Lacrosse, the sport of balls tossed with sticks, in recent years made inroads in Israel, hitherto the land of balls made of chickpeas.
And like any good Israeli start-up, Israel’s Lacrosse Association is now expanding to America.
In August, the Israel Lacrosse Association will hold its inaugural Israel Lacrosse Invitational Tournament for high school students in Baltimore.
This follows the creation of Israel Lacrosse in 2010 and its invitation into the Federation of International Lacrosse as an associate member in April 2012.
The tournament includes 10 teams of athletes from states across the country, including New Jersey. The teams also play for a city in Israel, with New Jersey representing Eilat. Each team will play at least 11 games.
“We’re very excited to help link high school lacrosse players with their Jewish identity and the state of Israel,” said Israel men’s national team head coach Bill Beroza.
Coaching the New Jersey high school team will be Fair Lawn resident and Kean University head coach Shelley Sheiner, who serves as assistant coach for the Israel national team.
As a high school coach, Sheiner received the New Jersey head coach of the year award in the Rizk division and more recently led Kean to a 2008 Skyline conference championship victory and a 2010 ECAC championship.
Sheiner’s late start shows how quickly the game can be picked up with hard work. “I was recruited as a wrestler for Kean but didn’t enjoy it because I ate too much. I wanted a different challenge, so I went out for lacrosse in 1991, and it’s been a part of my life ever since.”
Sheiner works as a special education teacher at Bergenfield Middle School while coaching and recruiting for Kean lacrosse. He also coaches the Jerusalem Lacrosse club part-time. He now adds the Maryland tournament to his list of jobs, but it’s the bigger picture that matters most to him. “I use any free time I have to dedicate and help bring the sport I love to my people. It’s a great opportunity. I’m a Jersey guy.”
Sheiner considers himself not very religious, but his experience with the Jerusalem Lacrosse Club inspired him to have his bar mitzvah ceremony at age 40 in Israel.
He says he wants to help lacrosse become Israel’s national sport. He thinks the fact that lacrosse involves aspects of every sport in a fast-paced environment will help it take off in Israel, and this tournament in Maryland is one of the stepping-stones to this dream.
For those who want to consider coaching, Sheiner advises sincerity, passion, and not emulating other coaches.
“Coach the way you’d want to be coached,” he says. He recommends that newcomers to the sport always carry a stick and ball, practicing simple things like cradling while walking down the street.
Any high school students and graduating seniors interested in the tournament can receive more information and register at www.israellacrosse.com/invitational.