The Equalizer- Education on Top!
The Equalizer is a social, educational and sporting project which it's main purpose is to provide a positive framework for children and youth from the social peripheries and marginalized communities of the State of Israel. The program sets up teams in schools. The team members meet 4 times a week throughout the school year- twice a week for a football practice with their professional coach, and twice a week for a study center, where they get help in their homework and prepare for exams, as well as educational activities to instill values and build the team. Once a month, a regional tournament is being held, participated by all the schools from the area, and towards which the kids' expectation is extremely high. In tournaments, sportsmanlike behavior is encouraged and rewarded and a "Fair Play" trophy is awarded at the end. Under the program, hundreds of volunteers are active throughout the country, fulfilling their roles with a sense of mission and ambition to help the future generation of the country. In 2019-20 school year, the 11th year in the history of the program, 4,500 children and youth, ages 9-16, participate in The Equalizer rogram in Israel, in over 300 elementary schools, middle schools and high schools, from the Golan Heights to Eilat.
Participation Terms of The Equalizer program
The participation of the children in the football activities depends on their behavior, efforts and attendance in school, and on their involvement in the study centers. In cases of racism, violence or criminality of any kind, the player will be, temporarily or permanently, suspended from the team’s activities. Each participant pays a (symbolic) participation fee of about 200 NIS per year, but is obligated to “pay” more in other areas – they commit to being consistent in their studies, disciplined, have full attendance and good behavior, during school and in the program’s study center. This commitment is their condition for participating in their favorite activity – football. This is how the program achieves its goals – constantly improving the participant’s academic abilities, self-confidence, behavior and academic perseverance. The program is also constantly improving their self-esteem and sense of belonging to their community and school, while at the same time the number of violent and racist incidents decreases amongst the program participants, as well as school-wide.
Co-existence in The Equalizer
The encounter between children from different backgrounds and with diverse religious beliefs is challenging and difficult. Football functions as a “bridge” between strangers and helps to develop communication among the players. The direct outcome of these encounters, which includes hand shaking, sportive gestures, and enrichment activities in order to better interpret the unknown, is the ability of the children to communicate, play and even become friends with those who were complete strangers or even enemies before they entered the project. We believe that this outcome can only be achieved with personal encounters on a routine basis in which the children find a common denominator regardless of their color, race or religion – football.
Continuity in The Equalizer
The program operates in three age groups:
4th-6th grades || 7th-8th grades || 9th-10th grades
As the participants age, the social activities change from value-based to more advanced values, including: societal involvement and community building, voluntarism, learning about Israeli society, and leadership.
In 11th and 12th grades, the participants go through a training, run by the organization, and serve as volunteers in the program, mostly for the younger teams. Some participants are chosen to partake in a football coach training course, funded in partnership by The Equalizer and the Israel Football Association, creating employment opportunities for them.
The volunteers work with a sense of mission and belief in their role, and believe in their ability to influence the next generation of the community in which they live, as well as the entire State of Israel. In many cases, the volunteers and football coaches serve role models for the children who lack this at home. Moreover, the participants gain, many for the first time, a meaningful adult who believes in and appreciates them – a fact which builds their self-confidence, sense of self-worth and belief in their abilities for the long term. The volunteers fulfill meaningful roles such as educational tutors, coaches, team coordinators, referees as well general roles in marketing, operations and logistics, social media, etc.
Integration of Minority Groups
Approximately half of The Equalizer teams are in minority schools. The program operates among a variety of populations, including secular and religious Jews, native and immigrant families, and Arab Muslim, Christian and Bedouins, Druze, immigrant communities, and more. The tutors and trainers of these teams are from the same ethnic/cultural background as the participants. The educational program is adapted for each team’s community, language, and local culture.