Adventure in Israel

By Hilary Bentman

Sophie Bass has a passion for mathematics and athletics.

The Albright junior, a math major and midfielder on the women’s lacrosse team, seems destined for a career in sports analytics.

This past summer, Bass got some practice in her chosen field, and she did it half a world away, helping Israel prepare for one of the biggest sporting events on the planet.

The Westfield, N.J., native interned with the Olympic Committee of Israel, compiling and crunching athletes’ stats to help determine how potential Israeli Olympians may perform in qualifiers and competitions leading up to the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo.

The analytics help Israel’s Olympic committee make decisions on scholarship money to support the athletes, says Bass. “If they send more athletes, how would they stand in the qualifiers? How much scholarship money can the committee give out?”

The internship was part of a summer-long adventure in Israel that saw Bass touring the country, teaching young Israeli girls how to play lacrosse, and playing in some Israeli premier league lacrosse games with members of the national women’s team.

“It was amazing to be able to play with different people and by different rules,” says Bass, who quickly learned the Hebrew words for “stick” and “ball.”

Bass initially traveled to Israel with Birthright, an organization that provides free, 10-day trips to Israel for Jewish young adults. Bass toured the country from north to south, though the highlight, she says, was ascending the ancient fortress of Masada, and covering herself in the famous Dead Sea mud.

When the Birthright program was complete, Bass extended her summer by first coaching lacrosse in the coastal city of Ashkelon. She spent a couple weeks teaching girls the fundamentals of the game. While women’s lacrosse is not a big sport in Israel, it is growing.

“I like teaching little kids. I know the sport and I know the game,” says Bass.

Bass’ athletic background was an asset in her internship with Israel’s Olympic committee. She spent several weeks analyzing the performances of Israeli volleyball and handball players, swimmers and judo athletes.

The experience offered Bass a new perspective on not just a field she’s interested in pursuing professionally, but on the work culture of another country. “Israelis are a lot more laid back in their work. When they get their work done, they leave the office,” she says.

That was not the only thing Bass had to get used to. Working with the Excel program was also a challenge because in Israel data is entered into fields from right to left in line with how Hebrew is written and read.

Bass overcame the hurdle and was even offered a job for after graduation. While she’s not certain she wants to relocate to Israel, Bass is hoping to try out for their national women’s lacrosse team. Since she’s Jewish, Bass is eligible to play for the squad.

Bass says the experience of spending a couple months living, working and playing abroad was life-changing.

“It’s something I’ll remember the rest of my life,” she says.