Thank you for supporting our journalism. This article is available exclusively for our subscribers, who help fund our work at the Sun Sentinel.
The Maccabiah Games in July 2022 in Israel will have quite a local flavor with several coaches being tabbed to lead their contingents.
Eyal Hakim is one of several coaches from Delray Beach or Boca Raton to draw a coaching assignment for the 21st annual Maccabiah Games next year. He will make history as he will head the first Maccabi USA Women’s Rugby Team to compete in the games.
Hakim has participated in the Maccabi Games before but always as part of the Men’s Rugby program. He won a gold medal in Rugby 7s and a silver medal in Rugby 15s during the 2015 Pan American Games held in Chile.
“The games are an important way to build community relations through a sport as well as to allow you to create bonds with players of the same sport and religion from all over the country,” said Hakim, who has also been involved with the Israeli National Rugby Team and currently heads up a women’s All-Star program — dubbed Phoenix Rugby 7s — that plays all over the world. Hakim is also involved with World Rugby as an educator trainee.
“In rugby, the sense of a family bond has always been there but to include the same religious background makes it all that more special,” he said. “I am specifically involved because I want to see the women’s rugby program be able to flourish and have the same opportunities for the player to connect.”
Hakim said his goal for the 2022 games is to create a culture that builds inclusivity with the USA Women’s team but also pushes them to work past their comfort zones.
“I am looking for our team as a whole to build significant chemistry so that we can improve in each match that we play,” he said.
Eric Brief, of Ocean Ridge, will be a player/coach for the Men’s Masters Soccer Team (55 and up). He was a player on the 2003 Masters Pan Am soccer Chile, 2005 Player Coach 0ver-35 Silver Medal Israel games, 2009 player 0ver-45 Israel Soccer and 2019 0ver-55 Pan Am Soccer Mexico.
“It is always exciting to return to Israel and support the country,” Brief said. “Sometimes people will say, now is not a good time to go to Israel. I think, now is an important time to go to Israel to show your support and love for the country. The camaraderie with my teammates is probably what keeps me coming back.
“It is not easy to make good friends later in life but some of my teammates have become dear friends,” he said. “In addition, I relish the chance to play and coach some friends I played with in high school 40 years ago.”
Delray Beach marathoner and Maccabi alum Melissa Perlman will serve as the endurance chair and is responsible for track and field, half marathon, cycling, and Maccabi Man & Woman for the games.
Boca Raton’s Doug Horn will serve as head coach for the open track and field, and he’ll be assisted by Andrew Gittleman (Duxbury, Massachusetts). The U18 Juniors track and field will be led by head coach Rich Bernstein (Ithaca, New York) and assisted by Brooke Koblitz (Nashville).
“We are very excited to have such an experienced and tenured track and field coaching staff with us at the 21st Maccabiah next summer in Israel,” Perlman said. “All four of our coaches have prior experience with Maccabiah and fully understand what it takes to both coach and support our athletes as many compete for the first time internationally. I am excited to see the talented group of athletes they recruit, and how each will perform and thrive while in Israel.”
Horn was part of the 2017 delegation as co-head coach of the track and field team. Horn has been the head cross country and track and field coach at Spanish River High School in Boca Raton since 2014. In that role, Horn is responsible for about 180 athletes per season and manages all meet schedules and travel arrangements while coaching and designing all workout schedules.
Perlman said depending on the specific sports, most teams will be selected by end of this summer, likely September.
Morning Update Newsletter
Start your day with the top stories in South Florida.
“Some are having tryouts now and others have tryouts in August and September so athletes will find out after,” Perlman said. “For running, we just look at times, so we are naming the team by end of August but will have the opportunity to name a few more on a rolling basis until December.”
Coaches are chosen by the chairs of each sport. Like athletes, coaches have to apply for the position: submit resumes, experiences, references, etc. Many are repeat coaches (who have coached during other games and are chosen that way), but others apply the traditional route.
Maccabi USA is seeking qualified Jewish track and field athletes for both the Open (ages 18 to 39) and Juniors (U18) competition to represent the USA delegation at the 21st Maccabiah Games.
The first Maccabiah took place in Ramat Gan in 1932 with 390 athletes from 18 countries taking part. Traditionally held every four years, interrupted only by World War II, by 2017 the Games had grown to include nearly 10,000 Jewish athletes from over 75 countries competing in 40 sports, making it the third-largest international multi-sport event in the world following only the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup.
The Maccabi USA delegation to the 20th Maccabiah in the summer of 2017 numbered 1,131 members, the largest traveling delegation in the history of not just Jewish sporting events but all international multi-sport competitions.