Holding Court: Sarit Brinn: Spiking a fever

This year, she joined the Hapoel Beit Hinuch Jerusalem which plays in a women's league of all ages and finished first.

Sarit Brinn 88 248 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Sarit Brinn 88 248
(photo credit: Courtesy)
It's pretty likely that when Sarit Brinn's doctors do a chest X-ray, they see a volleyball beating inside her heart. The 17-year-old Ma'aleh Adumim senior and team captain is so devoted to her sport - which this year saw her team, Tali Beit Hinuch, come out of nowhere to claim third place in the high-school league with a 9-6 record - it's taken over her life, and she loves it. Not content to just play for her high-school team, Sarit also joined Hapoel Beit Hinuch Jerusalem in a women's league that includes older players, and her club finished first, advancing to a higher league for next season. So when she's up at 2 a.m. making up the class work that she missed because she's been at one of three practices or two games a week, it just doesn't faze her. "It gives me energy to play," she explains in a phone interview recently near the end of the regular school league season. That sort of dedication is what sets amateur athletes like Brinn apart from the pros. While they're not getting paid to play, it means everything to them, providing matches that are sometimes more fun to watch than the pros. "It doesn't have to be volleyball - any sport. I just enjoy playing and being with my friends, and it just so happens that all my best friends are on the team," says Sarit. Brinn joined the team in seventh grade, having played in a summer camp the year before, and admits that it's the teamwork of volleyball she enjoys the most. Brinn, who plays spiker but rotates to other positions as well, chose that spot because she enjoys "the credit that comes with finishing the point. You get instant recognition from your teammates for making that point. It's a good feeling, even though the set-up person is really the most important job on the team." But being on the team presents more challenges than just going up against taller girls at the net in games. "You come home from practice and it's already 9 and you at and take a shower and it's already 9:30 and there's a show on like Big Brother that you have to see, so you get to sleep at 1 or 2." It's at those moments, though, that Brinn realizes how much the game means to her. Her mother and some of her friends think she's crazy, she says, but Brinn - who got her parents to string up a net in the garden - says: "They don't understand how much fun it is to play." You also can't ignore the height difference you face when you're 1.68 meters and you're up against girls who are 1.85m. and look like they could eat you for breakfast. Just listening to Brinn talk about being on the only team to beat powerhouse Galil Kfar Saba makes one quickly realize how important her sport is to her, recalling how, as a spiker, she was able to get the ball just past the hand of an opposing player for an important point. "It's a little bit harder because they're taller and can jump higher, but that doesn't always mean they're better," she explains. At first, the going was tough. Joining the high-school league when she was in 10th grade, she and her teammates took their lumps "and we were underdogs all the time." There were also different rules in the high-school league, with five sets rather than three, "so you had to have more stamina," notes Brinn. "We were really bad, and finished second to last" that season, she recalls. But then they turned things around, going from 7-11 that year to 9-6 this past campaign. The team's impressive accomplishment in the league is even more remarkable considering the rash of injuries that plagued the team, including Brinn, who sprained both legs. But the camaraderie of the club is what kept them going, even on long, long bus rides to games in faraway places like Misgav. First they stop in the shouk to buy food for the ride. The rest of the way they either sleep or carry on. "It's very much fun. We sing, we do sudoku and then we have a picnic," she says. "When she came to me in seventh grade she was very quiet and delicate," recalls her coach, Oron Ashery. "She asked just to practice and not to play, and since then she's just grown and grown in the sport. She's a very special player in the group. She's the captain of the team, which made the Final Four. She's been a significant member of our starting six for a while. Sarit is very brave. Over the years she's gained confidence, and goes after balls that other players don't even bother with. She makes it to every practice and helps organize the team - she's the one who maintains the contact between the players." This year, she joined the Hapoel Beit Hinuch Jerusalem which plays in a women's league of all ages and finished first, meaning they will advance to a more difficult league next year. Her father, David, says playing on the team has "given her a lot of self-confidence and poise, and taught her about teamwork... it's been a positive thing all-around." Going up against her in the backyard isn't easy, he says. "She beats us all the time, although occasionally I manage to hold my own against her, except when she spikes." She's also learned about responsibility, and picking herself up when her game slips a little. When that happens, she says, she reminds herself that "it's a team game, and I'm not doing this for myself, but for five other girls who are playing with me now, and if I play badly I'll ruin the game for everybody." Volleyball doesn't stop for Sarit once the high-school season ends, either. Summers she can be found at the Neveh Yam beach volleyball court, where she and some of her teammates play in three-vs-three competition. For now, however, you can find her with her teammates, all building dreams for the future even as they teach their own skills to those who will replace them in their positions next season. Sarit's got six months left until she enters the army and will continue practicing with the older women till then with hopes of maybe one day playing in the professional league. Investing 15 to 20 hours a week or more in a sport may seem crazy to some people, but to Sarit Brinn, " It's just fun to play the sport - it gives me energy for the rest of my life." The Sarit Brinn File On her iPod: Beatles, Hatavlinim, Ivry Lider, Asaf Avidan Favorite TV show: American Idol Favorite radio station: Galgalatz Makes her laugh: Stand-up comedians, Friends Book she's reading: The Catcher in the Rye Favorite place to visit in Israel: Eilat Favorite bus activity on road trips: Talking and sleeping Favorite road trip food: Pita and humous from the shouk Toughest opponent: Hod Hasharon, Mossinson School