An Athlete’s Journey – Max Haber

What was it like meeting your teammates for the first time?

The first time the entire team met was at the Newark airport. Prior to the camp, I was connected to Ben Olsen since our schools have wrestling tournaments together, and we’ve met before. It was a little nerve racking at first and slightly awkward with the team for a short time, but then we bonded over our passion for wrestling and our excitement going to Israel.

What was it like competing for the first time?

It was my first time competing in an International competition, so it was very exciting! However, I was also really nervous since I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew that I wanted to give it my all.

As for the competition itself – I had a great time and I learned a lot. In the US, we were used to competing in a “Folks Style” of wrestling, but in Israel we competed in a “Freestyle” form of wrestling; it was hard to adapt to that. What made it more challenging while also rewarding was the level competition which was definitely higher than back home. We were all ready to work hard and meet that level of competition.

Why did you choose to compete with Maccabi USA?

Ironically, I got a call the Wednesday before we left saying that someone was hurt, and they were looking for a replacement. Was I interested? I was filled with excitement – of course I wanted to join. My uncle used to coach the Maccabi USA Wrestling Team and he’s wanted me to do something like this for years now, so here was my chance.

Can you share some highlights of your experience?

We went to visit Sderot, which is known as the “bombshell capital of the world.” During the bus ride over we were all having fun and goofing off. We didn’t understand how serious this situation was, how intense this place would be. As our ride came to a stop, we got out at a playground – the only fully covered bomb shelter playground in the world – then the enormity of the situation set in and we realized just how lucky we are.

Would you recommend this experience?

This is a sport experience that is going to challenge you, it’ll get you better no matter which sport you are competing in. In addition to competition, this is a great cultural experience – you make a lot of memories, learn about yourself, your religion, and make friends that last a lifetime.