Meet Catchball players from around the league and across the globe.
Click on the name to meet the player.
Natasha is a newcomer to Toronto with a gravity-defying shot that deftly spins
the ball down the length of the net, tipping neatly into the opposite court
and is nearly impossible to return!
I understand you’re new to Toronto. Tell us a bit about where you’re from.
My husband and I arrived in Canada just last year and settled in Newmarket, Ontario. We came from a small town in northern Israel, a Circassian town called Kfar Kama.
How did you first become involved in Catchball?
My first Catchball experience was in my hometown. My sister and I, together with a group of local girls, gathered to form the first Circassian Catchball group! I loved it right from the start.
I didn’t play organized league sports before Catchball so it was all new to me. It was great to learn that no previous experience was needed in order to be good at it. Our team was called “Adiga Top” and we played in the Catchball Friendship League for three years.
What attracted you to the sport?
I loved that lack of experience doesn’t limit you. You learn and develop as you go, and the satisfaction is tremendous. That game’s charm is the satisfaction you get when you play together with your team as one unit. The adrenaline that fills the air is indescribable.
Why did you seek out Catchall when you arrived in Toronto?
As soon as we settled into our new home, I immediately looked online for a local Catchball team and that’s how I found Maccabi Canada’s league in Toronto. It was very important for me to keep playing and practicing Catchball because it brings so much to my life. The connection between the girls is priceless – and I appreciate this connection so very much because I came to Canada with no family or friends.
Do you see differences in the way we play here versus Israel?
There’s not much of a difference between how the game is played in Toronto and Israel. The rules are the same and the great atmosphere created around the game is just the same. The great thing about Catchball is that you can play anywhere in the world with any team and the magic will always be there!
Sometimes I even find myself call “catch the ball!” to the girls on the Toronto team in my native language as I used to in Israel.
What’s your favourite thing about Catchball?
My favorite thing about Catchball in Toronto is the lovely people first of all. I love the enthusiasm of the ladies who play – ready to come out for game whenever possible and create that togetherness we all crave.
Anything you’d like to share with us about how you stayed sane or stayed in shape during COVID?
We arrived in Toronto just months before the COVID-19 outbreak but I had managed to play Catchball with my wonderful group in Vaughan during my first winter in Toronto, thanks to the Maccabi Canada league. And during COVID, I was thankful for my Catchball family, filled with caring people who were willing to help this newcomer with anything during this very challenging year.
During the summer quarantine, I took long walks, played tennis with my husband, and played a bit of Catchball in the neighborhood park to stay in shape.
What’s the thing you look forward to the most when things open back up?
When things return back to normal and we start training again, I look forward to competing in Catchball tournaments and meeting other players from around the league.
I hope that we can go back to normal routines this summer and enjoy the season to its fullest with lots of Catchball games and lots and lots of adrenaline!
Featuring Leah Strauss
Leah was born and raised in Toronto and has a proud
Maccabi history in her family.
How did you happen upon Catchball?
I registered my son for Maccabi soccer about four years ago. It was there I met Michele Bass, who at the time was supervising the soccer program. We got to talking about organized sports for women and she enthusiastically recommended Catchball.
It was early days for the Catchball league. I had no idea what it was except it was like volleyball – my favourite team sport in high school… so I signed up and joined the North York team.
As a team sport, Catchball has completely exceeded my expectations! It’s so much fun. I never want to miss the opportunity to play. It reminds me of my competitive volleyball years. I look forward to practicing with my team and joining others in the pickup game.
I really enjoy the ladies in the pickup game. It’s a very cohesive group and different from weekly team practice. It’s pure gameplay. A good sweat. If there was a third night of the week to play, I’d go! It’s been a great way to augment my personal workout regimen.
How does Catchball support your Jewish observance?
When you lead a Jewish observant life, as I do, supporting the needs of other members of your community is central to how you operate. At Catchball, that same approach of supporting each other on the court is very evident. You feel the camaraderie. The team itself is like a microcosm of my greater community. We cheer. We cry. When people get injured, we help. We may not even know all of each other’s names, but we care about each other’s welfare.
How has Catchball enriched your friendship circle?
When you relate to other women through teamwork and sport, it’s special. You’re working towards a common goal. It’s a great workout with healthy competition. We all work together to improve ourselves and have a great time doing it.
I’ve made a lot of new friends through Catchball. We know each other’s birthdays. We wish each other Happy Mother’s Day. Because we see each other regularly, we’re plugged into the highs and lows of life. I even discovered that one of my teammates lives on my street. She’s my neighbour!
Any other thoughts?
I was drawn to Maccabi because it’s a Jewish organization. We have a proud history of Maccabi in my family. My nephew is a wrestler and my brother-in-law was a pitcher and has participated in the Maccabi games. I hope to do the same.
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