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Stanwich School teacher to play lacrosse for Israeli women’s team

Sunday, December 18, 2016

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GREENWICH — Stanwich School physical education teacher Ali Steinberg is living proof that sports dreams don’t have to die after college.

The former Rutgers University lacrosse midfielder was recently chosen as a member of Israel women’s national team that will compete in the 2017 Federation of International Lacrosse Women’s World Cup.

“It’s just such an honor,” Steinberg said. “I graduated college and I thought my career was done.”

The 26-year-old has played lacrosse since she was 8 years old. In addition to teaching physical education, Steinberg coaches the Stanwich middle school girls lacrosse program and runs a youth club team with her sister, Jessi.

After graduating from Rutgers, Steinberg didn’t think too seriously about continuing her lacrosse career. She dabbled in a few summer lacrosse leagues and occasionally in scrimmages.

Last fall, however, Jessi’s fiancé, who plays for the Israel men’s national indoor lacrosse team, mentioned that the Israel women’s team needed players for some scrimmages at Yale University. Steinberg and her sister, both Jewish, jumped at the chance to play.

“We just got hooked,” she said.

They participated in a lacrosse showcase game with the Israeli team in March 2016 and were among 50 players invited to try out in Israel for a spot on the 20-person national team in July.

“The heat is tough so we’d have to go super early in the morning, like 6 a.m. in the morning, and then late at night,” Steinberg said.

Steinberg competed in another weekend of tryouts in Baltimore in September and was notified that she made the team in October.

“I was so excited,” she said. “It was nerve-wracking, though.”

The two sisters were worried that one of them would make the team without the other. They were relieved when both were chosen for the team.

The 2015 FIL Women’s World Cup was the first year that Israel fielded a team. Because of the small number of lacrosse players in the country, half of Israel’s team is permitted to be Americans who commit to becoming Israeli citizens.

Steinberg will apply for an Israeli passport as part of joining the team.

“Both my parents are Jewish,” she said. “They’re super excited about it.”

Steinberg previously visited Israel on Birthright while in college. The tryouts marked her second trip to the country.

Although members live far apart, Steinberg said she feels their shared Jewish background quickly bonded the team.

“You are playing with people who all come from similar family dynamics, traditions, cultures,” she said. “There was just an instant connection.”

Steinberg will train independently for most of the winter and spring, gathering with other American teammates on the East Coast for occasional practices.

Steinberg is also working to raise $5,000 for Sticks for Kids, a program that seeks to engage and empower at-risk youth around the world through the sport of lacrosse. Each member of her team will be raising money for a different nonprofit working in Israel.

“The game serves as a mechanism to develop youth leadership skills, cultivate an environment of inclusivity and collaboration, and to combat feelings of isolation and apathy,” she said. “Being a physical education teacher, it has always been my passion to inspire kids through sports and physical activity.”

In July 2017, the team will compete in Guildford England in the FIL Women’s World Cup. Israel will be among 28 nations, including the United States, playing for the title of world champion.

“To be able to play for something bigger than a college or a club team... you’re representing a country. It’s almost surreal,” she said.

emunson@hearstmediact.com; @emiliemunson