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Seth Cohen ’07: Rugby Player in Maccabi Games
This article originally appeared in the Bentley Magazine.
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Love of the Game
Seth Cohen ’07 has always been a team player, with rugby his sport of choice.
Cohen joined the club-level team at Bentley in 2003, as a freshman. The Connecticut native helped the Falcons go undefeated during his junior and senior years, winning consecutive Division III national championships under coaches Josh Smith and Jeff Parks. He also contributed off the field, serving as club recruiting chair, match secretary and vice president.
Graduation did nothing to diminish Cohen’s love of the game. Soon after moving to New York to start his career in finance, he set to looking for a new squad.
“I knew I’d wake up on Saturdays and not know what to do with myself,” says Cohen, who by weekday works as a controller at Morgan Stanley.
He ultimately joined the New York Athletic Club (NYAC), which fields teams in 21 sports, including rugby. This past summer, Cohen represented the United States in the 18th Maccabi Games in Israel. A post-Bentley weight loss of 40 pounds enabled the 6-foot-5-inch alumnus to compete at the international level.
Maccabi USA/Sports for Israel seeks to encourage Jewish pride through sports, culture and education. The organization sends a contingent to an international showcase, modeled after the Olympic Games, every four years. Cohen won his spot at open tryouts in August 2008, trained for a week in Florida last spring, and headed off to Israel in July.
“It was unbelievable,” Cohen says of the three-week trip, which featured visits to Jerusalem, the Dead Sea, and 3,000-year-old caves. “We really got a good sense of the country.”
After besting Canada and Chile in the first two rounds, the U.S. side lost a tough semifinal to the British team. The defeat knocked them out of gold-medal contention, but offered a shot at the Israeli national team in the bronze-medal consolation match.
“Every guy on that Israeli team had been playing for months,” says Cohen, noting the team’s undefeated record in World Cup qualifying play. “It was a pretty big step up for us.”
In the locker room before the game, Cohen and his teammates came together, joined arms, and sang. “There was a huge sense of pride, and we really wanted to hear our national anthem,” he says. “For most of us, this was a one-time shot.”
Pride would carry the day: The American team upended its heavily favored hosts, 43-3, to capture the bronze medal.
Cohen is back home now, preparing for the NYAC rugby team’s spring season. He looks forward to trying out for the Pan American Games and aims to continue playing for a long time to come. As he puts it: “There’s nothing like rugby camaraderie.”