NEWS

Hey, Naty Sr., the kid’s doing all right

(From HANDBALL MAGAZINE, November 2019)

Alvarado Jr. is living the good life as husband, father ... and avid golfer

Taking on your father’s name can be a mixed blessing. Your parents named you after Dad. What could be better than that?  Right?

But as you grow older, you find that others compare you to Dad, sometimes in ways that you and Dad resolved long ago.  The comparisons come. But what if your dad was one of the greatest?  Think Bobby Hull, Archie Manning, Ken Griffey, Bobby Bonds, Cal Ripken, Mario Andretti, Bill Walton and … Naty Alvarado. 

Many sons have grown up with Dad being the expert at a variety of things.  It’s our job as dads to guide our sons toward personal growth and worthy pursuits.  It’s our job as sons to honor our parents, learn from them, and make our own way as we grow up and move on in life.

We have seen and observed the Alvarado family for over 40 years. And now we talk with Naty Alvarado Jr., a great man in his own right.  At 46, he has married, raised a fine family, and moved on from competitive handball.  He deals with life like the rest of us, one day at a time, leaving behind a solid pro handball record and great memories.


The cover of the April 1999 magazine, featuring Alvarado Jr. hitting against David Chapman. 

Where did you grow up? 
The High Desert has been home to me since 1978. I graduated from Hesperia High School in 1991 — just feels strange how many years ago that was.  I attended Victor Valley Community College for a couple of semesters but ended that when handball started to bear fruit and the opportunity arose to travel across the U.S. competing against the top players.

When did you start playing handball?
My first experience on the court was in Tucson in 1982 between games of a pro match between my dad and Dennis Hofflander.  I just stepped on the court and started swinging away.  I played baseball and soccer until my sophomore year of high school. In 1988 I was 15 and committed to playing handball full time.  That year I watched my dad surpass Joe Platak’s record of nine national singles titles.  That lit the fire for me.

What do you do as a profession? 
I am the branch manager with Mortgage Solutions Financial in Victorville.  I have been a mortgage loan officer since 1998. The lending industry is in a state of constant change, and much like a handball opponent, each application is different with a different set of challenges we need to overcome.  The challenge of going through an application and coming up with a positive outcome is much like hitting a flat rollout.

How did you meet your wife Kerrie?

Naty Jr. and wife Kerrie. The couple has been blessed with three daughters as part of the Alvarado clan.

Kerrie and I met at the Cardio Fit Sports Club.  She was a member of the club where the Alvarado family practiced.  She caught my eye instantly, but it took me awhile to approach her.  In the beginning, she would say I wasn’t her type, which I still tease her about.  We connected eventually, and life was full of days of laughter with my entire family around us.  We married on June 1, 1995, here in Victorville, Calif. What a great time Kerrie and I had that weekend — family, friends, and, of course, handball friends.  Kerrie is a key part of my handball success.  She never questioned me leaving for a tournament, and she was always there to pick me up even if the outcome ended the opposite of my dreams.

Tell us about your children. 
Our oldest, Marisa, was married in January 2018 in San Diego to Antonio Hill.  They met in Portland a few years back and had an instant connection.  They reside in Beaverton, Ore. No children planned as of yet, but we all know how life works.  Marisa has always been adventurous with a servant’s heart. She made several mission trips to far-off places — Congo, Mexico, England, Ireland — to serve her calling to help others. Our middle daughter, Jaden, graduated from Oak Hills High School last summer along with her cousin, Gabriella Bike, who is bound for San Diego State. Jaden is headed to Chaffey College to start on her nursing career. Jaden is a lot like me. She sees the world as a quiet place and wants to be surrounded by comfort. Our youngest, Erin, enters her junior year at Oak Hills High School and is a varsity cheerleader. Erin is boisterous, firm with the ground she stands on, and will stand up for what she believes in.


The Alvarados visiting Disneyland — daughters Marisa, Jaden and Erin with Kerrie and Naty Jr. 

Tell us what it has been like playing handball as the son of Naty Alvarado. 
I knew going into this what would be expected. In the beginning, it had its perks at times, but the constant reminders of my dad were always there.  I remember playing in the national open final in Baltimore against David Chapman.  We were in a tiebreaker.  A man came up to me and asked me how my dad was doing while I was changing gloves.  Geez!  That was common. I pretty much gave his fans a pass, realizing that this was the impact my dad had left on people across the handball community.  I’m not the only Alvarado to play.  My sister Lupita (Alvarado Bike) and I auditioned for a Gatorade commercial after the late Doug Glatt recommended us.  Turns out the director was the same director who shot the Budweiser commercial featuring Doug and Naty Sr.  There were some funny moments, and none of the other actors had any handball experience.  That summer Pita and I hit it around enough to expose the other actors and let her show them her ability.  She is still one of my favorite female handball players.

So you started playing handball at 15.  Who did you work out with? 
Chris Watkins, a great man and a true friend.  In the summer of 1988, handball found us both at a time when we needed it most.  Like clockwork, we started our sparring sessions Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 3:30 p.m. for four years straight.  It was because of Chris’ dedication to the game and our sparring sessions that included my dad, the great El Gato, and Greg Maurice that I was catapulted onto the pro tour in 1992.  What we accomplished in those 48 months was unbelievable.

Do you still play nowadays? 
From time to time I play big ball at my dad’s house, but that seems to be less and less as the days pass. I took a break from indoor handball at the end of 2016, and the break kept growing with time.

What other sports do you enjoy now? 
My competitive outlet now is golf. This is one of the hardest games I have ever played, and the mental demands require my full attention. I am starting to reach new levels on the course, and it’s fun and exciting every time I tee it up. Handball has provided the foundation for the power, flexibility, and body control required in my golf swing.

Name some of your favorite wins over the years. 
I truly don’t have any that stand out. The doubles wins seemed more rewarding because I had teammates in a sport that we are judged mostly by individual performances.  I had great partners.  All the wins with Chapman, in the beginning, have a super special meaning now, and each of those wins helped instill a much-needed confidence in me that I could compete at the highest level of our sport.  The year John Bike and I won is a special memory.  That was an all-out family win and still the only USHA brother-in-law pro doubles champions.  The big Simple Green win with Tati Silveyra was a sweet win. We both were past our best playing days but figured out how to win against two very fine players in Michael Gregan and Ger Coonan.


Naty Jr. and Kerrie get together with John Bike and wife Lupita Alvarado Bike, Vili and Adriana Morton, and Lupe and Naty Sr. (hey, Lupe, peek out from under that jacket!). 

You were ranked in the top four pro handball players for many years. How did you stay competitive for so long? 
My career was blessed.  I was able to stay healthy, aware and productive.  My conditioning seemed to carry me in the later rounds and kept me injury-free.  I had small injuries, but never the one that caused a long rehab.  It was in the back of my mind as I aged.  I would see other handball veterans and watch them tape up, strap up, brace up, you name it.  Handballers are pretty hard core with their preventive gear!  I told myself that I would stop playing before I got to that point.

Who were your biggest rivals? 
I thought of everyone as a rival.  So I played everyone with the same attention and will to win as I did against David Chapman or Danny Armijo.

How did you feel about your fellow players while touring? 
Everyone on the tour got along.  I spent a lot of time with Tati in the beginning.  John Bike and I traveled a lot.  Along with Tati and John, Danny Bell and Tyler Hamel were my favorite dinner mates and golf course mates.  They are all exceptional men.

Handball is a personal endeavor. How did you deal with your wins and losses? 
I have never kept track of how many handball titles I won.  In the beginning, it was about getting to the top of the sport and adding to the Alvarado story.  I ignored wins and titles, just going about the process.

But there was one title I wanted to hold just once, the USHA national singles championship.  After four visits to the finals, I came up short.  Because of that, I felt that Operation Handball was a bit of a personal failure.
In hindsight, I realize that I gained more from handball than I ever imagined.  But not winning the singles title will always leave me with some regret.

Anyone who plays tournament handball experiences losses, right?  Mine were all tough losses.  Not one loss was worse than the other.  There was always a feeling of emptiness and pain. It’s a hollow feeling that no one enjoys.

Are the current pros different from those in previous eras? 
I can say that the fitness levels are higher now for most of the consistent winners.  The Irish show up fit … and they are not attending events to just hang out.  It’s about completing their path and commitment to their craft.  This is why Paul Brady, Killian Caroll, Robbie McCarthy, Tony Healy, Eoin Kennedy, and the late Ducksy Walsh all have proven that the extra road work can and does pay the biggest of dividends.

