Tamir Goodman Stays in Game


032814_tamir-goodmanWhen he was sidelined by injuries during his time as a professional basketball player in Israel, Tamir Goodman’s mind was still in the game.

“Specifically during that time when I wasn’t playing, I was spending my time in rehab, but I’d go to every game, I’d go to every practice, and I’d study if there was a scouting report,” said Goodman. “I just spent hours on the sidelines thinking, ‘What’s really needed in basketball, what are the coaches expecting from players?’”

Goodman’s homework paid off, culminating in his creation of the Zone 190 — a basketball training tool that combines trampoline-like material with a 190-degree, professional-grade carbon steel frame that allows players to practice a wide range of skills without the presence of a partner. After spending three years in development, Goodman rolled out the first “real model” of the Zone 190 earlier this year.

Goodman said the product, priced at $699, has garnered sales at every level of basketball — from camps to high schools to colleges to the NBA’s Detroit Pistons.

Hoopsters previously only had access to “one-dimensional” training tools such as pitch backs or toss backs, Goodman explained. While such tools are traditionally placed under the net to deliver the ball to shooters in a straightforward manner, they require the recruitment of multiple practice partners for a shooter to replicate receiving the ball from the array of spots on the court from which passes in a real game would come. Goodman said the 190-degree frame of his product changes that reality.

“The uniqueness of the Zone 190 is that it allows players to replicate game-like scenarios,” said Goodman. “In basketball, you get the ball from multiple angles. If you’re a post player you get the ball from both sides of the block; if you’re a guard you’re getting the ball from multiple areas passed to you — the top of the wing, the wing or [elsewhere] depending on where you are. Depending on from where the ball is coming to you in a game, you have to set your hands and feet accordingly.”

The Zone 190 further simulates game-like situations in that it is “the first basketball training system that comes with defensive distractors,” its website says. The tool includes a defensive hand that can be raised, lowered or removed to accommodate each user.

Nicknamed the “Jewish Jordan” after being ranked among the Top 25 high school players in the country, Goodman was profiled in Sports Illustrated and went on to play collegiately for Division I Towson University and then professionally in Israel. As an observant Jew, he sported his yarmulke on the court in front of national television audiences.

A 32-year-old Baltimore native who now lives in Cleveland, Goodman began a career as a coach and motivational speaker after injuries forced him to retire from Israeli professional basketball in 2009.

When he was at Towson, Goodman’s coaches reworked their team’s entire game schedule to accommodate his strict observance of Shabbat and Jewish holidays. Goodman will be similarly accommodated for his Zone 190 presentation on April 6 in Nashville at the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association National Convention, held annually in conjunction with the Final Four of the NCAA Division I Women’s Tournament. In recognition of Shabbat, the WBCA has allowed Goodman to move his Zone 190 presentation from Saturday to Sunday.

“When I was a little kid, I had this dream of playing Division I basketball and professional basketball, and doing this without playing Shabbat and always wearing my kippah, and that was seen as pretty much impossible,” said Goodman. “But thank God I was able to live out my dream, and now through Zone 190 I’m almost continuing the same dream. Everyone accommodated me through my playing days, and now the WBCA has accommodated me as well in my post-playing career. It has just been such a great blessing, and I’m just so thankful to everyone for their help.”

Bonnie M. Norman, manager of professional development and legislation for the WBCA, said the association turned to the Zone 190 to address “education around the art of shooting” at this year’s convention.

“We know there are lots of great coaches and shooting instructors out there; we decided to go with Tamir because his product allows players
to have an independent shooting workout with a real game-like feel in any location,” explained Norman. “The Zone 190 allows players of all levels, from beginner to pro, to work on foundational fundamentals such as ball handling and their hand-eye coordination and catch-and-shoot skills. Because one piece of equipment can offer so much, it puts developing these skills back in the hands of the player in the offseason.”

Norman, who calls the Zone 190 “unique,” said that if she were still a coach at the scholastic level, she “would have purchased one because it is affordable even for programs that fundraise for everything they purchase.”

To enhance the experience of those who buy the product, the Zone 190 website features a series of instructional videos for drills in ball handling, shooting, passing, post skills and conditioning. Goodman said he has used the Zone 190 to work with thousands of kids from all levels, noting: “The same tool can help a 7-foot center, a point guard, an NBA player, a special-needs kid, and anybody in between.”

In fact, the Friendship Circle of Cleveland — a nonprofit that pairs teenage volunteers with children with special needs, primarily for social interaction — is using the Zone 190 “to stimulate ball movement so that the children with special needs feel empowered to play along,” said Rabbi Yossi Mazarov, the organization’s executive director.

“It’s purely a matter of confidence,” explained Mazarov, “when kids can throw a ball and it comes back to them, like they’re playing catch, … You don’t have to throw it into a small, defined net. They can use it in this zone, which has so much space and is so intuitive. [Zone190] just works for them. For many of the children who have handicaps and disabilities or are weakened, they find a sense of confidence in this type of equipment.”

Mazarov adds that Goodman is “purely genuine and humble, when he brought the Zone 190 and started interacting with the children, you could see the kids’ faces light up; you could see that difference that he makes, that he’s there and doing ball movement with the kids.”

This summer, Goodman will employ the Zone 190 in his work at two Jewish camps in Pennsylvania — Camp Nesher and Camp Ramah in the Poconos.

“I’m always working with a lot of Jewish athletes throughout the year, and I’m very passionate about teaching young Jewish athletes the lessons of basketball, the lessons that they can apply to their life, which is maximize your potential and help everyone around you as well as time management, teamwork, respect,” said Goodman.

“All these attributes you learn through basketball, and I think Zone 190 is the physical tool that can help that.”

Regarding the injuries that led to his brainstorming on the bench in Israel and thus his eventual creation of the Zone 190, Goodman said he is “just grateful that I’ve been able to turn a negative experience around to a positive.”

“I’m unable to play professionally again,” he said. “At least my team and I have created something that is going to be able to benefit the next generation of players and the current generation of players.”

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