Bat Yam speaker talks about Inner City Educational Foundation
Former professional rugby player and coach Stuart Krohn spoke via Zoom to Bat Yam Temple of Islands members and others about how his sport has helped inner city children gain opportunities to further their development and obtain scholarships to some of the nation’s best colleges. Bat Yam Temple President Michael Hochschild, a longtime friend of Krohn, invited him to share his story.
Krohn, 58, the first Jewish All-America rugby player in the 1980s at the University of California Santa Barbara and a decorated professional for 13 years who played around the world, is the guiding force behind the Los Angeles-based Inner City Educational Foundation Student Leadership Academy.
He explained that when he returned to the United States in 1999 after eight championship seasons in Hong Kong, he developed the ICEF concept in Santa Monica, California, as a way to spread the concepts of teamwork and academics in south central Los Angeles. Over the past two decades, Krohn has taken his teams to 15 countries to play rugby and interact with different cultures.
In the documentary “Red, White, Black and Blue Odyssey,” Krohn drives home the message of Black Lives Matter in a way that no words or presentations can do. He added that many of his student-athletes’ lives have been changed forever, noting that dozens have gone on to Ivy League schools, as well as UCLA, Arizona State, MIT, Duke and other major colleges and universities.
One of his former players has been playing professionally overseas and now is in tryouts for the United States Women’s 7s team that will compete in the Olympics next summer. He added that four of his students teach and coach with him at View Park School in Los Angeles, where he has been for 22 years. Krohn currently is director of rugby and sailing at the school.
He said that much of his program’s success comes from the mentoring model he learned from one of his former coaches. He utilizes his older rugby players to teach and coach the game to younger players.
“That’s the key,” Krohn said. “Get the kids to mentor each other; they learn much better that way than through anything I would tell them.”
During the pandemic, he has maintained regular contact with his players and coaches online.
“They do their own workouts and then we get together on Zoom afterwards,” Krohn said.
He also conducts college counseling groups and other classes over the Internet, featuring “special guests” — former students who have gone on to college and are playing collegiate rugby.
Krohn said he was introduced to the game at age 17 by fellow students when he was a freshman at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colorado. He met fellow freshman Mark Schmidt, who had been a high school rugby player in Chicago. Krohn said from his first practice, he fell in love with the sport.
“If you like to run and tackle, if you like contact, it’s so much fun,” he said. “It takes endurance and working as a team. I love all those elements, and you have to be really focused.”
In 1984, he signed a contract with Kronenbourg RFC and become the first U.S. professional rugby player. He played for Stade Toulousain, which won the French National Rugby Championship in 1985. Krohn has played in New Zealand, South Africa and Hong Kong, where his teams won eight consecutive championships. In 1993, he organized and directed Inner City Educational Foundation.
In 1993, Krohn was part of the silver medal winning U.S. entry in the Maccabiah Games in Israel and a member of the gold medal winning U.S. team in 1997. He coached the American squad to silver in the 2005 Maccabiahs. He is inductee in the Southern California Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, Maccabi USA Rugby Hall of Fame and Hong Kong Union’s Hall of Fame and enshrined in the Santa Monica Rugby Club Hall of Fame.
Krohn said that he manages to keep his program going year after year “on a shoestring budget.” He cited donations from former teammates across the globe and benefactors involved in the Maccabiah Games, as well as from other individual supporters and from a variety of grants that he applies for.