Alvarado, competing against Luis Moreno, enjoyed a long and distinguished career as a pro.

You have decided to retire from competitive handball, yes? 
The end of the road.  Our little handball stable here in the Victor Valley kept aging, and the injuries would shorten training.  At one point when I felt like I was playing my best at 40, I was able to get excellent two-on-one matches against John Bike, John Robles, and Chris Watkins.  Then we would mix in some great doubles matches with the up-and-coming Josh Robles.  Handball was ample and fun.  Our super talented local handball group began dealing with age and injuries.  I would need to drive to the Los Angeles Athletic Club to get the needed games to play at the top level.  Work and family commitments became a priority.  I accepted that the days of top-level handball were ending and it was time to focus more on family and career.  Still, even today, I feel I can play at a very high level if I really wanted to make the time. 

Who was the most skilled Irish player you faced in your career? 
Paul Brady, no question.  Paul possesses all the tools on and off the court.  He continues to play as a professional and respects the players of the past and present.

What are your thoughts on Brady equaling your dad’s record of 11 national four-wall championships?
I believe my dad can accept Paul’s accomplishments and respects the sportsman that Paul is.  He treated the game with professionalism and respect.  I know my dad is proud of Paul Brady.

Can you give the readers your advice on improving their games? 
Don’t just play handball three or four days a week.  Cross-train, cross-fit, ride bikes, run, do sprints, swim, lift weights, do yoga, do more yoga, brush your teeth with your off-hand.  Too many players allow handball to be their only form of fitness. This doesn’t strengthen the other areas that need to recover or that need to gain strength.  And honestly, my biggest piece of advice … walk laterally and backward as often as you can.  I have studied people aging who struggle to make movements sideways or backward.  I firmly believe the small muscles, tendons and ligaments weaken over time, and that process speeds up with the lack of repetitious movements training or reminding the body that these small movements are needed.

What are your thoughts on the USHA, the WPH, and the survival of the sport?
Handball needs both, period!  The more these two organizations combine their efforts, the better the sport will maintain itself.  Our sport lacks the need of equipment compared to other sports.  The more equipment you can market, the bigger the interest the game will have.  It is also critical to continue to promote youth development, with the pros playing near them at every event.

You play some one-wall at home.  What do you think of one-wall and wallball? 
I enjoyed every minute of one-wall handball!  There is so much energy, and the characters on those courts in New York are entertaining.  The skill level and tenacity of the one-wallers is quite a challenge.  I know if I lived near Coney Island, I would be walking around playing with a bad knee and bad hips.  It’s easy to find games there with players coming up to challenge the top dogs.

One last personal question: What is your full name? 
Both Dad and I were born with the name Jose Natividad Alvarado, or Naty for short. 


Gabby Bike, John Bike, Lupe Alvarado Bike, John Bike “JAB”, Adriana Morton, Vili Morton, Naty Sr., Matai Morton, Lupe Alvarado, Malia Morton, Marisa Alvarado, Antonio Hill, Kerrie Alvarado, Naty Jr., Jaden Alvarado and Erin Alvarado at the wedding of Marisa and Antonio Hill.

 

And so we hear from another Naty Alvarado, one who is truly a star in his own right.  He is now a professional in a different capacity, with a large family that loves him for who he is today. Naty recently attended the Southern California Handball Association Hall of Fame dinner and spoke for his friend, SoCal HOF inductee Chris Watkins.  One of handball’s strongest assets is the family nature of our sport, and Southern Cal handball has always looked up to the Alvarado (and Bike) families and appreciated their leadership.

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Team Aware Collegiate Handball Scholarship

In Memory of Chatten Hayes

Chatten was passionate about EVERYTHING she chose to partake in...

Her Words: Handball is, always has been, and always will be an immeasurable joy to me.  I’d already begun making a difference in the areas I most certainly excelled at: shouting about The Perfect Game from the rooftops, so to speak. 

From the minute I came around, I loved handball. I’ve always wanted handball to be a better “place.” By which I mean, I saw how incredible the athletes were, and how special the camaraderie was, and I wanted the rest of the world to know. 

She also wanted the world to know the "Big C" isn't the end--it can be the start.  Chatten's immeasurable joy was on full display for Collegiate Handball, especially for the club at Pacific University, coached by husband David Steinberg.  To support Collegiate Handball and promote cancer awareness, Chatten and her loved ones established the "Team Aware Collegiate Handball Scholarship."  

How to Apply: 
During the month of September, which is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, players may submit an essay including how they were affected by cancer (directly, family member, or other loved ones).  Also, applicants should incorporate handball history, outline current academic status and course work, including unofficial transcripts, and if planning to attend the Collegiate Nationals. [The DEADLINE TO APPLY has been extended to October 31].

Eligibility: 
Available to full-time undergraduate college students who participate in USHA events and demonstrate financial need.  

Email applications to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (Please include "Team Aware Scholarship" in the Subject Line).

Contributions to grow Team Aware Collegiate Handball Scholarship can be made directly to U.S. Handball with "Team Aware" in the memo field.  The Team Aware Scholarship recipient will be announced at the National Collegiate Championships.

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We all can learn from Carl Obert


Carl Obert watches the action with intensity at the 2012 one-wall
nationals at Coney Island.

First featured in HANDBALL MAGAZINE, February 2019 (Part 1) and May 2019 (Part 2)

The intro picture is of the three Obert brothers (Carl, Oscar, and Ruby).  All three are in the USHA Handball Hall of Fame. 

By Chris Hlavatovic

The following interview was compiled over several recent conversations with Hall of Famer Carl Obert, as documented by his longtime student.
 
Q: How would you characterize your way of thinking about handball?
 
A: I call it the brick-wall theory. Each piece of your game is a brick in the wall — physical, mental, emotional. A student of the game works on them all. You have to be purposeful. Natural talent does not win championships.
 
 Q: Can we unpack that? Can we start with the physical?
 
A: Well, there’s a lot of good cross-training now, so I won’t say a lot about that. I always liked what they now call interval training. Sprints mixed with running like a boxer, with some shifting and skating as you run. Light weights. I also have some specific exercises for increasing your peripheral vision.

Let me say this about conditioning: Many times we are tired during a match and think we are out of shape or that our opponent is causing the problem. In reality, we do things that speed up the process of losing energy. So here are some things to do when you’re tired:

  • Arc the ball. Think of a plane taking off. Lifting the ball is power without energy.
  • Maintain front-court position. It saves extra steps during a game.
  • Take the full 10 seconds before serving or returning serve.
  • Shoot and end rallies sooner when you are tired.
  • Use all your timeouts and the full timeout between games.
  • Change gloves and shirts as needed.
  • Use your body weight and “pendulum swing,” swinging with two arms like an ape.
  • Don’t get angry or do too much talking.  That wastes energy.
  • Look for fly-kill or fly-pass cutoffs.
  • Hit passing/angle shots at half-speed. The less speed you use, the more hook the ball will take.  

Q: A lot of that sounds like more mental than physical.
 
A: You can’t separate them. A good game plan takes them all into account. You train, you think about your opponent’s tendencies and patterns, you come to work and stay in emotional control. 
 


Obert playing three-wall at Detroit’s famous
Palmer Park in the late 1960s.

Q: OK, what about the mental game?
 
A: Top players agree that the game is 70 percent mental, 20 percent physical, and 10 percent luck. Average players evaluate the game after it’s over. Good players do it every few points. Pros work moment to moment. It’s called situational awareness, and it can be trained.

Calculations by a pro are made second by second, and they make adjustments as necessary as the game is played. Pros take advantage of their opponents’ weaknesses. Their main purpose is to neutralize an opponent’s game.
A pro will evaluate the psychological, mental, and physical makeup of an opponent moment by moment. Pros try to control the mind and will of opponents. Play like a pro!

Another thing: Missing and losing are good for you. It is a wakeup call for more practice in specific areas. Examine your game plan and make the necessary changes. Missing is inevitable. Ask yourself why and learn from it. 
 
Q: And the emotional game?

A: Bad calls and lucky shots are all part of any sport. They average out. Losing one’s temper gives your opponent an advantage. Control your temper. 

