The concept of representing the United States is nothing new for Capitol Hill staffers, but few get to do it with a tennis racket.
Natasha Dabrowski, communications director for the New Democrat Coalition, is off to Israel to represent the United States in the 20th World Maccabiah Games, an international multisport event for Jewish athletes. She is one of six Jewish female tennis players on Team USA.
“I’m really honored to be selected and have the opportunity to compete while maintaining my day job,” said Dabrowski, 24. “It’s not easy to train for an international competition when you work long hours, but I’ve gotten used to reading the news on the treadmill.”
The opening ceremony in Jerusalem is on Monday and the games close on July 18.
“Because I’m playing in three different competitions with tennis, I could be playing that entire time once the games start,” she said.
Dabrowski is playing singles, doubles, and mixed doubles.
In December 2015, she played in the Pan American Maccabi Games in Santiago, Chile, and played singles and mixed doubles. She won the Dolph Schayes Memorial Award, an MVP and sportsmanship award named after the late 12-time NBA All-Star, which is given to one male and one female athlete at the entire games.
“[The World Maccabiah Games are] a whole new level in the world games and it’s a big deal so we will see how this goes,” she said.
Dabrowski tried out for the games in the fall and was at work when she found out she was accepted.
“I got the email saying ‘Congratulations,’ and then a call from my coach like two seconds after I opened the email. I was at work trying to compose myself,” she recalled.
In Santiago, Dabrowski won gold in singles and silver in mixed doubles with a partner from Los Angeles — with whom she’d never played before. She could be playing with a new partner in Israel, too.
And she hasn’t played with anyone in her Capitol Hill office, either.
“Everyone wants to play now that they know that I wasn’t just joking that I play tennis for fun,” she said.
Dabrowski trains at D.C.’s East Potomac Park and Rock Creek Park and occasionally at the University of Maryland’s training facility in College Park.
“My office has been super supportive,” she said. “They recognize that this is a once-in-a lifetime opportunity as well as I’m never one to ask for vacation days. They entertained the request, which is awesome.”
The University of Michigan alum has worked for the New Democrat Coalition for just over a year.
“I got involved with politics in college and did some campaigns all around Ann Arbor before I took the leap of faith in D.C. to try and find a job and a career in politics,” Dabrowski said.
She added, “I played at the University of Michigan though I got injured so I played club tennis for most of my time there, which was an amazing experience and also co-ed, so I got to play a lot of mixed doubles.”
Her mother, Chris Dabrowski, was a professional tennis player.
“You can say it’s in my blood,” she said “I’ve been playing tennis since I could hold a racket in my hand.”
The Maccabiah Games debuted in 1932. Since 1953, they have been held every four years in Israel in the year following the summer Olympics. The games are generally considered to be the third-largest international sporting event in the world after the Olympics and the Asian Games.