lives, then we’ve won.
Do you enjoy getting involved with this kind of project?
I love doing this sort of thing, talking and working with kids…I guess it helps that I look like a kid! I look at it with an open attitude and it’s really fun for me. When the team asked me to do this, within a second I jumped on board and honestly it’s been even better than I thought. Just talking with the kids is so important – after the practise last week I was heading to my car and one of the kids was waiting there for his sister to pick him up, so we just sat down together and talked for ten minutes, and not just about basketball. Hopefully it can give him a role model to look up to.
How important is it that so many basketball clubs around Europe come together under the One Team program to do this kind of work?
It’s very important because basketball teams and players have a voice. People can see us and look up to us. We’re in the spotlight, and they listen to us. Some kids might have problems relating to their parents or teachers or whoever else is in their lives, so if they can have someone come and talk to them who they watch on TV, it can make a big difference. It’s very important that we reach out to our communities, and I think it’s great that all the teams work together to participate in One Team, doing something positive and influential.