Also, nervousness and tension are assets. They are your body’s way of keeping you from being complacent. No matter what you do, you have to play one point at a time.

Finally, some guys like to show off …exhibitionists. I don’t want to show off; I want to win. If the same serve is going to get me points, I don’t care if the whole house boos me for doing it 21 times in a row. Don’t fall for an opponent’s antics. Concentrate and stay focused. Excuses and negative thoughts score no points.
 
Q: So what about a game plan? What are the elements of a game plan?
 
A: I have a chart of 46 types of players. Seriously. Some of the key categories have to do with tempo — slow starter or fast starter. Some have to do with tactics — runner, shooter, serve-and-kill, streaky, go-for-broke, hook artist.

Just like with boxers, there is an answer for every style. The key is to know what to look for. Don’t ceiling with a tall player, hit it at a runner, shoot first against a shooter. Does your opponent force the action, or is he or she a counterpuncher? All important …

Q: What’s the most important thing to work on if you’re trying to improve your game?
 
A: The mental game. When players are in comparable shape, it becomes a mental game. A chess match. Become a student of the game because it applies to other parts of life. 
 
Q: What are some of your best tournament tips?
 
A: Arrive early. Check the courts. How is the floor, the lighting, the ceilings? Are the walls concrete or laminated sheetrock? Those kinds of courts suck up all the power from pass shots and make it more of a shooting game. Hydrate. Don’t watch too many matches or socialize too much. It can wear you down.
 
Q: How much do you try to tell a player during a match?
 
A: Depends on the player. It’s hard to remember a lot during a game. Often it is just a couple things. Shoot. Don’t overhit. Keep your feet on the ground. Keep your eye on the ball. Don’t lift your head on kills. Stay in center court. Change speeds. Don’t turn your front shoulder. Turn and look.

On the serve, remember to Z-serve. Think about serving to your opponent’s strong hand. Most players have a good offensive dominant hand but not so much defensive. Works well at match point too. Move the spot where you serve. Stay in motion during the return of serve. 

Also, because I tend to think about the court as divided into 16 zones, where did I score from, where did I miss? How did I score? How did my opponent score?

Sometimes I force a timeout and ask the player, “What happened to the game plan?” Sometimes it’s more about emotions: Don’t get angry. Breathe. He’s good, but so are you. She scored, but now it’s your time to score. Pretend you’re a righty!

Sometimes you want to get your student to change gears. Maybe smile. My favorite line, when a student’s tongue is hanging out during a tough match, is, “I’m not even breathing heavy.”

Q: Any advice about doubles play?

A: The best two singles players don’t necessarily make the best doubles team. In doubles, it is not whose side it’s on but who has the better shot.

Positioning is even more critical in doubles than singles. Get to the hitting spot early; it gives you more options. Play without the ball. Anticipation, pattern recognition, situational awareness ... all are huge in doubles.

In singles, I recommend 70 percent of shots with the dominant hand. In doubles, it’s more like 90 percent.

Finally — communication. Communication in doubles is essential. Make sure you and your partner have the same game plan. And make sure you communicate before and during the match or of a private school.

 
Carl talks about 10 Handball Topics (Part 2)

The mental game

Concentrate on the game plan and not the score. It is easier for the mind and nervous system to concentrate on one thought. Play one point at a time. I always say missing is good for you. Missing is inevitable. Learn why. It is a wakeup call for more practice in specific areas. Examine your game plan and make the necessary changes. Start now and use mental reflexes to your advantage. Talent is located between your ears. Talent is proper shot selection. Success is the other side of hard work and thinking. A great shot will get you a point, but a great game plan will bring a championship.

Serving

The purpose of a serve is to get a weak return and maintain front-court position. Four-wall and converted racquetball players prefer shots hit into the wall. A serve just over the short line becomes a point-getter. Offset power hitters with the Z-serve. There are 100 areas to serve to — use them! Many players serve to their opponent’s weak hand. I have found that they are more erratic with their strong hand. Most players are not consistent playing defense with their dominant hand.

Situational awareness

They taught us about this in the service — what’s the terrain, the weather, the local people. In handball, you have to be aware of your courts, lighting, ceiling, floors, back wall, balcony. Look for cracks or marks on the walls. We are trying to get the mind comfortable. Study the short line area. Here is where most of the game will be played. Throw the ball and see which way the wall slants. Are the walls wet? Is there poor lighting? Is the temperature an issue? What about drafts? Speak with other players; they sometimes give you sound advice on court conditions and how they play opponents. 

Positioning

I always tell my students that you should picture an egg superimposed on the handball court. Most of the games should be played within the egg. If you are stuck in one of the four corners, away from the egg, you’re in trouble. Being in the egg is a start but not the whole story. Get in motion as your opponent is about to hit the ball. This puts you a half-step ahead. If you are in front of your opponent, turn and look as they are about to hit. This puts the pressure on them and, again, puts you a half-step ahead.

Mechanics

Pendulum swing. The single most important thing in hitting a handball is to use a pendulum swing. We say hit with both arms, turning off the hips and not the shoulders. The kill is supposed to be a soft shot. If you have to hit a kill as hard as you can, it’s the wrong shot. If you go for a kill and miss it, the ball should still be in play. You should be shooting off your ankle, parallel to the ground. On overhead shots, it is more about control than power, especially hitting the ball on the rise. When you hit the ball on the rise, it’s all about the follow-through. 

Shotmaking

You need to have a target. Beginners just go out and start hitting. Eventually, you learn you have to have a thought behind every shot. As you start to think about your shots, you should practice targeting and body mechanics. By the way, if you are tired, you must arc the ball higher. If you are full of pep, you probably will have to adjust as well. On pass shots, you should consider the height — 2-, 3- and 4-foot pass shots do different things. And there is an inverse relationship between speed and hook. A half-speed volley shot will take twice the hook of a hard volley shot. On kill shots, step out with the front foot at a 45-degree angle. Keep your head down and hit a level shot at ankle level.

Elements of a game plan

    You should know your strengths as well as your opponents’. If you know nothing, observe them in practice. Many players will show you their best and worst shots in practice. Start at 75 percent speed. You may not need more than this. Feel out your opponent. Find out what makes them happy and deny it to them. My strategy was to neutralize an opponent. Play the long game. Come to work. Stay calm and carry on. If one idea does not work, then rework the volley.

Tournaments vs. Games

Control, patience, and concentration win tournaments. Power shooters tire in tournament play. Tournaments teach you that you can lose with your off hand, but you can’t win with it. Tournaments teach you a game plan must be flexible, that learning is fun and that the fascination of the game is the constant search for improvement.

Tips on specific shots

Punching is great, but you have to control punches. Hitting around the walls is not a good idea; it gives your opponent time. I like to think about pacing within a point and between points. Also, I like front-side kills. Everyone uses side-front, but the front-side is safer. It dies more quickly. On volley shots, the worst thing you can do is let a slow ball hit an extra wall deep in the court. You are way out of position at that point. And if you try to hit it back hard, you’re in more trouble. Better to cut off slower volleys.

Postscript

    I am very proud to see how handball has been growing and how younger people are taking to the game. I hope they will remember there is always a way to win. Just because you are not scoring at some point does not mean you are not winning. Like I always say, come to work! The fun of the game is not to win but the struggle to win!

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UPDATED: USHA’s Guidelines for Getting Back on the Court(s)

Last updated: 6/22/2020  (Print & Share PDF)

PLEASE know that your local club and government’s guidelines supersede these additional points for consideration.

US Handball wants you healthy and safe, but also back on the court(s), playing the Perfect Game.  That can happen in some areas sooner than others.

 
In conjunction with the Federal Government’s “Opening Up America Again” approach, and if your park or club is given the “green light” to open, let’s get back to the best exercise and fun on the planet.

We want to do our part to help players stay safer on and off the court.

With that in mind, we’ve taken info from USA Racquetball, US Squash, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

By following these considerations, as well as mandates of local governments and health agencies, clubs and their players will be better prepared to make safer and more informed decisions when they are able to resume play.

 

CONSIDERATIONS PRIOR TO PLAY

● Continue to adhere to state and local guidance as well as complementary CDC guidance, including face coverings. While we recognize it may be slightly uncomfortable, we strongly recommend face masks for everyone’s protection.
     •  Should a sanctioned event allow participants to play without face coverings, it can also be limited to just inside the court while competing. All participants should sign waivers that clearly identify the increased risks (to themselves and others) resulting from the activity. This, again, may not supersede guidance from public health agencies or fitness clubs.

