An IDF platoon commander who turned down a U.S. college football scholarship to serve in the army says that successful football players have a lot in common with Israeli soldiers.
Lt. Asaf Katz, linebacker for the Tel-Aviv Pioneers, one of top teams in the Israel Football League, is also a platoon commander in the Combat Search and Rescue Unit of the IDF Home Front Command.
Turning down the American scholarship was not a tough call for him. “There was no question there,” he says. “I knew that serving in the army was something I had to do.”
As a football player, Asaf has to be committed to his job, know how to work with a diverse team and take and give commands under tremendous pressure. “I learned all of these things from my service in the IDF,” Asaf says. “Being a soldier makes me a better football player.”
Here are the top three values Asaf took from his IDF service onto the football field:
In the battlefield, an officer needs to know how to take charge in extremely stressful situations and deal with the huge responsibility of commanding a group of soldiers. He has to be able to cope with every possible condition.
“I learned how to set myself a goal, how to plan things right. If there’s something I acquired from the IDF it’s how to be fully present on the field. That helps me feel a lot tougher.”
Never back down
A soldier must never back down, no matter how difficult the challenge is. He knows that there is no other option at play. All he sees is the final target in front of his eyes. Failure is not an option. He must continue to give a hundred percent of himself in order to succeed.
“In the IDF, I dedicated all my free time to training and practicing,” says Katz.
“That came in handy when we started playing Iron Man Football, where players play on both offense and defense. That meant I stayed on the field for the duration of the game. I was playing running back on the offense and then back again to the defense as a linebacker.
“Thanks to my army training I could hold my ground.”
Be a team player
Communication between soldiers is crucial to success in battle. As a soldier, you’re a vital link in a much larger effort. Being a team player means leaving no one behind.
“You can’t shift to a lower gear just like that in the middle of a march, to back down, because your friends are marching alongside you and going through exactly the same challenges.
“It’s the same for football – you continue playing because your teammate is in exactly the same situation. No one can afford to take a step back. You have to give your entire self to the team.”
IDF soldiers have become Israel Olympic and Paralympic medalists and team members.
Who knows? Maybe the next Super Bowl star will be a graduate of the IDF.