This year’s JCC Maccabi Games is slated to take place in San Diego, California, which means the Simon Family JCC is busy recruiting athletes to join its eight-member delegation.
For athletes who have traveled with and competed for the Simon Family JCC’s delegation in recent years, two common themes are the unforgettable experiences and life-long connections made through the Games.
This opportunity is now open to Tidewater teen athletes who would like to travel to California this summer and compete in any number of sports, including swimming, diving, basketball, tennis, lacrosse, and E-Sports/Gaming.
Tal Zach, a senior at Norfolk Academy who was recently accepted to William & Mary, is a seasoned traveler. Her parents are from Israel and they “go often,” she says. Still, the experience of traveling with the Virginia Beach delegation and JCC team was unparalleled.
“I went two years in a row—to California and Detroit—as a 9th and 10th grader, to compete as a swimmer,” Tal shares. “I keep in touch with so many of the people I met at both Games. The host families, as well as other athletes.”
The first year Tal participated, she stayed with a host family (all athletes stay with families at the hosting destination) that also housed athletes from New York, who are still her friends. Tal’s second year, she became close with the host family’s daughter, who was a competitive volleyball player.
Tal earned bronze and silver medals for 50m freestyle and 100m breaststroke. The second year she participated in The Games, her younger brother Tamir, played soccer for the delegation.
“I’ve made great Jewish friends from Canada, Greater Washington, and other places, too. The experience really expanded my horizons,” Tal says. “The Games are competitive sport by day, but at night, it’s very social. They set up an event for us every night. The local JCC hosted a carnival one night that had DJs, robots on stilts, and ball pits, and another night there was a pool party. It was super fun.”
On her one free night, the host family took Tal rock climbing, to an arcade, and to their favorite restaurant for dinner. Tal still keeps in touch with their daughter, and plans to visit during college.
A freshman at Belmont Abbey College, Matt Gross has fond memories of competing in lacrosse and basketball at the California JCC Maccabi Games.
“My host family in Orange County was super cool,” Matt says. “They took us to so many places, made sure we saw all the highlights of the area. Restaurants, an amusement park, the beach… It was so fun.”
For Matt, the connections he made during the Games continue.
“While I was recently visiting a friend at another college, I ran into a buddy of mine from the Games! It is so awesome to have a network of people all over the country that I know from Maccabi. To have that shared experience, and see them in different places – it really was the experience of a lifetime!”
To learn more about joining Simon Family JCC’s team to travel to the Games, contact Tom Edwards, JCC athletics director, at TEdwards@UJFT.org or call 797-965-2308.