● The best opponents are family members or others who live in the same household.

● Allow for extra warm-up time. If possible, warm up on separate courts if playing with someone outside your household.  Hit by yourself the first time back in the court to ease back into playing. After weeks/months of not competing and/or training, take your time ramping up to your previous playing routine. This will help reduce likelihood of injury or overtraining.

● Bring personal water bottles instead of drinking directly from the community water fountain.

● Are a vulnerable individual and/or live with someone vulnerable.

 

● Do not play if any of the following apply:

○ Currently testing positive for COVID-19 or exhibiting any symptoms of COVID-19: mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough and difficulty breathing, or other symptoms identified by the CDC.

○ Have been in contact with someone with COVID-19 in the last 14 days.

 

CONSIDERATIONS FOR SAFER PLAY

Play outdoors (fewer walls and less confinement). Consider playing an opponent from your same household. A family member or roommate might be the safest opponent, exposure-wise.

If playing indoors, have one player designated as the “door opener/closer." That person opens and closes the door between games and during timeouts.

● No shaking hands, high fives, etc.

Playing singles would be the recommended choice. Doubles may create incidental contact and close proximity.

● Practice social distancing whether playing singles or doubles between points and between games.

● Use one ball that’s been chosen after all players have gloves on.  Avoid touching face with gloves – always use your personal towel.

● If your ball goes into another court or your ball goes into an adjacent court, wait for play to stop and just one player should retrieve it.

 

Of course: 

● Do not share equipment, food, drinks, towels, etc.

Keep a six-foot distance from your opponent and other players in the hallway before, after, and in between games.

 

CONSIDERATIONS FOR AFTER PLAY

● Exit the court, wash and/or sanitize your gloves and hands, and shower at home.

Keep a six-foot distance if socializing after play. Limit post-game social engagement.

Be sure to check ushandball.org periodically for updated content as it comes available.

These considerations should not be considered all-inclusive and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Clubs and players are encouraged to take additional safety measures as may be recommended by local governments and health agencies to make healthy exercise as safe as possible in the midst of uncertain times.

Remember, we want you to play, but it’s more important you stay healthy and safe!

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Here’s the deal with this pair of aces

Longtime 1-wall stars Apuzzi, Ten celebrating 27 years of marriage

First featured in HANDBALL MAGAZINE, August 2018.

    Handball players across the country recognize the name Albert Apuzzi. He remains the record holder with seven consecutive national open one-wall doubles titles from 1983-89, winning six with Joe Durso and one with Al Torres.
     Many players also are familiar with Dori Ten, who began as a paddleball player, switched to handball at Apuzzi’s urging and became a multiple champion. Many players also know the two are married. But did you know that this year they are celebrating their 25th anniversary?
     Time passes quickly in life, and many players who once were young up-and-comers are learning to face the effects of time on their lives and athletic pursuits. Apuzzi and Ten have a storied past — and an intriguing life together. 
     As a child, Apuzzi started playing “Ace-King-Queen handball” at P.S. 119. He is the eldest of four children. His father, Albert, is a retired New York Police Department lieutenant, and his mother, Angela, is director of a private school.
     Apuzzi graduated from Canarsie High School, then attended Brooklyn College before a change of careers led him to graduate from the Arnold and Marie Schwartz College of Pharmacy at Long Island University. Now 62, he is a pharmacist.

One of the greatest one-wall players in history, Apuzzi is a member of the USHA Hall of Fame.

     Apuzzi became one of the best one-wall players ever and was voted into the USHA Hall of Fame in 2002. At Apuzzi’s request, the induction ceremony was postponed until 2011, when he was honored at an Inner City Handball Association event in New York.
     Ten grew up in Brooklyn with four siblings and was always outdoors playing sports with her brothers and sisters. Her older sister was a track and field star. Her youngest brother is a NASCAR driver. She graduated from John Dewey High School in Brooklyn and then graduated summa cum laude from Long Island University. Now 57, she is a physician assistant in surgery.
     Ten played a very strong game of paddleball but switched to one-wall handball in 1987 at Apuzzi’s urging. She rose through the ranks and won her first national singles title in 1992 as well as five doubles titles with Barbara Canton Jackson.
     Ten slammed in the 1997 nationals. Her last doubles championship was with Canton Jackson in 2001.
Apuzzi and Ten lead active professional and personal lives together. We caught up with them both and asked about their lifestyle and their opinions about the sport.
    
Tell us a bit about your life. What other sports or hobbies do you like? What things do you like to do together?
     Albert: We enjoy cycling and walking together. We still go to the handball courts. And we like watching sports together on TV, like tennis, cycling and squash.
     Dori: We also love to travel and see other cultures, people, and wines. I am a wine aficionado.  

How did you meet?
     Albert: We met at the Seaside Courts at Coney Island. We had a challenge match, hands vs. paddle.
The New York Times article tells their story in more detail as part of their "Summer Love Series" HERE.

Why did you switch to handball, Dori?
     Dori: I started to play handball at Coney Island when I met Albert, and he encouraged me to give up paddleball and play handball. The first time I played handball, my hand was taped and I had several gloves on. I looked like I was stepping into a boxing ring rather than a handball court. I was late to the game at age 28. I was such a skinny kid that if I attempted to hit the 555 black ball, I would have had a cast put on my hand. Those balls of yesteryear were like hitting lead.

Do you two play handball together as a team or as workout partners? 
     Albert: On occasion, we play at a local schoolyard or when we find a court while on vacation. 
     Dori: Albert is light-years ahead of me. His hooks and spins would give me whiplash.

Let’s talk about New York handball. Do you prefer big ball or small ball when you are playing for fun? 
     Albert: I prefer small ball. It is more physical and takes more skill. 
     Dori: More people play big ball than small ball. Small ball has a longer learning curve. A lot of kids cannot afford to play small ball as it requires gloves, goggles and an expensive ball. A big-blue ball costs $1, making it an appealing sport. All you need is a wall, a hand and a ball — that’s it.

Describe the challenges for a one-wall player when competing in three-wall and four-wall.
     Albert: In my younger days I played with any ball and any wall. I traveled around the country playing various tournaments. I entered the three-wall and four-wall national tournaments a few times. I made it to the semis of the national three-wall doubles a couple of times, with Tim Sterrett and with Eric Klarman. I won the Don Colone three-wall open doubles and the NYAC four-wall open doubles with Eric Klarman. I did pretty well against some top four-wall players in singles also.
     Dori: Three- and four-wall are challenging when you play one-wall. You must stand your ground when playing one-wall. In three- and four-wall you must move out of the way. The back-wall shot in four-wall is probably the hardest skill to master for one-wall players. 

A classic look from (way) back in the day — Ruby
Obert and Joe Durso with Apuzzi, all in the Hall of Fame.

Where do you play nowadays? 
     Albert: Seaside Handball Courts at Coney Island. We are mostly weekend warriors these days. I’m recovering from getting both hips resurfaced, so I’m just returning to handball after being off for several years. 

Favorite serves when you want to score a point?
     Albert: It depends on my opponent, point in the match, how I’m feeling, and whether I’m serving in singles or doubles. In singles, my go-to serve is a wide-angle to the left where the short line meets the left sideline. 
     Dori: I am a lefty, so standing on the right side of the court and hitting it to the left side of the court to your opponent’s off-hand is a standard serve. You are also facing your opponent when they are returning the shot, so you can get a good read as to where they will return the volley.

Name some favorite tournament wins over your careers.
     Albert: My first was beating Neal Bocian, whom I idolized in high school. It was at the USHA one-wall national singles at Brighton Beach Baths. I was also excited when Joe Durso and I beat Lou Russo and Mike Dikman at Castle Hill Beach Club in 1983. That was my first national one-wall doubles title. Beating Al Torres and Paul Lonergan for my fifth consecutive national one-wall doubles title was also memorable. Also, winning my sixth and seventh consecutive doubles titles was exciting … and the record still stands.
     Dori: Perhaps winning against Rosemary Bellini in 1992 in a tiebreaker 11-10 was an early victory. The year before, she beat me 11-10 in a tiebreaker. Rosemary was a great handball player in her prime and encouraged a lot of women to participate in handball. Another memorable win was beating two great women players, Tracy Davis and Brenda Pares, in the HES tournament. At 50, we defeated Danielle Daskalakis and Sandy Ng in the ICHA big-blue Long Island Open.


