IFOE's Elementary School Program for Excellence
In order to scout the most promising young athletes and prepare them early for international sporting success, the IFOE's Elementary School Program for Excellence will extend sports education for elementary school pupils. Young children gifted in sports will receive six hours per week of training in athletics, aerobic exercise, ball games and one focus sport. This sport will be different for each city, chosen according to local resources, facilities and features.
These classes will be taught by professional Olympic grade coaches recruited by the IFOE.
Through this in-school program, the IFOE’s Olympic-level coaches can locate the few children with the greatest potential for Olympic success and give them the grounding they need to be ready for more intensive training in their early and middle teens. A pilot version of IFOE's Elementary School Program for Excellence was launched in September 2016 in collaboration with the Rabin Elementary School in Netanya. As the city is home to two of the country’s largest judo gyms, the focus sport chosen for Netanya was judo.
As of today, the IFOE's Elementary School Program for Excellence is operational in many cities and youth villages, covering tennis, taekwondo, mid-range and long-range running, athletics, surfing, gymnastics and judo. In the 2017-2018 school year, it plans to expand its range of sports with an additional three to four fields.
Intensive Advanced Training Programs
The IFOE has implemented a number of extra-curricular programs to nurture teens with athletic aptitude and Olympic potential who are not yet old enough to qualify for training and support from the Olympic Committee of Israel.
The IFOE’s running program is in its third year in Netanya and Petah Tikvah. The program intensively trains promising youth from Israel’s Ethiopian communities and nurtures them to become Olympic champions in middle- and long-distance athletics. Top international coaches and former Olympians Zohar Zimro and Yosef Gizacho are already supervising more than 40 young runners in Netanya and Petah Tikvah respectively. Children aged 11 to 14 train three times a week, enjoy the supervision and advice of the former Olympians and receive special care and support.
Through this program, the IFOE aims not only to grow the pool of future Olympic medal-winners, but also to relieve social inequality and ease integration of the Ethiopian community into Israeli society.
The IFOE has formed strong ties with the Ben Shemen Youth Village, which is both home and school to 400 children aged 6-21. Through the IFOE Alex Ashkenazi, former Judo coach to Olympic medalist Arik Zeevi, trains the most promising youth at Ben Shemen for success. Ben Shemen has already produced a few young champions such as Tomer Golomb, who won the gold medal in the 60kg category at the 2017 Junior European Championships. Tomer is currently Israel’s brightest future Olympian, having won gold in the 2017 European Junior Judo Championships. Tomer has been part of the IFOE project for the past three years. “Alex really helped me improve my skills,” Tomer said of his IFOE-funded coach. “He encouraged me not just to dream about the Olympics, but to plan for them,” he added. “Without Alex’s one-on-one training, I don’t know if I’d be where I am today,” said Tamir, referring to his medal from the 2017 Maccabiah.
Tamir Ragzin, 15, who has won multiple gold medals in national cadet-level competitions and the Maccabiah games and Bar Parin, gold medalist in the Israeli Judo Championships, are two more decorated athletes who have grown through the program and continue to show enormous potential.
Israel’s only Olympic gold medalist Gal Fridman is the head of the IFOE’s windsurfing project. The precise combination of weather and sea conditions required for windsurfing are available to perfection in Israel, as is a top coach in the form of Fridman. However, windsurfing is a very expensive sport to undertake. This important program is the first one that would have to be cut should the IFOE lack sufficient funds.