On May 23, the New Jersey league of Mamanet celebrated the end of the 2022-2023 season in a great final game between the NJ Stars and the Tigers.
If you’ve never heard of it yet, you’re likely wondering, “What is Mamanet?”
If you have heard of it before, you’re likely wondering, “Why are the women I know taking this Mamanet stuff so seriously? They sound cultish and obsessed!”
There are a myriad of inspiring stories about women whose lives were transformed by the Mamanet experience. This isn’t one of them … it’s just a year in the life of a Mamanet athlete.
At its core, Mamanet is “volleyball for mothers” or cachibol in Hebrew. The bylaws of the organization permit only mothers or women over 30 to compete in the league. It was originally established in 2005 in Israel before spreading around the globe. In the U.S., there are leagues with multiple competing teams in New Jersey, Boston, Los Angeles and elsewhere. I was recruited to Mamanet in Tenafly back in 2018 before joining a Fair Lawn team just before Covid. When life started up again in 2021, the NJ Stars were born, with about 14 women primarily from town. The team has four mostly Anglo members hailing from Shomrei Torah and another eight who are most comfortable in Hebrew.
In early May of 2022, the NJ Stars held a team retreat in a spa in the Catskills to strategize ahead of the New Jersey league’s championship game. Later that month, they lost the final game to the Wildcats.
As a consolation prize for some of the team, they formed a rag-tag team called Spaghettis to compete against 30 teams to claim the world title in Cervia, Italy that June. The Spaghettis were underdogs, but crawled their way to the semifinals by beating Latvian, Italian and Israeli teams. After three arduous days of constant matches, the Spaghettis ended up in fourth place and capped the trip with visits to Rome, among other Italian hotspots.
The practices paused over the summer, but the 2022 season started strong again after Labor Day, when all the traveling Israelis returned to New Jersey. They met every Sunday night from 8:30-10:30 p.m., dedicating half of practice to strength training and drills, while the other half went toward a fierce scrimmage. League games started in earnest after the December holidays, which added Thursday nights from about 8-10 p.m. to the schedules of the NJ Stars athletes.
To develop the teamwork and skills necessary to take the championship back, the NJ Stars jumped on the chance to compete that May in a three-day, 30-team tournament in Las Vegas … with some side trips and shows scheduled around the games. The Stars fought valiantly, but had some back luck with matchups and ultimately ranked in the upper bracket of the competition. Their nemesis in the New Jersey league, the Tigers, ended up coming in third place!
This tournament catalyzed the NJ Stars to bring everything they could to win the final game and defeat the Tigers. After two close sets, the NJ Stars brought all their skills and teamwork to ultimately defeat the Tigers. It felt utterly magical to hold a trophy afterward as a team.
And then we all went as a team to the Tiger’s captain’s house to celebrate the end of the season. On the spacious deck, we ate, drank and schmoozed. If I’m being honest, that may be my favorite part of Mamanet!
Competing in cachibol keeps me in better physical shape, provides wonderful social opportunities and is (slowly) improving my Hebrew skills. Even though I’m turning 40 later this month, I feel like a teenager when I play … replete with all the drama and competitiveness that comes with it.
Reflecting on the past year, I took advantage of every opportunity and adventure. I was privileged to go to a weekend Catskill spa resort, an exciting trip to Rome and a jam-packed adventure in Las Vegas with my close-knit ladies … and that doesn’t include all the parties (including costumes and karaoke) and the celebratory get-togethers! Furthermore, I had the full support of my husband and daughters, who cheered me on every step of the way—they’d ask about my games and practices, while also attending and cheering me on. What an incredible feeling after scoring a point to hear their clapping and cheers, “That’s my mom!”
My family will be moving to Boca Raton this summer, where there’s no established league yet. If you’re (even a bit) athletic and want to have fun and get fit, please reach out and be a part of something incredible as we build out the league down south!