 Ten strikes the ball in the 2001 women’s national one-wall doubles final.

Who are your favorite doubles partners?


     Albert: I enjoyed playing with Peewee Castro, Ed Golden, Eric Klarman, William Polanco, and Al Torres. I had my most success playing doubles with Joe Durso. Joe also gave me the most difficulty in singles. I have enjoyed each partner, our friendships, and our successes together.
     Dori: My one and only partner has been Barbara Canton Jackson, my best friend and doubles partner for over 25 years. We are lifelong partners. We are committed as a team, and we know the strengths and weaknesses of each other. One year I was very excited to find out Barbara was pregnant during a tournament. We were both over the moon!

Please give us your thoughts about the USHA and the WPH.   
     Albert: I appreciate the USHA for what they do for handball but feel like the organization is too focused on the four-wall game and keeping the ship afloat. The USHA is not willing enough to take chances. The WPH are the new kids on the block. They have taken over professional handball, and they are more interested in bringing the game outdoors where it can be seen by the public. WPH is innovative and more willing to take chances. They are more focused on pro handball, which I like. 
     Dori: Change begins by bringing new ideas with marketing experts and making the game super cool. We need to have these young kids give up their electronic gadgets and get involved in sports. It takes a great deal of money, but any company must have seed money to jump-start their business before the doors open. Once you have brand recognition, advertisers come on board.

Why do you support handball?
     Albert: Because I love the sport and want to see it succeed. Also, to help keep younger players fit and out of trouble.  

What is your advice for up-and-coming players who are striving to win a national tournament?  
     Albert: Practice and be dedicated.
     Dori: I see players who smoke and eat unhealthy. You can get away with unhealthy habits for only so long before the body gives in.

Name some important folks who influenced your handball career. 
     Albert: Neal Bocian, Steve Sandler, and Ruby Obert were special to me. Of course, there are many other great players and competitors who influenced my game over the years as well.
     Dori: Albert has been the greatest influence in my life on and off the court. He is incredibly insightful, funny, generous, and respectful.

Who are your handball rivals over your career? 
     Albert: In alphabetical order, Joe Durso, Ed Golden, Danny Maroney, and Al Torres. 
     Dori: Karen McConney and Adrian Floyd were great rivals, as were Dee Stringfield and Sydell Smith.

Albert Apuzzi and Dori Ten compose one of the most accomplished handball couples of our time. They are uniquely qualified to comment on one-wall and on the development of handball over the last three decades. With Apuzzi returning to the game, there may be more to hear from them in the future.

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USHA Board postpones Events through August. Junior 3-Wall in Venice, CA (July) Cancelled.

USHA Board postpones events through August.  Plans are being made for 2020 National Four-Wall Singles and Doubles events in Fall. 

Upon a recommendation from the Southern California Handball Association, we have decided to cancel the USHA Three-Wall Junior Nationals at Venice Beach.  Due to the lack of available future dates to reschedule, potential inability to travel, lack of training options, and site access, the tournament is not being postponed.  It is cancelled.

From USHA President LeaAnn Martin: 

     The University of Minnesota, the site of our 2020 Four-Wall Nationals, will be closed through June.  In addition, travel restrictions and concerns for everyone’s health has now necessitated the postponement of our Four-Wall Nationals scheduled for June 10-14.  We still endeavor to have this event because we do want to crown our 2020 national champions.

     As you know, the National Masters Singles and Doubles Championships were postponed. We’ll be working with the Masters Singles host in Nashville to host the National Singles and the Masters doubles host in Schaumburg to host the National Doubles. The USHA National singles and doubles events are now planned for the Fall of 2020 and would bring handball players two great events to train for, as soon as that’s possible.

     In the past, the USHA board has discussed splitting the Four-Wall Nationals into separate singles and doubles events. That concept had been proposed before and we were prepared to do that if, due to lack of courts, no host site was able to hold the combined event. Because of the pandemic, the time has come to implement the split. This is for several reasons. First, it will be nearly impossible to find a site to host the large combined event this coming fall. Universities are not able to have events during the academic year due to high student use (and funding) of campus recreational spaces. Other non-university facilities are not able to host because of limited courts, local support, and other administrative issues. Where does that leave us? Again, our goal is to be able to crown 2020 national champions. We will be looking at options, but realistically, the singles and doubles will be separate events, whatever we are able to have will be in the fall, and we may need to combine with another smaller event.

An overhead shot during a USHA Nationals on the handball courts at West 5th and Surf Avenue in Coney Island, N.Y.  Protective measures by the NYC Parks & Rec Department has temporarily closed all handball courts.

Other important information:

  •     USHA events through August, the Four-Wall Nationals (Minneapolis), Wallball Nationals (Brooklyn, NY) and One-Wall Nationlas (Brooklyn, NY) are being postponed and the immediate plan is to stay at least two months ahead of event scheduling.

  •     Regarding the state of the USHA, we reduced the four-person staff by one and the upcoming retirement of the executive director is progressing, along with the potential hiring of a new employee.  Rest assured, staff is still on hand to help answer questions, provide updates, print the magazine, and work toward a successful 2020 season.  Staff has also applied for some of the government help.
  •     As you might have read in the minutes of the January board meeting and what is printed in the next issue of the Handball Magazine (already at press) is that we planned on a small increase in membership dues on June 1.  This increase has been postponed.

     While the USHA continues to serve and promote its mission during this challenging time, please know that when handball is able to be played again, we will be even more ready To Organize, Promote and Spread the Joy of Handball: The Perfect Game.

     In the meantime, please stay safe, stay healthy and please keep up your membership and consider making a gift to help support the association and the game we love.
 
Yours in Handball,

LeaAnn Martin
USHA President

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A Closer Look: Fred Lewis

Freddy was a nightmare for opponents

Emerging from Bronx, Lewis builds a legacy of skill, consistency

Lewis consults with Ken Smolack at Palmer Park in the late 1960s.

By Marc Penick

In the USHA Hall of Fame is a list of all-time great players, ranging from Al Banuet and Joe Platak in 1954 to Vince Munoz and David Chapman in 2019. This is a special group of champions in our sport.  In 1993, Fred Lewis was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Many of us recall his six national singles titles and watching his precision-based game, which put his opponents on the run while he remained in center court.

Fredrick Stanton Lewis was born in the Bronx, N.Y. He graduated in 1964 from James Monroe High School, where he was a member of the swimming and handball teams. Fred’s parents, Bob and Irene, retired and moved to Miami Beach in 1964.

Fred attended the University of Miami, graduating with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education. Bob Lewis was athletic, running track and playing basketball for his high school.  Eventually, he became a successful boxer, but he quit boxing at Irene’s insistence.  Bob became a fireman, retiring after being injured while fighting a fire.  Irene and Bob enjoyed playing handball at the Castle Hill Beach Club, where they met.

Fred’s brother, Jack, is a retired attorney living in South Florida. He was a champion age-group swimmer in New York and a terrific paddleball player. He also played handball and won the USHA collegiate doubles title with Joel Galpern in 1969. 

The Lewises were members of the Castle Hill Beach Club in its heyday. Castle Hill had 32 one-wall courts and three four-wall courts — and 7,500 members at the time. The club became known as the Cradle of Champions. Hall of Famers who were members of Castle Hill include Ken Schneider, Jimmy Jacobs, Oscar Obert, Paul Haber, Sam Haber, Marty Decatur, Fred Lewis, Lou Russo, Joel Wisotsky and John Bike Jr. That’s quite the honor roll.

Fred was coached by his father as well as by Bob Davidson, who ran a juniors clinic at the Bronx Union YMCA. Davidson also retired to Miami Beach and continued to coach Fred at the handball courts in Flamingo Park. Davidson, a member of the USHA Hall of Fame as a contributor, served for many years as rules and referees chairman as well as writing a column for the magazine called “From the Observation Tower.”

Fred lives and works in Tucson, where he is the senior vice president and chief financial officer for a real estate development company. He also manages the Fred Lewis Foundation.

In addition to his family and handball history, Fred offers a unique perspective on the game from his pro tour years and from his years with his foundation. We asked him to share his thoughts about the game then and now:


Parents Bob and Irene Lewis’ wedding photo.

Your dad was a talented handball player. Did you guys win events together?
We never got to play together because he hurt himself fighting a fire. He was my idol growing up as I watched him win many tournaments at the club.

What other sports did you play?
I was a competitive youth swimmer and competed in high school. My swimming career was undistinguished, but it taught me the meaning of hard work and helped me develop a strong cardio system.

How did you come to be invited into the USHA pro tour?
The USHA pro tour began in the fall of 1973. The first stop was at the St. Paul Athletic Club. It featured the top eight players from the 1973 four-wall nationals at the University of Texas. The other players besides me were Paul Haber, Lou Russo, Stuffy Singer, Terry Muck, Dr. Steve August, Gordy Pfeifer and Dave Graybill.

You were one of the winningest players ever on the tour. How did you achieve such success playing other extraordinary players?
Winning builds confidence, and confidence leads to winning. My game evolved over the years. I trained very hard, and as a result, I was able to play a driving game that forced my opponents to chase down shots. Back then we played two out of three to 21 points. I won many three-game matches because of a strong cardiovascular system.

Did you serve the same way, no matter who you played? Or did you prepare a different serve strategy based on the opponent?
I preferred to serve Paul Haber’s right hand because his underhand punch to the ceiling with his left hand was almost automatic. I would serve to my opponent’s off hand if I felt they couldn’t hurt me with their returns.

What was your favorite serve when you wanted to score a point?
Either a slider down the right wall or crotch left side wall.

Who coined the nickname Steady Freddy?   
My good friend Mort Leve, former editor of Handball magazine, first gave me the name. I guess it was because I made very few unforced errors and liked to keep the ball in play. I would pass up kill-shot opportunities to drive the ball and keep my opponents running.

How did the competitors get along in the court? How about socially when not competing?
We had some very heated rivalries and lots of on-court banter. As you can imagine, most of it involved Paul Haber. Our guys for the most part were in their 30s and successful professionals. Paul liked to rile guys up, and they would retaliate. It was fun to watch. For some reason, he never got into it with me.
After the matches we would go out to dinner and socialize with local players.


Two true legends: Naty Alvarado with Lewis.

Who were your toughest opponents?
I consider Naty Alvarado the GOAT. He was extremely difficult to solve because he set up very quickly.  He created offensive opportunities when it appeared they weren’t there with either hand.  Naty put me on the defensive when he was serving. He hooked the ball both ways down either wall with great velocity.  He was very difficult to read.

Dennis Hofflander was No. 2.  He was Naty Alvarado without the great serves.  Dennis had the best left-handed kill shot from deep court I have ever witnessed. 

Stuffy Singer was very difficult to handle when he wanted to play hard.  He had as much talent as anyone and was very intelligent.

And of course, there was Haber. There were 11 years’ difference in our ages. I would have loved to have competed against him in his prime.  I consider Paul’s victory over Dr. Bud Muelheisen in a hands-vs.-racket match as the greatest on-court achievement in handball history.

Lou Russo was my toughest opponent in three-wall. Lou was one of the greatest all-around players, winning national championships in one-, three- and four-wall.

A word about Jimmy Jacobs. We were a generation apart. In the summer of 1970, I played Jimmy once a week at the 92nd Street YMHA and never beat him.
 


Partner Steve Lott with Lewis after winning the 1971 New York Athletic Club Invitational doubles.

Who were your favorite doubles partners?
Gordy Pfeifer was the best partner.  He was the perfect right-side player. Gordy had a cannon right arm, made very few errors and was a tremendous front-court retriever.  We won a couple of national invitational doubles tournaments where the top singles players teamed up for doubles only.

Steve Lott was my good friend from New York.  We were runners-up twice for the national title.  Mort Leve dubbed us the “Whiz Kids” because we were 22 and 20.

Name a few favorite wins.
Defeating Dennis Hofflander in a three-game, four-hour match to win the national title in Las Vegas in 1975 is probably my favorite. Winning a pro stop at the University of Texas in 1981 two weeks after my dad passed away is a close second. Defeating Naty Alvarado a few months later in Chicago to win my sixth title is a close third.

Did you compete in one-wall venues when you were a pro?
I played in an AAU one-wall tournament one year because I was spending the summer in New York. Other than that, only one-wall junior nationals and PSAL handball.

What game did you prefer to play, four-wall or three-wall?
I like them both. Each is unique. There is more thinking in four-wall because of the variety of different shots. Three-wall is more physical because you are playing behind the 40-foot long line much of the time, the surface is concrete and the venue is outdoors.

Your pro career lasted longer than most. When did you decide it was time to stop competing as a pro?
After my son David was born, I decided to make a change.

How do today’s pro handball players compare with your generation? Any contrasts in approach to the game?  
I can write a book about that topic. For one, the ball used on the WPH Race 4 Eight pro tour is much faster than the ball we played with. It would have been interesting to see the greatest ceiling shot master of all time, Paul Haber, trying to keep this ball from setting up off the back wall.
It is a different game today and hard to compare. I will say the athletes of today compare very favorably with those of my generation.

Today you are seen as a leader in the sport for training and encouraging young players to get involved in the game. Why do you do it?
I was very fortunate to have my dad and Bob Davidson as coaches and wanted to emulate them. I have great insight into the methodology of teaching handball. In addition, I feel very strongly about giving young people opportunities to succeed in life, especially those who may not have access to mainstream facilities. What we do is more than teach handball. It is very important for our kids to interact with adults. It has produced all kinds of benefits outside the world of handball.

How much time do you spend teaching handball these days?
Not as much as I used to. The Fred Lewis Foundation operates as a business. Basically my role is to raise funds to support the activities of the foundation. Abraham Montijo is the head coach and chief recruiter. Luis Estrella has recently moved back to Tucson from Portland and has assumed his role as assistant head coach. When Sean Lenning is in town he also spends a lot of time coaching our kids. The bottom line is I’m 72 and the coaches are all in their early 30s. They all have great rapport with our kids. It is my intention to leave the foundation in good financial condition when I depart this earth.

Lewis and his team of youth players circa 2006. He founded and operates the Fred Lewis Foundation.

Please share with us some of the advice you offer to up-and-coming players.

  • Hit the ball hard. Don’t be a dart thrower.
  • Don’t lose to the floor. Hit the front wall.
  • Learn how to play defense and get yourself out of trouble.
  • Watch the top players and learn from them.
  • Train, work hard, go all out and never give up.

Name some of your favorite women players you have coached or observed.
My favorite female player was my mother. I played handball with her and her friends when I was very young. There were probably 50 adult women at Castle Hill who played handball.
I loved watching Rosemary Bellini when she was champion. She was dominant for so many years. Also Anna Engele — she had fire in her eyes when she competed. Lisa Fraser hit the ball a ton and was a dominant player. Priscilla Shumate had tremendous ability and was great at one-wall, three-wall and four-wall.
Today I enjoy watching the battles between Martina McMahon and Catriona Casey. I like the way Martina levels off when she goes for a kill shot. Catriona has great anticipation and knows how to play defense.

Do you like big ball? Is big ball real handball?
Any ball, any wall, as the saying goes. I admire the top big-ball players. They have amazing skill sets. Big ball is a great game outdoors.

Do you still play?
I try to play three times a week, mostly doubles. Injuries prevent me from playing much singles. I have a group of friends who are my age that I play with regularly. There is lots of banter and trash talk back and forth. After the game, we head out for lunch or dinner. The banter continues.
 
Tucson has more than its share of handball talent in every age group.  How do you rate the Tucson handball players?
In the early to late ’80s, Tucson had the finest stable of players in the country. On any given day Vern Roberts, Pat Kirby, Dave Lynch, Frank Postillion, Bo Blinski, Mike Gardner, Rene Zamorano and Tom Natale could be seen gracing the Tucson Athletic Club courts. Today we have many players in different age groups, including some of our kids who have aspirations of becoming pros. The pros at our club are David Fink, whom I greatly admire for the way he has stayed in shape into his 40s; Shorty Ruiz; Abe Montijo, and Sean Lenning.

You have been a contributor and supporter of the USHA and WPH for many years. Please share your insights about the organizations.
To be truthful, I have been a supporter and critic of both organizations, which has been well documented. I like the fact both organizations are cooperating with one another for the good of the sport. Having a pro stop at last year’s four-wall junior nationals was an absolute winner. We need the pro tour to showcase the sport, and the WPH has been out front with its innovative technology. I’m sure as technology improves we will be sitting in our living rooms someday and watching the finals on a Sunday afternoon on a major network. I’m disappointed that the USHA membership has declined since its heights back in the ’80s and ’90s. The USHA does a lot to promote junior and collegiate handball. The problem is that once kids graduate from college, they seem to lose interest.

How do you think we can induce growth in handball player ranks in today’s electronic age?
I have floated the idea in the past of having an employee dedicated to retention of junior and college players. One of the main reasons kids play handball is because they receive mentorship from adult coaches. After they graduate they have no one to turn to, so they quit playing. The USHA needs a mentor in the home office who is very into social media. That is what today’s generation is all about.  I believe that person is Abraham Montijo, and I am throwing his hat in the ring. Abe has over 1,500 followers on Facebook and commands respect from young and old alike.

Will the U.S. players compete well with the Irish players in the coming years? 
If you mean on the pro level, I believe so. When Sean Lenning trains, he can beat anyone.  The Cordova brothers have shown vast improvement in the last few years and have the potential to step up even further. If we assume Paul Brady is retired, then Ireland’s top three are Killian Carroll, Martin Mulkerrins and Robbie McCarthy.  Killian has some unresolved issues related to injuries.  Martin is at the top of his game right now.  Robbie looked terrific at the world tournament but has commitments with the Irish Navy.

What can we learn from Ireland’s handball system?
They have a system that is extremely regimented and well organized. They have coaches and programs in just about every county. Also the kids cross-train by playing field sports and as a result have great legs.

Please name some of the most important contributors to handball over your career. Many of us believe you are one of those important players and contributors.
First and foremost was Bob Kendler, the founder and president of the USHA for over 30 years. Next, my three compadres who helped jump-start the new USHA in 1982 ­— Carl Porter, Joe McDonald and Ron Emberg.  Carl was president for 10 years and came up with the slogan “Save Handball,” which resurrected the USHA from bankruptcy.  Joe was the third president of the USHA and was instrumental in increasing the membership to its greatest heights. Ron had amazing fundraising ideas and was instrumental in creating the Grand Club, the Development Fund and the President’s Club.  Bob Hickman insisted on protecting our eyes, and as a result eyeguards are now required.

Next, I will name individuals who started junior programs that have withstood the test of time: the late Tony Huante, Don Quinlan, Paul Williams, James Coronado and my coach, Bob Davidson.

College coaches: Pete Tyson, Mike Dau, Tommy Burnett, Lance Lowy and Mike Wells.

Local handball promoters: Charlie and Joan Wicker, Dr. James Tanner, Tom Gilbert, Murray Marcus, Sid Semel, Kenny “Meatball” Smolack, George Miller, Gary Cruz, Neal Nordlund, Al Schilling, Naty Alvarado, Albert Apuzzi, Chatten Hayes, Jake “The Snake” Plummer, Lenny “The King” Tieman, Lon “Thank God for Garbage” Stalsberg. 
  
Financial contributors: Fred Banfield, Bill Smithburg and Bruce FaBrizio.

Glove manufacturers: Kenny Konkol, John Fabry and Tom Kopp.

WPH: Dave Vincent, Dave Fink and Jeff Kastner.

USHA: Mort Leve, Bob Peters, Vern Roberts and Matt Krueger.

I apologize if I left anyone off who is deserving of the term contributor.

Any closing thoughts for our readers to consider?
Lou Russo once stated in an interview that handball was the toughest non-contact sport. Given that fact, be proud that you play handball. You are truly a member of a very elite fraternity.

 

A ‘steady’ record tells Lewis’ Hall of Fame tale

Fred Lewis was inducted into the USHA Hall of Fame in 1993.  The inscription on his plaque reads: “Steady” Freddy won his first national title in 1972, and it was considered an upset at the time.  But Lewis pulled off five more singles wins to become one of the game’s most durable champions.  Fred dominated the action on the early pro handball tour, which started in 1974.  Lewis topped the all-time prize money list for more than a decade.  Fred personified the “percentage handball” game and coupled that with the ability to defend from deep court and convert any rally-ending opportunities.

Lewis’ national titles

1969    
Collegiates     Open singles
1970    
Collegiates     Open singles
1972    
Four-wall         Open singles
1974    
Four-wall         Pro singles
1974    
Three-wall     Open singles
1975    
Four-wall         Pro singles
1976    
Four-wall         Pro singles
1978    
Four-wall         Pro singles
1978    
Three-wall     Open singles
1981    
Four-wall         Pro singles
1994    
Four-wall         35+ doubles
1994    
Masters Singles     45+ singles
1994    
Masters Doubles     35+ doubles
1996    
Masters Singles     45+ singles
1997    
Four-wall         35+ doubles
1997    
Masters Singles     50+ singles
2001    
Masters Doubles     50+ doubles

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64th USHA National Junior 4-Wall Championships

TUCSON -- Ray Ure became the first junior under the age of 18 to win the 19-Under in 28 years.  David Chapman accomplished the feat when he won the 19-Under in 1991 (Dallas) at the age of 16. Ure joined an elite list of juniors to win an age title in each division in which they competed (9-Under, 11, 13, 15, 17 and 19).

The junior from Des Plaines, Ill. defeated Cian O'Driscoll (Co. Cork, Ireland) in two games, 21-9 and 21-19. 

After a double-digit win in the first game, the two opponents were in a "nip-and-tuck" contest in the second.  A day earlier, O'Driscoll fought off match point and punched his ticket to the final with a tiebreaker win.  O'Driscoll was on the verge of doing it again by getting a timely side out at 20-19.  But Ure delivered a laser from the deep court to get back into the service box where he secured championship point. 

O'Driscoll didn't let disappointment phase him, and after a 45-minute rest, he and doubles partner Conor Walsh snared the Boy's 19-Under Doubles crown by defeating Luis Mendez and Jorge Pimentel, 21-13, 13-21, 11-4.  Experience as a team paid dividends for the Irish pair as they held off a furious late rally from Mendez and Pimentel. 

Sunday's Juniors Banquet recognized Junior Alumni (19-Under players in their final year of eligibility who attended at least four Junior Nationals) with a special gym bag as a parting gift. 

George Mitchell (Los Angeles) was given the Kate Conlon/Kurt Johansson Most Improved Award.  Mitchell won the Boy's 17-Under Singles title after a runner-up finish in the 15s last year. 

The Tom Lynch Newcomer Award was presented to Colon Walsh who attended his first U.S. Junior Nationals.  And finally, Ireland's Saoirse Kelly won the Vince Gabriele Jr. Sportsmanship Award.  Kelly won slammed the Girl's 15-Under divisions and brought home the first junior singles title to Co. Waterford's St. Augustine club. 

Thank you to all the junior players who exhibited tremendous sportsmanship and phenomenal handball for five-straight days in the Old Pueblo!  A Special "Thank You" to Vince San Angelo, Charlie Wicker, John Ross, Belissa Camacho, Sophie Della Croce and everyone who volunteered to make this an outstanding Junior Nationals!!!

See the final results at the tournament's R2sports site HERE.

2019 National Four-Wall Juniors Drop-Down Divisions:

19-and-under:
A
Vince Ford d. Jorge Pimentel, 19, 20 Alex Carew d. Luis Mendez, def.
Final: Carew d. Ford, 14, 2.
B
First Round: Ben Buckles d. Otto Krueger, 2, 8; Jon Silva d. Mike Madden, 15, 6; Dominic Hamilton d. Max Montgomery, (19), 19, 6.
Quarterfinals: Carlos Castillo d. Buckles, 19, 11; Nicholas Roberts d. James Davis, 19, 19; Collin Peters d. Silva, 11, 9; David Sanchez d. Hamilton, (20), 3, 0.
Semifinals: Castillo d. Roberts, 20, (16), 9; Sanchez d. Peters, 9, 19.
Final: Sanchez d. Castillo, 7, 10.
19 Consolation
Montgomery d. Krueger, 8, 0; Silva d. Madden, def.; Hamilton d. Davis, (12), 12, def.
Semifinals: Buckles d. Montgomery, 8, 14; Silva d. Hamilton, (3), 16, 9.
Final: Buckles d. Silva, 13, (9), 9.

17-and-under:
A
F. Victoria d. A. Sanchez, (19), 11 , 0.
B
J. Cooke d. M. Sandova, 17, 9; A. Negrete d. J. Lallier, 8(8), 5.
Semifinals: I. Alberg d. J. Cooke, 16, 9; A. Negrete d. O. Bustos, 19, 5.
Final: Alberg d. Negrete, 19, 5.
17 Consolation
Cooke d. Sandoval, 10, 11; Bustos d. Lallier, (17), 10, 4.
Final: Cooke d. Bustos, 9, 20.

15-and-under:
A
A. Sanchez d. J. Power, 14, 7.
B
P. Eike d. C. Stout, 10, 5; A. Rivera d. J. Dechaine, 6, (12), 5; A. Sandoval d. A. Littman, 6, 6.
Semifinals: S. Callaghan d. Eike, 1, 0; Sandoval d. Rivera, 8, 8.
Final: Callaghan d. Sandoval, 11, 2.
15 Consolation
Littman d. Stout, 9, 5.
Final: Littman d. Dechaine, def.

13-and-Under:
A
C. Dean d. S. Magirl, 4, 0.
B
K. Schelble d. E. Bradshaw, 5, (15), 1; A. Chavez bye.
13 Consolation
Bradshaw.

Big Ball 13-and-under:
A
C. Dean d. K. Schelble, 4, 5.
B
N. Eike d. E. Bradshaw, 1, 0.
Semifinals: Eike d. S. Magirl; Carly Coolidge d. A. Chavez, 6, 15.
Final: Coolidge d. Eike, 13, 12.
13 Big Ball Consolation
Chavez d. Bradshaw, 2, 2.
Final: Chavez d. Magirl, (17), 1, 5.

9/11:
A
J. Holquin d. L. Lambert, 15, 11.
B
A. Duval d. M. Leonard, 0, 7.
9/11 Consolation
M. Leonard d. A. Kandell, 19, 14.

Girls 15:
A
Cassie Coolidge d. Carly Coolidge, 0, 4.
B
C. Gillespie d. A. Peters, 5, 16; K. Klicker d. N. Eike, 10, 7.
Semifinals: Peters d. I. Klicker, (4), 18, 10; K. Klicker d. Z. Klicker, (18), 9, 2.
Final: Peters d. K. Klicker, 8, (15), 7.
Girls 15 Consolation
Eike d. Gillespie, 9, 8; I. Klicker d. Z. Klicker, (18), 9, 2.
Final: I. Klicker d. Eike.




TUCSON -- The semifinals of the Boy’s 19-Under matches on Sunday produced everything a handball fan would want:  amazing rallies, incredible kills, unbelievable retrieves, and tiebreakers with dramatic finishes.  The fireworks began between Conor Walsh (Co. Cork, Ireland) and Ray Ure (Des Plaines, IL) in the day’s first semifinal.   Ure defeated Walsh to advance to the final, 19-21, 21-13, 11-5.  

The first game was a back-and-forth affair until Walsh streaked to a 20-16 lead before Ure gained the side out.  Ure pulled within one with three-straight ace serves before serving his fourth attempt into the floor.  Walsh put away game point on the next inning.   

A motivated Ure jumped out to a big lead in the second and held on to force a tiebreaker with a 21-13 win.  

Serving first in the tiebreaker, Ure quickly rolled to a 4-0 advantage.  Walsh responded by scoring five unanswered points.  The two traded exciting rallies but neither player could capitalize on their serve chances to score points.  An exhausted Walsh chased down a shot in the right corner but fell hard into the wall hitting his knee.  Play resumed after an injury time out, but Walsh didn’t have the same energy or the legs to maintain the match’s torrid pace ultimately falling to Ure, 11-5.  

The second semifinal matchup between Ivan Burgos (Fort Erie, Ontario) and Cian O’Driscoll (Co. Cork, Ireland) was truly an international affair.  O’Driscoll showed incredible grit, fighting off match point to prevail in a tiebreaker, 15-21, 21-20, 11-2.  

Burgos played steady and methodical and appeared well on his way to the final in the second game, but Cian produced some of his best handball to snatch the victory away from his opponent’s grasp.  

O’Driscoll will face Ure in the Boy’s 19-Under final Monday at 10 a.m. MST.  

In 19-Under Doubles action, O’Driscoll and Walsh stopped the Canadian team of Burgos and Alex Carew, 21-12, 21-12.  They’ll face Luis Mendez and Jorge Pimentel, who defeated Ray Ure and Collin Peters, 21-16, 21-12.  

 

See today's results at the tournament's R2sports site HERE.

 


 

 

TUCSON -- The first national title of the tournament was won by Colorado’s Abraham Sanchez who defeated Josh Dechaine of Sherwood Park, Alberta, 21-11, 21-8 for the Boy’s 15-Under Big Ball crown.

Sanchez mixed up a perfect blend of passes and deep lobs to keep Dechaine on the defensive. 

n other big ball singles action, Xavier Duval of Portland, Ore. proved to be too tough for his bracket in the 11-Under singles, but Colorado’s Eliseo Guetierrez certainly kept the outcome in doubt until the end.  The two youngsters met in the final, which ended up being who could best return the other’s serve. 

While Gutierrez found early success with his serves, Duval continuously attacked his opponent’s non-dominant hand on serves, scoring points in bunches by “keeping the serve deep to his left.” 

The Duval Bros. certainly made a splash in their first Junior Nationals as younger brother Alexander captured the 11-Under B Title after his older brother’s match was complete. 

<p">David Sanchez, playing up a division in the 19-Under dropped his quarterfinal Small Ball contest to Cian O’Driscoll 21-11, 21-8.  The junior from Co. Cork, Ireland looks equally impressive in the next round stopping Tucson’s Jorge Pimentel, 21-2, 21-3. 

Sanchez didn’t let his disappointing loss linger.  Despite a slow start, he stormed back to stop San Jose’s  Dominic Neri, 21-15, 21-12 for the Boy’s 19-Under Big Ball crown.  

See today's results at the tournament's R2sports site HERE.

 


 

TUCSON -- An exciting tiebreaker finish is what capped the day’s first action in the 64th USHA National Junior Four-Wall Championships on Thursday at the Tucson Racquet Club.

Playing in the last match of the day, Alexander Duval of Vancouver (Wash.) had split the first two games with Tucson’s Luke Lambert in the first round of the 11-Under Big Ball singles.  Lambert had forced the tiebreaker with a close two-point win in the second game but now faced a 4-9 deficit in the tiebreaker.  

Duval had been playing with a tough two-handed arsenal and showed no signs of slowing.  Lambert made a frenzied effort, chasing down each shot and putting pressure on Duval to finish.  He finally got the break he was looking for when Duval hit himself with his own shot.  

With the serve back, a confident Lambert pulled out an improbable win.  Lambert’s home crowd applauded the win but also congratulated Duval’s effort, good play and sportsmanship.  It was the perfect ending to the first day of the tournament.   

Earlier, handball pro and WPH Development Director David Fink held a junior clinic.  Nearly 20 juniors filed onto the court to listen to Fink’s advice and practice technique for hitting the ball.   

“I know how much it meant to me as a junior when I could learn from one of the pros.  Those are memories that I have always cherished.”  Fink shared.  

“It’s an honor to be asked to teach these great young handballers.” He added.  

Fink also played some pick-up games with some of the juniors after the clinic.  

“Having a chance to play against some of these great young players was a huge thrill—I’m sharing the court with the next generation, and hoping to inspire them, too.”  

Big Ball continues on Friday while Small Ball Singles and Doubles begin first round matches. 

See today's results at the tournament's R2sports site HERE.

 




 

TUCSON -- The 64th USHA National Junior Four-Wall Championships will be hosted at the Tucson Racquet Club (TRC), December 26-30.  The top junior handball players from all over the country, Ireland, Canada will compete for U.S. National singles and doubles titles over the tournament's five-day duration. 

Registration and player check-in begins Thursday Dec. 26 at 3 p.m. (MST) outside the Handball Lobby at the TRC.  Big Ball matches begin at 4 p.m.  Each entrant will get a Performance Hoodie upon checking in! 

WPH R48Pro and WPH Player Development Director David Fink will be hosting a FREE Junior Handball Clinic Thursday evening beginning at 6 p.m.  After the clinic, Fink has offered to play games up to 11 for the first eight players to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Draws and start times will be posted December 23 at the tournament's R2sports site HERE.

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