Ariel Eber, goaltender for the U.S. women’s field hockey team in the Maccabiah Games four years ago slipped while walking down a flight of stairs the day before her team’s gold medal game. She broke her ankle.
The next day, she was in goal. She decided to play, in pain, she says, because “I was the only goalie” on the squad. “That’s what painkillers are for.”
Her coach agreed with her decision.
Her coach is her mother.
Eber, 26, a veteran of Maccabiah competition, and Muriel Chappell-Eber, 54, who has played or coached at four previous Games in Israel, will travel together again to this year’s 18th Maccabiah Games, which begin Monday and continue through July 24.
Eber will again be the field hockey team’s goalie, and Chappell-Eber will again be coach.
It will again be a homecoming of sorts for the pair — Chappell-Eber’s husband is Israeli. Members of his family come to the field hockey — simply called “hockey” in most countries — games, and invite the pair to their homes.
“I love it,” says Eber, a graduate of the University of Vermont, about the chance to visit Israel. “You just become more in touch with your Jewish roots. I have so many friends from the [previous] Games.”
She lives near her mother in Plainfield, N.J.
For them, field hockey is a family affair.
“I came out of the womb playing,” Eber says. Her mother, an avid player since high school, played until the day before she gave birth to Ariel. Ariel took up the sport at age 4. “I grew up with it,” attending her mother’s field hockey camps. At 10, she had a growth spurt, gaining 10 inches in height — she’s a willowy 5-feet-10 now — and developing into a star goalie.
Her sister Serena is also a field hockey goalie.
Chappell-Eber, a onetime elementary school teacher, is a full-time field hockey coach and tutor and runs a co-ed league in New Jersey.
Eber and Chappell-Eber sometimes play on the same team, sometimes on opposing teams.
“There’s a very distinct relationship,” player-coach on the field, mother-daughter off the field, Eber says. “When we’re at home, we’re mother and daughter. When playing together, it’s Mim and Ariel.”
Mim is Chappell-Eber’s nickname.
Are they competitive when playing on opposing teams? Of course, they say. Eber, in goal, will shout at her mother things like “In your face, old woman!”
What does mother say to impudent daughter? “I don’t say anything,” Chappell-Eber says. “I just score on her.”
“Sometimes she doesn’t,” Eber adds.
Mother — Hebrew name, Chava — tells of arranging for kosher food during her playing trips overseas, and of being invited to a community Chanukah celebration in Leipzig, Germany. Daughter tells of hosting yom tov meals at her kosher apartment in college, and of her bat mitzvah in Israel.
One joint memory was the 2005 Maccabiah Games. Eber played the championship game with her broken ankle heavily taped. Her teammates played watertight defense in front of her.
“I had one good leg,” she says.
The pain was worthwhile, she says.
Her team won.
On crutches, in tears, she received her gold medal after the game.
“I have the medal,” Eber says.