Being the Manager of the Elizabeth & Lawrence Krulik Family Israel Tennis Center in Tiberias is a very satisfying and rewarding experience for Tal Amsalem, especially given the challenges he faced as a youngster in a very volatile region of Israel. Tal grew up in Kiryat Shmona, near the Lebanese border, and he has vivid memories inside a bomb shelter or running to one when the sirens sounded and rockets started falling. “My parents were very protective, so I couldn’t do a lot of the normal things that kids would want to do. That’s why the ITC became such an important part of my life.”
Tal was introduced to the ITC and the game of tennis at the tender age of 7 when a coach from the ITC – Kiryat Shmona came to his school to talk about the center and recruit youngsters interested in learning how to play. “It was a wonderful opportunity to come and play because it was free for us to go there, so my parents encouraged me to go. And remembering how important that was for me, I try to do the same thing today as Manager by helping neighborhood kids who can’t afford to come by providing them with scholarships.
Following his stint in the Army, Tal was working in a local restaurant to save money to come to the United States when he serendipitously met the coach from the ITC – Tel Aviv one day while waiting tables. He was encouraged to sign up for a coaching course. He ended up leaving the restaurant, completing the coaching course and taking a job as a coach at the ITC – Kiryat Shmona. Four years later the Manager position in Tiberias opened up and Tal jumped at the chance. He has been there since 2009, and has helped train some of Israel’s most successful young players, including current world ranked singles player Dudi Sela.
“The ITC has meant so much to me from my youngest years to now. As a child, it taught me to be independent and on my own. It also gave me important life values of competitiveness and perseverance. To me, it is way more than just a place to play tennis. The ITC is like a second family, and I was always very proud of being a kid growing up at the ITC.”
These qualities are clearly important to Tal as ITC Manager. “#1 for me is the fact that the ITC is open to anyone who wants to come here… Arab, Jew…rich, poor. It doesn’t matter. My role is much bigger than just being a manager. It means always having my eyes and ears open to listen to my kids and their parents… to be like a second father to those children who have none in their lives.”
Moving forward, Tal’s dream is to bring even more children into the ITC. “We have a great Coexistence and Embrace program for at risk kids. We also have a wonderful special needs program for adults. And nothing would please me more than to introduce the ITC to as many people in my community as possible. What we do here really makes the ITC an amazing and unique organization, way beyond tennis.”