For many mothers, finding the time to leave the house in the evening to do something for themselves can seem like a daunting, even unattainable challenge. As societal expectations and familial responsibilities pile up around them, it can be a struggle to find the door, much less walk through it. So too was the case for Ofra Abramovich, the founder of the international sports league Mamanet.
“Fifteen years ago, a friend of mine told me to come with her to exercise, and I gave her thousands of excuses why I couldn’t – because I’m a mother and I’m busy and I have a responsibility to take care of the children and my husband and my mother in law – all the excuses,” recounted Abramovich.
Eventually, though, her friend convinced her to get out of the house after dark, and the reward made the initial struggle immediately worthwhile.
“I was ready at 8:30 on a Tuesday evening to go with her. And when I did, I felt that I went back to the age of 16 – I had the freedom not to take care of anybody, to do some sport for me, for myself. I went out with other women for coffee. I just stood for myself.”
The sense of freedom that Abramovich described was a eureka moment for her.
“I understood that all of those excuses were ones I had made for myself,” she said. “My life depends on me, because the only one that is responsible for my set of priorities in life is me, and if I decide to change that set of priorities, I will change it and do whatever I want to do first.”
After that revelation, Abramovich decided it was time to build a framework that would give other mothers a chance to break out of the cycle of excuses. She went to the mayor of her city and told him that she wanted to start a mother-focused sports league, and after some initial pushback – the mayor initially “laughed and threw me from his office” – she overcame the hurdles standing in her way and founded Mamanet.
Mamanet, now present in more than 15 countries around the world (with 10 individual American leagues), is an international sports league organization that prioritizes giving mothers the opportunity to express their independence. Players organize into teams according to the schools their children attend and compete with one another, culminating in an annual league tournament.
The sport of Mamanet itself is a variant of cachibol, volleyball’s predecessor – the core rule difference being that, contrary to volleyball, cachibol players are allowed to momentarily hold the ball before throwing it over the net.
The choice to base Mamanet’s rules on cachibol is a direct manifestation of the organization’s ethos of providing accessible sports activity to any moms anywhere.
“Instead of hitting the ball, which requires a lot of practice, you can hold the ball for one second. It doesn’t require the mother to have prior experience; they can learn it very quickly.”
Abramovich’s success has helped mothers and women around the world to feel more able to make space and take time for themselves. When asked if she would be commemorating the upcoming International Women’s Day on March 8, Abramovich told The Jerusalem Post that she prefers to “celebrate 364 women’s days, and not to celebrate Women’s Day itself.”