Kicking it up a notch


Leah Harrison

Junior Leah Harrison with her team before their game against Germany.

Ari Werbin-Gradel, Incoming Sports Editor

When junior Leah Harrison and her family packed up their Potomac house this past fall and moved to Israel, Harrison had no idea that a month later, she’d be starting for the Under-19 Women’s Israel National Team’s match against Germany.

Harrison moved to Netanya, Israel in October. When she visited Israel last April, she was introduced to a club team called Maccabi Hadera. Impressed by her skills, the coach of Maccabi Hadera referred her to the coach of the Israeli national team. Seven months later, when Harrison and her family arrived at the airport on their way to Israel, her dad got a call from the Maccabi Hadera coach who let her know that the coach of the national team had offered Harrison a spot on the U-19 team.

“In the moment, I didn’t really process it because I was really sad about leaving,” Harrison said. “After we arrived in Israel and I was on my way to my first training, it really set in and hit me that I was playing for the Israeli national team.”

Her first tournament for the national team was the day after her first day of school. Harrison joined the team on Nov. 3, stayed in a hotel in Netanya and had practice two times a day for half a week. Then, for a full week, she played in the Union of European Football Associations Women’s U-19 Tournament in Shefayim, Israel. 

“We stayed in the same hotel as the other teams, which were Austria, Ukraine and Germany. The other countries were very good and we didn’t win a game in the tournament, but it was an experience of a lifetime,” Harrison said.

Harrison, the youngest player on the team by nearly two years, was given a chance to be in the starting lineup in the first game of the tournament against Germany. 

“I was able to compete and keep up with everybody. My age didn’t affect the way I played against the others…,” Harrison said. “I was really shocked when I found out that I was starting, being the youngest player on the team. But when he announced the starting lineup, I was excited and very happy.” 

Although her participation on the national team has been a bright spot, Harrison found it difficult to move away from her friends at CESJDS and rebuild her entire social life in a new country. 

“I miss Leah but the new opportunities she is having in Israel are amazing… I was so excited for her because that’s such a cool and unique experience that she really deserves. She’s worked so hard,” senior and former teammate Devorah Freeman said. 

Harrison has brought a sense of pride, not only to her family and friends but to the JDS community as well. She played on the JDS girls varsity soccer team this fall, moving in the middle of the playoffs just after her team won the quarterfinals. 

“It shows the talent we had on our team and it shows that we probably would have won the semifinals if she was there…,” Freeman said. “I loved playing with Leah because she was really encouraging and it was also fun to cheer her on when she played and when she scored.” 

Athletic Director Becky Silberman is proud of Harrison for taking initiative and being called to play for such a competitive and prestigious team. 

“You often find people who take it too seriously and get too hard on themselves and you have people who do it just for fun. I think she recognized the skill of everyone around her and she played to everyone’s assets,” Silberman said. “She was just fun to watch. She always gave one hundred percent.” 

Harrison’s next tournament with the U-19 national team isn’t until next April. However,  she joined a club team called Maccabi Kishronot Hadera which trains almost every day. 

“I am so grateful that I was given the opportunity to represent the country of Israel and play the sport I love,” Harrison said. “It was an unreal experience and something I will never forget.”