Phoenix-born Adam Fishman first picked up a lacrosse stick when he was in sixth grade, and he was hooked right away. Before long his father was picking him up an hour early from Phoenix Hebrew Academy every Wednesday to weave through traffic and get to the J in Scottsdale in time for practice.
Fifteen years later and Fishman is a proud competitor for Team Israel.
“I had never heard of lacrosse before, seen a stick or even a game — one day, my dad brought home a stick out of the blue,” Fishman said. “He didn’t play lacrosse in college and to my knowledge this was the first time he had heard of it as well. My dad left me with the stick and ball and I spent the remaining hours in the day trying to figure it out. I learned to cradle that night, and the combination of challenge and success got me hooked.” Cradling is when the lacrosse stick is moved in such a way that the ball can’t be dislodged. It’s a basic skill, yet complex to master.
As hooked as Fishman was, the obvious next step was finding experienced teachers. “My dad said there was a youth lacrosse league starting in at the JCC in Scottsdale if I wanted to give playing lacrosse a try.” It was there he was able to practice every position to identify the role he liked the best. Fishman eventually settled on “attack,” a role that favors skill with the stick and the ability to score. “I was a little runt, so the heavy running of midfield and the aggressiveness of defense didn’t suit me well. Goalie was fun, but not as fun as finding the back of the goal playing attack.”
Fishman went on to play lacrosse in high school and college. He played for four years at NCAA Division I Dartmouth College. In his senior year, Fishman led the Ivy League in shooting percentage and was third overall in the division.
After school, Fishman found himself seeking direction. “Lacrosse was the bedrock of many things in my life,” he said. He struggled after college to find a new bedrock and missed the way lacrosse grounded him.
Enter Team Israel, the Jewish state’s national lacrosse team. “When I first learned about Israel Lacrosse, I was personally excited for an opportunity to have something to work toward. It has certainly done that for me, given me that purpose.”
Fishman admitted that initially he was excited about the athletic opportunity, but that later changed. “At first, I didn’t fully grasp the implications of what it means to play for Team Israel. I thought of it as another way to keep my love of lacrosse alive after college. It’s become so much more.”
For Fishman, things like hearing “Hatikva” at the start of games brought on waves of emotion. He felt pride in his people and their place in the world. “I grew up going to an Orthodox Jewish day school in Phoenix, and as I’ve grown older, tradition and community have come to define my relationship with Judaism. As Jewish people, we are united through a shared history, but that history has scattered the Jewish people around the world. Israel and Israel Lacrosse have played a key role in helping me further connect with that shared history. When I visit Israel, I deeply feel that sense of tradition and community. And I likewise feel that deep sense of tradition and community when I put on an Israel jersey.”
But it was the children he met that truly opened Fishman’s eyes as to how his opportunity could benefit others.
“I went to Israel the summer of 2017 and saw so many kids playing lacrosse. They had that same joy and excitement that I remember when I was first learning the sport.” Fishman realized that they would watch him compete on the world stage, possibly drawing inspiration from his play or his character off the field. He found it amazing “that every game we won at the international level brought pride and hope to not only these kids, but to the state of Israel and Jewish people around the world.”
This year was a triumphant one for Team Israel. While they didn’t win the championship, they were ranked in the top five group of teams — a first — and even secured a win over England in overtime thanks to a final score by Fishman.
“Beating England to earn Israel’s first ever win in the blue group was incredible. Every OT game I play in, I’m mindful of the fact that all it takes is one play for one team to feel the highest of highs and another to feel like they were punched in the gut. Relief is the best word to describe scoring the OT winner vs England.”
The victory over England advanced Team Israel to the quarter-finals, where they lost to England in a revenge match. Still, the performance was one of their best ones to date, and one that felt bigger than the team. Fishman talked of the pride “to play in the elite blue group at the world stage. This is the same group as Team USA, Canada, Iroquois Nationals and England. Just being at that level, I knew it was so meaningful to all the kids watching in Israel and around the world."
Before the final game of the tournament the team was shown a video with messages from Israeli children, former players and team fans from around the world. To Fishman, it was further proof that “this game is so much bigger than each one of us. Israel Lacrosse has given me and is giving so many kids in Israel a chance to change the world through sport.” JN
Every year Israel Lacrosse hosts a free birthright trip to Israel. Contact email@example.com if you are interested in the birthright trip or sponsoring the growth of lacrosse in Israel.