RA’ANANA -- Great Britain’s netball squad is on the floor for a morning practice before a game later in the day. The atmosphere appears light-hearted at first. The women hit pink and green balloons in the air to practice hand-eye coordination while Taio Cruz’s “Dynamite” blares from the sound system. But it’s not long before things get intense. The balloons disappear and the team goes to work rehearsing defensive sets over and over again.
Netball combines elements of basketball and team handball. Players are not allowed to take any steps once they have the ball. They must pivot, pass to an open teammate and work the ball into a semicircle just below a basketball hoop, which has no backboard. Every shot must be a virtual swish in order to have a chance of falling. In Great Britain, it is the game for young girls and women.
“In England, you play netball from a very young age,” Lewis said. “It’s always available to you in schools and local clubs. Being [at Maccabiah] with a group of Jewish girls is just a bit of a bonus.”
Lewis’s teammate Jess Pinnick, 19, hopes to become baker one day. But the chance to become rich and famous for her specialty -- lemon drizzle cake -- isn’t enough to keep her off the netball court, just yet.
“I’ve been playing netball since I was eight,” Pinnick said. “It’s a team game, and I’m a team player. I love the aggression of the game and the way the girls come together.”
Both Lewis and Pinnick have been to Israel multiple times. Still the Maccabiah, sponsored by The Jewish Agency for Israel, isn’t like any other Israel experience. Lewis’s father competed and won gold as a masters football player at the last Maccabiah. This year, the 32-year-old head of marketing for iTunes UK/Nordics, wants to stamp her family’s place in British sporting history.
“I can’t think of anything more special than representing Great Britain in a tournament of this size and scale,” Lewis said. “I feel so special when I step off the plane in Israel. Being in Israel surrounded by Jews all competing in different sports is an exceptional feeling that I’ll never forget.” This is Pinnick’s second Maccabiah. She played for Great Britain in 2009 and couldn’t pass up another opportunity to compete again in the sport she loves and in the land she considers her second home.
“Maccabiah is one of the most amazing experiences,” Pinnick said. “To be with people that love the sport and love [Israel] and to be with Great Britain is just incredible. In Israel you can be a stranger for one minute and the next minute you can be a best friend. To know that the majority of people here are Jewish is a quite nice feeling. It doesn’t matter if you keep Shabbat or aren’t religious, my connection to Israel is pretty special.”Relay BlogExperience Israel Netballers Jess Pinnick and Claire Lewis Have Fun but Play to Win“In England, you play netball from a very young age. It’s always available to you in schools and local clubs. Being [at Maccabiah] with a group of Jewish girls is just a bit of a bonus.” -- Claire LewisExperience Israel