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Barry Waranch: Miles Apart, More Connected

Barry Waranch photo2

Written By Josh Rajunov

As teams start gearing up for the European Maccabi Youth Games in London this summer, coaching staffs face several challenges, but Maccabi USA U18 Soccer Assistant Coach and Soccer Chair Barry Waranch understands what is ahead of him.

The two-time Maccabi USA coach traveled to Israel for the 21st Maccabiah in 2022, and accompanied another delegation to Argentina this past winter for the Pan American Maccabi Games. Still, even with experience, putting a team together is hard.

Challenge #1: Different from the Maccabiah in Israel, there were no in-person tryouts held to form the teams. Rather, players sent in tapes and information about their clubs in hopes of being selected for the national team, according to the assistant.

“Every clip is going to look like they are the greatest player ever. It’s hard to differentiate who’s good and who’s not good,” Waranch said. “I will 100% screw up in both directions. There will be some kids who didn’t make the team who probably should’ve, and there will be kids who make it, that cherry-pick their video clips.”

Waranch highlighted how all but one member of the 21st Maccabiah U.S. National Team play soccer at the collegiate level, so the talent will be there.

Challenge #2: All of these players live long distances from each other, meaning it is tough to create team chemistry, but if the COVID-19 pandemic taught us something, it means Zoom is to the rescue! The team had a few group calls, and Waranch said the players have really bought in.

“We had every kid on [the call], and we took it from a less sports aspect to a more personal and intimate ‘tell us about yourself’ aspect,” he said. “A kid shared about a recent tragedy, and another shared about a disability he’s overcome. I was a little surprised by how much they opened up, but all of a sudden, everyone became humanized, and the kids started becoming friends.”

Challenge #3: Even though these teammates are getting to know each other off the field, there is still a lack of opportunity to train together on the field, which Waranch said that is the toughest task. As of now, the coach said they are guaranteed one training session together and are pushing for two, so he will have a lot to look at.

“These kids have never played together, so it’s a little like playground soccer at first, and we’ll sort of learn on the job as coaches what we got,” he said. “When we train, it’s going to be very serious and intense because we are there to compete. We as coaches see the level of play, and the players know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. We have to very quickly learn what we got.”

Maccabi USA’s soccer team finished second in its last two attempts with Waranch as an assistant, and he said this time he’s hungry for gold.

However, for Waranch, that’s only part of the reason he keeps coming back to coach. Despite thousands of miles separating the group currently, during the Games, everyone will be connected through one common thread: their Judaism.

“I think the biggest drive for me has always been when I see kids that have not had any Jewish taste in their life, the Games bring these athletes into the Jewish world,” Waranch said. “I see kids who are not very religious find out more about themselves from a religious point of view and them liking it.”

So, with his team still miles apart from each other and getting ready to compete, Waranch knows these athletes will connect with each other and athletes they are competing against. The U.S. delegation takes the trip across the pond in late July.

Josh Rajunov is from Dallas, Texas, and just completed his freshman year at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications. You can follow Josh on all of his socials @Josh_Rajunov32, connect with him on LinkedIn using this link, and view his work at

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