Ryan Coleman, the boys and girls basketball coach at Shalhevet, an orthodox Jewish school in Los Angeles, has been facing almost daily challenges guiding and empathizing with his players and parents who have been deeply affected by the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.
Six former players are in Israel as part of a gap year, Coleman said. Former players are serving in the military. Current players have brothers and sisters living in Israel.
“We have not practiced near as much because our school and community are trying to help as much as we can raising money and doing charity work to make sure the soldiers are taken care of,” Coleman said. “I think basketball is a good outlet, so they’re not always consuming the news.”
Coleman, in his ninth year coaching basketball for Shalhevet, said the school has increased security measures at the school and for the team on road games.
The school hosted a tournament earlier this month featuring 18 Jewish schools from across the country and tried to honor the missing hostages. Hostage names were read and each player had a hostage name on a badge and were asked to do research on the person.
“We had players speak about their feelings and what they’ve experienced. For me, it was powerful,” Coleman said.
Coleman said he will continue to treat basketball as a brief way for his players to focus on something other than what’s happening in Israel. But there’s no denying what’s changed.
“We’re taking a different approach,” he said. “It’s not basketball six days a week. We took Thursday off for a bake sale.”