Written By Ethan Eibe
For Alex Nickoll, the 15th Pan American Maccabi Games is a family affair.
Nickoll, 16, will compete in U18 boys’ tennis in Buenos Aires, Argentina, this winter. His older brother, Eli, 20, will play in the Open division.
Alex is a rising junior at Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles. When Alex was in the eighth grade, Eli was the varsity tennis captain and Alex followed him into the sport.
The competition between them was fierce, and Alex often lost to Eli.
The demoralizing losses piled up until one day in July 2022, when Alex finally beat Eli. Alex kept his match-point ball from that day and proudly displays it on a shelf in his bedroom. It bears Alex’s signature with the inscription: “Beat Eli, 6-1.”
Alex said he is excited to experience Argentina with his family and looks forward to practicing the Spanish he learned in high school.
Now that both he and his brother will represent the U.S. in Argentina, Alex said, “It’s going to be awesome. I’ve always wanted to go to and then combine that with getting to play tennis there. It seems like a dream opportunity.”
While Alex has traveled out of state for high school tennis matches, he has never competed internationally or represented the U.S.
Although he admits he will be nervous competing in the Games, Alex remains confident.
“I plan to win,” Alex said.
When Alex is not training, he shares his passion for tennis with his community.
He strings tennis rackets at a local pro shop and works with Israel Tennis & Education Centers (ITEC), a foundation in Israel that seeks to empower disadvantaged children through tennis.
Alex has volunteered at ITEC centers in Tel Aviv, Ramat HaSharon and Acre, where he worked with underprivileged kids, including those with special needs and disabilities.
“I’ve been very fortunate to have so many resources and a great family in and out of tennis to help me,” Alex said. “It would be selfish if I didn’t do anything to help others.”
In late August, Alex will begin volunteering with the Teen Talk App, a service that offers support to teens from fellow teens who are specially trained.
“You definitely see teens not just at my school, but all around, struggling with mental health,” Alex said. “It was a great opportunity to help other people and I’m excited for that .”
Looking to the future, Alex hopes to play collegiate tennis.
He is interested in possibly majoring in sports journalism and credits Los Angeles Dodgers and Rams play-by-play announcers Joe Davis and J.B. Long as his inspirations. He believes sports have the power to bring people together, much like the Games will do this December in South America.
“I feel that sports are exciting…inspirational…sometimes even magical. And I feel like to be able to capture some of that would be interesting to me.”
Ethan Eibe is a junior at the University of Florida studying journalism and sports media. He is a play-by-play broadcaster for UF Student Radio and broadcasts professional baseball for the Alpine Cowboys in the Pecos League. Follow him on Twitter (@EthanEibe) and at www.maccabiusa.com.