Friendship Games: Breaking the ice

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Friendship Games: Breaking the ice
Jun 21, 2018

By Julia Karron

EILAT, Israel — As participants at the 13th annual Friendship Games settled in for the week-long event, they saw unfamiliar faces from unfamiliar places. How do you get these people to interact?

Hide their faces.

In order to break the ice and help everyone relax, the Games’ social activities coordinator, Ronen Tinn, gave each player and coach a white mask as they talked among themselves  in groups of six inside Eilat’s Botanic Gardens. In a strange kind of a group speed-dating, after a few minutes, half the group moved on to another group, while the rest stayed and awaited a new mystery trio.

Then, everyone made their way on to a dance floor, where they were greeted with the thumping bass of club tracks. As drinks were poured, masks were shed, and, lo and behold, the ice was broken.

Players and coaches loosened up over talk of travel, school and basketball despite the language barrier between some players. In the 13 years of the event, one of the Games’ chief organizers, Shella Carmi, said she has never seen so many participants on the dance floor

One male Jordanian player said that he “didn’t try anything” with the masks, but that once the dance started, “it was great.”

Once a conga line snaked through the crowd and gained members with every lap it took of the dance floor, more players and coaches joined and the floor was soon filled by people relaxing and feeling the music. Players pumped their fists to techno while others taught the fabled backpack kid dance.

Once the lights blacked out above the dancers, a fireworks display captured everyone’s attention, marking the official start of the Games. By this point, almost every player or coach had removed their masks, and those who hadn’t discarded theirs quickly afterwards.

 And that, Games organizer Arie Rosenzweig said, was the ultimate goal of the opening dance. After the tournament and competition are over, the players become “friends for life,” he said.

The event’s organizers sponsored student coverage of the Friendship Games. Editorial control of the coverage and content remained with the Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism and the Philip Merrill College of Journalism

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