ASHKELON, ISRAEL – For U-19 men’s lacrosse players in Israel, there is a lot on the line in the first week of the New Year. This weekend, January 2-4, the 80 previously named Israeli players and members of the Jewish diaspora will converge on the New Municipal Stadium in Ashkelon for a chance to represent Israel at the 2016 FIL U-19 World Championship in Vancouver.
The three-day tryout will start off with fundamentals and lead up to serious competition. Head coach Seth Mahler, along with his coaching staff will direct the candidates through various drills and scrimmages to evaluate both physical ability and field vision. The format of the tryout has been developed to assess how well the players can receive instruction and apply it in subsequent drills and games.
Mahler, who has been in Israel since 2013 developing the youth lacrosse programs, is thrilled to have such a large representation of Israeli-born players in the tryout pool. “It’s always exciting to be a pioneer, individually or as part of a group, being the first to do something new and travel uncharted waters and that’s the opportunity before these boys,” said Mahler. “The Israeli players are anxious but excited to meet more Jewish lacrosse players their age – very well aware of the speed of the game and potential talent of their American counterparts – but I think we have a considerable number of Israeli players who have developed tremendously and they are just as good, if not better. Just like any kid, the chance to represent their country in sport is something they’ve dreamed about and I’m eager to see the boys battle it out in what will definitely be an exciting atmosphere.”
The American born players feel the same sense of pride and accomplishment as they compete for limited roster positions. “A number of the American players have parents who were born and raised in Israel. Those guys have had an American upbringing, learned lacrosse in the States and now have the chance to get in touch with their heritage from a geographical standpoint,” noted assistant coach Mike Horowitz, who has been responsible for developing a stateside player pool. “Representing the country of their parents and ancestors is a really special opportunity. Most Jewish Americans are the minority on sports teams, playing with maybe one or two other Jews so this is a very unique experience to be a part of.”
A highly competitive environment is anticipated but great sportsmanship is expected as the young men vie for a place on the roster. The evaluation will obviously focus on lacrosse skill but the selectors will be looking for well-rounded athletes who display strong character and are true team players.
Bill Beroza, head coach of the 2014 Israeli Men’s National Team that competed in Denver, will also be on hand to serve as an evaluator for the U-19 team selection. “This tryout has a special feel, different from the Men’s Elite team tryout at Wingate a few years ago,” said Beroza. “I’m flowing with pride to see that in just a few years Israel Lacrosse has built a tremendous community of talented young Israeli men who are ready to represent their country and be a part of history in Israel’s first U-19 Men’s World Championship appearance.”
Israel Lacrosse will announce the team’s 46-man national team roster in mid-January. The team will be composed of Israeli players as well as members of the Jewish diaspora, in accordance with the rules and regulations of the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL).