Keeping up with 13 year old Estee Ackerman takes work. After being named one of our Orthodox Jewish All Stars last year (here) she has only gained momentum. Estee is now ranked 6th for Cadet girls (15 years and under) for table tennis in the United States. She got this ranking after competing in the winter U.S. Nationals. The winter is a rough time for a teenage ping-pong champ, because training often takes a backseat to schoolwork. The U.S. Open, however, takes place during the summer – leaving Estee endless hours to train. It’s a good thing too, for the Open is made up of 100 events with 1100 people from 35 different countries.
Estee started at the Open playing people in her age bracket, then moving up to face opponents from the 17 year old age group and then again up to the 21 year old age group. After that she was put into group events – like doubles – where she partnered with another table tennis player. Estee finished 68th…out of 1100!! But winning a match isn’t everything, in certain events you are also ranked on performance. Estee competed in a 200 person event where all the players were ranked. If you play and beat someone with a higher ranking than you, your number is lowered to reflect that you are that much closer to being number one. Estee began with a ranking of 26th and made it all the way to number 3, snagging the bronze.
Unfortunately Estee doesn’t always get the chance to compete. Her most recent event was the U.S. cadet team trials, where she was in the final eight. To make the final four she would have to compete on a Friday evening for a game set at 6:45…when Shabbos came in just after 7:00. While those who played got to duke it out for the chance to be on the A team (which is made up of the top 4), in true All Stars fashion, Estee resigned herself to being on the B team so as not to risk desecrating the Shabbos.
However, keeping the Shabbos has also brought Estee opportunity. While Estee was in Nevada for the U.S. Open she was invited to throw the first pitch at a minor league baseball game for the Las Vegas’ 51’s (a team named after the area in Nevada thought to be the U.S. government’s infamous area 51). While there, she stayed in the Chabad of Nevada for shabbos. To her surprise, a teen travel camp for girls was also spending shabbos at the Chabad. Estee was invited to speak to girls her own age about her career and her inspiring choice to be a committed Orthodox Jew and still pursue her dream and athletic career.
Speaking to girls her own age in Las Vegas is only one of Estee’s recent travels…and triumphs. Estee recently defeated Canada’s number 1 ranked Cadet in a Toronto game. And she was also invited by SHALVA, the association for mentally and physically handicapped children in Israel, to take part in a fundraising event. There she played anyone who was willing to take on the challenge, for a raffle to raise money. So what’s next for Estee? Come February Estee intends to try out for the U.S. 2016 Olympic Table Tennis team. Though she is not a ‘favorite’ to make the team, her own support team has reminded her that you can’t get anywhere if you sit out of the game. Just as Estee reminds us all that to have the chance to win, you have to give it a try.