Sydney Protass, a sophomore at East High School, is an absolute star on the tennis court.
A member of the JCC Denver Maccabi Tennis Team since the summer of 2016, Ms. Protass is a competitive tennis player with a passion for the the J, Maccabi, and the sport of a lifetime.
How long have you been playing tennis?
Sydney Protass: I’ve been playing tennis since I was about four, although not competitively until a year or two ago.
How did you become a part of Maccabi?
SP: I became a part of Maccabi after hearing about it from my older friends who had done it. They talked about how it was the most fun and incredible thing they had done all summer, and I was convinced to take part in it the first summer I could.
Has anyone else in your family taken part in Maccabi?
SP: My brother, who is 14, took part in his first Maccabi games last summer in Orange County.
If someone were hesitant to join Maccabi, how might you convince them to join?
SP: I completely understand the hesitation. I was hesitant too, being the youngest and only knowing friends a year older than me who were going. I was nervous, of course, to be going alone, but the minute I stepped into the airport on departure day, all my worries faded away, and I became purely excited. It’s such an amazing experience traveling with your delegation, and it just feels like you’re a part of a solid community of not only the Denver delegation but the larger community of the Jewish people. If you’re concerned about
host families or making friends, don’t be. I have met so many people through Maccabi and many of them I still talk to today. I’ve also had the best host families at Maccabi, they treat you as if you were their child and make you feel so comfortable in their home. Our delegation head, Jodi Asarch, does an incredible job at planning events for the Denver delegation to all hang out and get to know each other before we go, so you’re guaranteed to have connections to everyone in the Denver team. As for the sports, if you’re worried about being good enough or not good enough, that doesn’t matter. Once we get there, we support each other. Buses run often between the sports venues so after our own games or matches we all go and watch and cheer on each other, no matter what sport. Sure it’s technically a sporting competition and sure we want to win, but personally I believe it’s not about winning or losing — it’s about the memories and friendships you make.
How has your family supported you throughout your tennis journey?
SP: My family has always encouraged me to play tennis. Until about last year it was more of a side sport for me, as I played competitive soccer. My parents always encouraged me to play, booked court reservations, and signed me up for summer and winter drills and camps. Both my parents are tennis players, so we’ve always played as a family.
What’s your favorite part about being a part of Maccabi?
SP: My favorite part about Maccabi is truly everything. It’s the excitement of meeting at the airport and traveling looking like a unified team, it’s opening ceremonies, it’s meeting and becoming close with your host family, it’s playing the sports during the day and attending the night events after, it’s making so many new friends and meeting so many new people. I love everything about Maccabi all the way up through closing ceremonies (after that, it gets sad because you have to say goodbye to everyone and go home).
How has Maccabi shaped who you are as a person/young adult?
SP: Maccabi has been a life-changing event for me. I know that sounds cheesy but it genuinely has. Maccabi has been one of the highlights of my summer every year and it’s very sad this will be my last year attending. Maccabi has given me the confidence to put myself out there and be willing to be so open-minded in completely new situations. It’s given me an amazing amount of friends and connections, but most importantly, it’s given me a connection to something greater. It’s given me a connection to not only a great group of Jewish teens in Denver, but from every corner of the United States and even from around the world. This connection and sense of belonging is something that’s very hard to find, and it’s what makes Maccabi such a meaningful experience.