So here I am on my first night in Israel to represent the USA field hockey team in the 19th World Maccabiah Games. I tried out for the team last summer so it’s been a year since I first decided to do this and now it’s finally here. So far we haven’t done anything but check into the hotel, unpack, eat dinner and have an orientation meeting. Training starts tomorrow at 7am.
I’m really excited to see Israel and play field hockey for the U.S. team, but I am also apprehensive. If I had to guess, I would say the average age of the girls on my team is 19 or 20. There’s one 15 year old, several recent high school graduates, and a handful of girls going into their junior years of college. One girl is a 5th year senior and another girl graduated a year or two ago. I am BY FAR the oldest. I have been playing field hockey longer or as long as many of them have been alive. This doesn’t intimidate me on the field. I think that my years of experience will serve me well, especially because a lot of that experience has been playing against and with strong competition, including playing with men who are faster, stronger and sometimes more skilled (if they come from a country where a lot of men play field hockey). I do think that I have some issues with my fundamentals because I have not been coached for the past 13 years (and when I was coached, the only good coaching I got was at summer camp), but I think I can hold my own overall.
No, I would say that the biggest apprehension I have about my age is just how out of place I feel. These girls are SO young that I probably have more in common with their mothers than with them. Not only am I 30 years old and 9 years out of college, but I’m married with a full time job and I own a house. That said, I’m not exactly a boring old fart. I still go out and stay out late and despite my marital and living situation, I would NOT consider myself “domesticated”. I do like to cook but I could care less about window treatments or gardening, and I don’t even use pinterest. But when I looked around myself at the Philadelphia airport yesterday and I was awash in a see of acne, braces and awkward spindly arms & legs, I could not help thinking to myself “what am I doing here??”
I do think that there are a number of older athletes coming for the games, I just haven’t had the opportunity to interact with them yet. Sports like soccer and basketball are sending multiple teams of many age groups, and I think we were just stuck on the plane with the younger teams. Also, only a handful of teams are coming to Israel this early because we are participating in a special pre-event training camp. There will be a total of 900 athletes from the U.S. and only 300 are coming to the training camp. Hopefully I will meet some people my age, but it will be a little difficult because I’ll have to branch off from my team. I’m not quite sure how to do that though. Can I just go up to the Rugby team and say, “Excuse me, but you guys look old. Are you over 24?” That would be weird, right?
Anyway, our first day of two-a-day training starts tomorrow. We do that for four days and then the rest of the athletes arrive and the Israel Connect program begins. That will be when I get a better opportunity to see the country. Until then, it’s hockey, hockey, and more hockey. Here’s hoping my 30 year old bones can keep up with these youngins.