The buzzer sounded. The crowd erupted. My teammates and I rushed the court, crying and hugging and jumping and screaming. We had just won a gold medal. My heart was pumping such pure adrenaline that I didn't realize I had accidentally nicked my teammate with the open pen I was holding from taking game statistics (oops!).
I was the team manager for the USA Open Women's Basketball Team, which competed at the 20th World Maccabiah Games in Israel. The Maccabiah Games happens every four years and is the third largest international sporting competition in the world. More than 10,000 Jewish athletes from 80 countries compete. I was in charge of recording game statistics, ensuring each team member had enough water, communicating with referees, running over name pronunciation with the announcers, and helping to build a team atmosphere.
This was my third time winning a gold medal with the U.S.—my first time was in Brazil in 2011 at the Pan American Maccabi Games, and my second time was in Israel at the 19th Maccabiah in 2013. I used to explain it as the "Jewish Olympics." This time, however, I found that the experience encompasses much more than that.
The Israeli national anthem, Hatikva, was played during the gold medal ceremony, rather than the U.S. national anthem. It was also played at the Opening Ceremonies, where all 10,000 athletes from all over the world officially meet one another for the first time. The moment caught in my throat and took my breath away because pretty much every athlete was singing the words in Hebrew.
I don't speak Hebrew, Russian, Chinese, Arabic, Portuguese, French, or many of the other languages represented in the games. In most other circumstances, I could not communicate with these athletes beyond a wave. But here in Israel, as Jews, we can put our arms around each other and sing the same national anthem. We can recite the same blessings that our ancestors did.
I will always remember touring Israel: from putting a note in the Western Wall to dancing in the streets of Tel Aviv, from floating freely in the Dead Sea to crying in Yad Vashem (the Holocaust Museum). I will always remember making lifelong friendships, including the women on my team and the people in the U.S. delegation, as well as a Macedonian chess player and the Australian basketball team halfway across the world. What set the Maccabiah apart was the way it connected all of these experiences and people: I wasn't just a tourist, I wasn't simply playing games. I represented my country, I connected with people around the world through our passion for sports, and we all found deeper meaning in the Jewish homeland.
I returned to my marketing and operations internship at the handbag company Dagne Dover, co-founded by Deepa Gandhi, a member of the Johns Hopkins University Class of 2007, with a renewed sense of what it means to connect. With 10 employees and two interns including myself, collaboration is essential. Whether it be a marketing meeting on the promotion for next spring's collection, a coffee chat surrounding how to best analyze data on ad spend, or talking with influencers and customers, every voice matters.
Gandhi has especially taught me to connect the dots between different areas in the company for higher efficiency. She has shown me how to make every person feel important and connected to the big picture.
This has been my summer as an intern by day and a gold medalist by night, and of recording new experiences and fostering lifelong connections.
About the author
Marcia Zimmerman is a member of the Johns Hopkins Class of 2019. She is a Writing Seminars major with minors in entrepreneurship and management, and marketing and communications. Zimmerman is spending the summer as a marketing and operations intern at Dagne Dover and served as a team manager for the USA Open Women's Basketball team at the 20th World Maccabiah Games.
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