DENVER, COLORADO — Israel’s appearance at the U-13 World Series of Youth Lacrosse this past summer was memorable for everyone in attendance.
Israel tabbed national team midfielder Casey Cittadino, a former MLL All-Star, as head coach, with Stephen Berger and Josh Cittadino assisting him on the sideline.
Homegrown players Tal Noam and Ronen Abramovich of Ashkelon, who spent two months in North America as recipients of the Kraft Lacrosse Scholarship, as well as Dvir Gilad, started their summer by representing Israel and the city of Ashkelon alongside Jewish-American players who were chosen following a set of tryouts held in the United States. All US-based players selected to compete are considered eligible for Israeli citizenship per Israel’s Law of Return, and are committed to the development of the sport in the Jewish State by their efforts to participate in equipment drives and a future service trip to Israel to grow the game.
There were many highlights for Israel beyond the scoreboard. While the team of course showed up with the goal of winning, the talent at the World Series was staggering, with teams who had been practicing together multiple times a week for months leading up to the event. For Israel, on the other hand, a large obstacle was team cohesion as the boys worked to get to know one another on and off the field after arriving from different parts of the world.
To spectators, it was impressive how quickly they all came together as a group of young men playing as a unit for the first time, knowing full-well how that was going to be a weakness and overcoming it by trusting each other quickly. During every practice and game, their chemistry improved and the progress could largely be attributed to the man on the sidelines.
“As a coach, Casey (Cittadino) was terrific,” praised Israel GM Jim Gottlieb. “He worked well with the kids who responded to him instantly and they loved being around him. Bringing him on was the best decision we made in the whole process.”
As the only international team, Israel was the talk of the tournament, sought after by athletes, parents and coaches to hear the boys’ stories. “JoJo the War Drummer,” who is a mascot of sorts for the Denver Outlaws, was in attendance and took a special interest in the Israeli kids, interviewing them and trading for an Israel Lacrosse tee shirt, which he wore at the championship game as he was beating the drum on the field in front of the stadium crowd.
Even before JoJo modeled the Israel Lacrosse swag, the boys in blue and white grabbed the attention of the tournament attendees, fielding questions all about the program, such as – “where is the team from?”; “are the kids coming from Israel?”; “Will the team come back next year?”; and most importantly, genuine inquiries as to “how can we get involved?”.
The win-loss record posted by Israel did not capture the performance, camaraderie and overall experience of the team. Throughout the tournament, the boys were focused on lacrosse but beyond the games, the fun, light atmosphere surrounding the team fostered new relationships amongst many members of the lacrosse community. As ambassadors of the sport as well as the country, Team Israel was victorious in bringing awareness to the growth of the game around the world.
There is an overwhelming sense of success for the Israel team that participated in this event. Not only did the boys get to play a sport they are passionate about but they, along with their extremely supportive fan-base, were a part of something bigger than themselves, representing a country and its people with pride, passion and purpose.
“The boys who played loved every minute of it and every kid who played, and is eligible, wants to come back – as do the coaches,” added Gottlieb.
So now the question is, “can the magic be recreated next year?” Gottlieb thinks yes.
“With many of the same parts – we think so. We will have kids that are older, bigger, stronger, with a year of experience behind them and they will be able to lead their younger teammates while reestablishing the same positive environment we created this year.”
The Israel Lacrosse Association will be evaluating age-eligible players — with a more “national” focus — from Ashkelon up to Netanya throughout the 2016-2017 youth lacrosse season in Israel.
Tryouts for US-based players are expected to take place the weekend of April 14-16, 2017 in New York. All players must be born on or after September 1, 2003, and must be considered eligible for Israeli citizenship per Israel’s Law of Return (ie: must have at least one Jewish parent or grandparent). All US-based players who are selected to compete on the team will be required to conduct an equipment drive in support of the development of youth lacrosse in Israel, and are expected to participate in a Lacrosse Service Trip to the Jewish State when they reach High School. Click here to register for the US tryout.
If you are not eligible for the U-13 team, there are numerous other ways to get involved with Israel Lacrosse including our Bar/Bat Mitzvah Project program, the U-17 Winter Service Trip, Birthright Trip, MASA Lacrosse Internship and more. Please visit israellacrosse.com or contact [email protected] for more information on our organization and all of the programs offered.