International Event Brings New Lessons

By Caitlin Graveson '11

Adam Cooper coaches the U.S. team in the 18th Maccabai Games.

Many people get to rest and relax during the summer, but Adam Cooper, Saint Mary's men's soccer head coach, took no time off. Cooper volunteered four weeks of his time to work as the head coach of the Under 18 Maccabai USA soccer team in the Maccabai World Games held in Israel. Similar to the Olympics, the Maccabai Games is a world sporting event held every four years.

The games are put on by the Maccabai Federation, part of the Maccabai World Union. The event is open to every Israeli citizen (Jewish or not) and every Jewish person (Israeli or not). The federation was created to strengthen Jewish heritage and enrich young lives. Cooper is Jewish, but his heritage was not a major contributing factor to his involvement.

"Being Jewish was a reason to get involved, but it mostly was because it is an international event and is a different kind of coaching." He says.

This summer was the first time Cooper coached at the World Games, but not the first time he coached Maccabai USA soccer.

"I met the director of the program a few years ago and was invited to coach the 15- to 16-year-olds in the Pan Am Games back in '07," Cooper says. His experience in South America prepared him for the challenge of adapting a group of kids to play on a team.

Cooper flew to Florida last December for a few days of tryouts, but the team wasn't able to practice together until the summer.

"There are kids from all over the U.S., and we only had a week and a half to prepare and get the team organized. We spent time getting them to do a few things well to be successful. It was very tactical," Cooper says.

Once competition began there was no time for individual instruction, yet the team did relatively well, finishing in sixth place.

Cooper also got a chance to tour Israel, visiting Jersualem and the Dead Sea among other historic sites. "Israel is an unbelievably neat country," Cooper says.

While Cooper was coaching far from the College, he relied on the basic elements he stresses at Saint Mary's. "The number one thing is team and not the individual. We wanted to win a medal, and it didn't happen because we didn't always act like a team," he says. "Just like here, we have to get 26 guys working as a unit."