Written By Charlie Goldberg
Sitting on the plane, on his way to Israel for the first time in his life, 18-year-old soccer player Tyler Porter was nervous heading into this year’s Maccabi Games. However, he didn’t realize that he was in for the experience of a lifetime.
Porter lives in Whittier, Southern California and has been playing local soccer since the age of four. Soccer runs through the Porter family tree as Tyler’s relative, Kovi Konoweicki, actually played in the Maccabiah himself and won gold. He told Tyler to try out for the United States.
“Hearing about how much of an amazing time he had playing in the games made me want to do the same,” said Porter.
Having never been to Israel before, Porter was intrigued by the idea and attended a try out in Los Angeles. However, with a pulled hamstring still affecting him, Porter didn’t play a minute. A couple months later, Porter’s injury healed up and he traveled to his second and final try out in Philadelphia, making the team. This not only encouraged him to travel to the Middle East, but it also prompted his family to come along to watch him on the fields.
For Tyler, this trip’s meaning goes beyond the pitch and team play. He wanted to truly take in the Holy Land for himself. While Porter was nervous about going to Israel, his positive attitude and determination to have a stellar time helped him get over his fears, and it helped him meet new friends.
“As I got more comfortable with the guys and doing more and seeing more the nerves came off and I acted more like myself,” said Porter.
Porter became so comfortable at the idea of trying new things, that he even volunteered to be the only one on his team of 19 to room with a player from another team.
“I just love meeting new people and I took the opportunity,” Porter said of his roommate Yonathan Sternberg from karate.
Of course, it wasn’t just the games and his new roommate. The one-week cultural tour that kicked off his time in Israel called Israel Connect was more than he could have ever expected. Porter made this known while talking about the time he spent at Masada and the Dead Sea.
“There’s not many things in life that defy expectations regardless of how prepared you are for them. Until I was standing on that hill at Masada and floating in the Dead Sea, I really never took in my experiences here until those moments.”
Porter plays wing on the U18 team. He’s learned a lot from his teammates who played at higher levels than him.
“The overwhelming majority of these guys are committed or have made pro debuts or are looking to play professionally elsewhere and it’s really incredible,” Porter explained.
It’s that combination of learning about Israel and experiencing playing soccer at a high level that has Porter grateful for the decision he made to come to the Maccabiah. And he will take these moments with him next fall in another life transition – that of his home life to college life at the University of California at San Diego (UCSD).
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