One of the colossal hardships and obstacles of being an athlete on a national team and competing internationally is the sensitive issue of our weight. No, no, I am not referring to our body weight, I am talking about something much more serious, our weight allowance per suitcase when we fly, 50 pounds (22 kilograms).
Let’s take shoes for example, Israel is so simple, we have one type of weather, heat. You can pretty much get by on one pair of shoes, flip-flops, simple. Now let’s take Europe, we compete there yearly the first week of June, probably the most schizophrenic month of the year, coming from Israel you would expect it to be warm, well because it’s June. Here is generally what happens, you wake up in the morning and it’s just a tad too chilly for flip-flops, so you throw on a pair of closed shoes, let’s say Toms, then suddenly ten minutes later, without warning, the day is blazing hot, and on go our flip-flops. So we’re walking around for about an hour and out of nowhere it hits you, BAM rainstorm, we’re forced to dunk for cover and put on our boots. It later clears up and the national team decides to take a walk, on go our sneakers.
I’m on my fourth pair of shoes and it’s not even noon. Let’s fast forward a bit to the next day, game day. We each have our own pair of “tournament” flip-flops that we wear to the field, no screwing with game day rituals, that’s serious stuff. We get to the field and we change into our cleats, do you have any idea how much cleats weigh? I’m not just talking about one pair of cleats, obviously we all travel with two pairs, if it rains during the games then G-d forbid we would put on the same smelly, wet, cleats the next day. I’m not even going to get into Sabbath and the options we need, it’s hard to know what our “mood” with be in Europe over Sabbath, so in other words we must plan for all scenarios.
One thing many people do not know about team Israel is about 90% of the team is observant of both Sabbath and Kashrut, meaning we have a strict dietary menu that we must abide by. We take this quite seriously, and when in doubt trust one person only, yourselves. So we end up bringing all the food for the tournaments, now I’m talking three meals a day, for a delegations of 30 – 40 athletes, playing all day in the sun and coming back, as you guessed, beyond ravenous. Now at this moment I am asking all my readers to brace yourself for what I am about to tell you, because this borders on the epitome of horror. How do we transport all of the food to the tournaments with us? It’s terrible, each player is forced to sacrifice some of their precious luggage space for all the food that is divided “evenly” amongst us (somehow I always end up with the heaviest bag.) This becomes very controversial, food vs. shoes, it’s a catch 22, can’t live without either.
Now I am proud to say if there’s one thing I am, it’s definitely consistent. I have consistently for seven years waited until hours before the flight to finish packing my suitcase, and consistently I end up on the doorstep of a player from the men’s national team at around 2:00 AM begging them, and negotiating how much I must sacrifice from my own personal Duty Free allotment for him to shed a few pounds off my suitcase.
In complete contrast to myself, Joy Davis, one of the team’s youngest members, appears to have no trouble with our weight limits. Joy brings the smallest suitcase I have ever seen, the first time we flew together I thought it was her carry on. She brings one T-shirt for the entire duration of the tournament, but always forgets one item at home, always. I seriously cannot comprehend how she does it. Joy joined the national team last year after having played in WAFI (Women’s American Football in Israel) with her sister, some of her other interests include, synchronized swimming, taking selfies and friendly banter between herself and Usain Bolt over which one will be setting the new world record in the 2016 Olympics.
If you thought we were crazy till now, we’re about to get just a bit more insane. I want to introduce Ilana “Abell” Frankel, the national team’s newest quarterback. Abell’s history with the national team is a bit complicated, as a member of the team I myself am a bit puzzled when trying to figure it out. She made her debut in 2007, she then went on a long hiatus and returned to us in 2012. Last month, we we’re in Germany for four days, as we we’re packing our suitcases to come home Abell proudly displayed her 16 pairs of clean underwear, as she proclaimed, were just in case of emergencies. What kind of emergency calls for 16 pairs of underwear?? Then there’s the food issue, yes understandably, we might not be bringing prime-rib or entrecote steaks with us, Abells claims her stomach is very “sensitive” and she needs “special” food to accommodate it. The foods that fall under the category of “special foods” include but are not limited to; Romanian corned beef, seared salmon, avocado pancakes and homemade sushi.
Now back to my weight limits. Oh, toiletries, where to begin? From hair gel, to toothpaste, to make-up, to contact solution. Obviously we all bring our own soap, shampoo and conditioner because how on earth can we trust the European chemicals, I mean imagine the devastation if I woke up the next morning and my hair was frizzier than usual, I can’t even comprehend such an abomination, I think emotionally I just wouldn’t be able to compete in the tournament. So no, we do not take chances here, we take it all. And that’s not to mention hair dryers, straighteners and shavers. Basically, imagine your toiletries for a month long vacation to Paris and quadruple it.
And I haven’t even discussed my clothes…