‘The experience of a lifetime’: CHS alum Amy Cohen overcomes challenges to represent U.S. at Maccabi Games

Amy Cohen after Team USA beat Argentina in the bronze medal game at the 2023 Pan American Maccabi Games in Buenos Aires. Jan. 9, 2024.

Amy Cohen after Team USA beat Argentina in the bronze medal game at the 2023 Pan American Maccabi Games in Buenos Aires. Jan. 9, 2024. Courtesy

Amy Cohen brings the ball upfield for Team USA during the 2023 Pan American Maccabi Games in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Jan. 9, 2024.

Amy Cohen brings the ball upfield for Team USA during the 2023 Pan American Maccabi Games in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Jan. 9, 2024. Courtesy

By ERIC RYNSTON-LOBEL

Monitor staff

Published: 01-09-2024 4:21 PM

Modified: 01-09-2024 4:58 PM


For Amy Cohen, the chance to represent her home country on an international stage was something she never would have dreamed of just a couple years ago.

The Plymouth State senior and 2021 Concord High School graduate just returned from Buenos Aires, Argentina, after playing for Maccabi USA field hockey in the 2023 Pan American Maccabi Games, an international competition featuring Jewish athletes from all over the world that was held between Dec. 27 and Jan. 4.

USA field hockey took home the bronze after beating Argentina. But Cohen, a forward who scored six goals and had two assists in the tournament, had to overcome more obstacles than most just to be able to play.

During her senior year at Concord High, she tore her ACL, and soon after, she developed a kidney stone, which landed her in the hospital. Doctors found her blood levels so out of control that it was unsafe for her to play any sports. It took four months before she was eventually diagnosed with lupus, an autoimmune disease.

The risk of internal bleeding from getting hit while playing field hockey initially kept her sidelined. But four months after the diagnosis, she was able to return to the field.

“I was playing college sports four months after I had gotten the lupus diagnosis, which is kind of unheard of,” Cohen said. “I think it kind of gave me a different appreciation of being able to go to Argentina and be healthy enough to travel for two weeks and play some of the best field hockey that you can play in the world in an international tournament.”

Cohen went through a six-month virtual tryout to make the team, sending in videos of herself playing and doing interviews with the team’s coaches and the field hockey chair. She found out last spring that she was one of 15 athletes from around the country to make the team.

Athletes and coaches held meetings over Zoom, but they didn’t meet in person until they arrived at the airport together. 

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“It was a pretty big whirlwind getting there,” Cohen said, “but it was really, really cool.”

Cohen had stopped playing field hockey at Plymouth State after her sophomore season, turning to cross country instead, but she continued training for the Maccabi Games on the side.

When she was introduced with her teammates at the opening ceremony at El Movistar Arena representing the United States and then later when she received her bronze medal, all the training — and the extra time she put in to make sure she was healthy enough to play — was more than worth it.

“That was something that you can’t even describe what it feels like,” she said.

“It honestly was surreal. I never really thought I’d actually get the chance to put on a USA jersey. Just being able to represent the country, my school, the community was something that was just surreal to me and very eye-opening.”

In addition to the typical pomp and circumstance of an international event like the Maccabi Games, the war in Israel and Gaza and the rampant rise of antisemitism around the world added extra meaning for the Jewish athletes and coaches.

“It’s something that’s really special,” Cohen said. “I think being able to have a really strong backbone community and being able to be proud of who we are and being able to gather like that was something that everyone definitely didn’t take for granted.”

Cohen’s back in New Hampshire now, and her field hockey career is officially complete. After graduating from Plymouth State, she’ll be pursuing a master’s degree in public health at American International College in Springfield, Mass. She’s hoping to study epidemiology and chronic disease research — in particular, helping research treatment for lupus patients.

It’s a disease that impacts 1.5 million Americans, 90% of whom are women. But Cohen knows that it can be managed with the right medical care. Her three-year journey, culminating with this 10-day opportunity to represent the United States on the world stage over 5,000 miles away, proves it.

“I’m just really thankful to be able to go. It’s kind of the perfect way to cap off my field hockey career,” she said. “I’m really happy that it was a successful trip and to be back safe and everything. … It was just truly the experience of a lifetime.”