The USHA Board of Directors has voted to cancel this year's Three-Wall Handball National Championships. After speaking with Lucas County officials and holding numerous discussions with the Toledo Handball Club, all agreed the decision to cancel the event was the most prudent due to rising concern of player and fan safety due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the decision was heart-breaking for all involved, we will endure and prepare for the next event when it is safe to do so. Toledo Handball's Phil Kirk shared their enthusiasm for next year's event: "Our hope is to host the 2021 Three-Wall Nationals and make it one of the best tournaments ever."
Read USHA President LeaAnn Martin's announcement to Regional Commissioners, State Chairs, and Handball Ambassadors HERE.
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.
Eligibility: Available to full-time undergraduate college students who participate in USHA events and demonstrate financial need.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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:
Vince Ford d. Jorge Pimentel, 19, 20 Alex Carew d. Luis Mendez, def.
Final: Carew d. Ford, 14, 2.
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.
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.
F. Victoria d. A. Sanchez, (19), 11 , 0.
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.
Cooke d. Sandoval, 10, 11; Bustos d. Lallier, (17), 10, 4.
Final: Cooke d. Bustos, 9, 20.
A. Sanchez d. J. Power, 14, 7.
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.
Littman d. Stout, 9, 5.
Final: Littman d. Dechaine, def.
C. Dean d. S. Magirl, 4, 0.
K. Schelble d. E. Bradshaw, 5, (15), 1; A. Chavez bye.
Big Ball 13-and-under:
C. Dean d. K. Schelble, 4, 5.
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.
J. Holquin d. L. Lambert, 15, 11.
A. Duval d. M. Leonard, 0, 7.
M. Leonard d. A. Kandell, 19, 14.
Cassie Coolidge d. Carly Coolidge, 0, 4.
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!
Draws and start times will be posted December 23 at the tournament's R2sports site HERE.
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.
Do you have the right training plan to prepare for a tournament?
When it comes to strength and conditioning, there is a big need to debunk two training extremes: Training specificity and cross training.
Training “specificity” has become a hot topic lately, and simply says that you need to mimic the exact motions of the sport to get better at the sport. This makes sense to a point, but many people have gone overboard by saying that anything else, including weight training, is a waste of time. This has become especially prevalent in a few extreme baseball schools of thought. For example, pitchers who don’t believe in lifting weights, or position players using pulley machines to mimic their swing in a slow, controlled manner. The argument of the latter is that you are strengthening those exact specific muscles used to swing.
Sure, you may slightly strengthen those muscles, but you are also messing with a very complex, learned, neuromuscular pattern by mimicking a swing. Additionally, performing this movement in a slower manner (which it will always be, if resisted) can lead to a slower swing, since a slower pattern is being reinforced. This is the same reason that using resisted weights on a bat (a doughnut) right before stepping into the batter’s box has been shown to actually lead to a subsequent slower swing (granted, at the top levels, the mental aspect may be worth it). Some have theorized that this is due to fatigued muscles from the weighted bat, however what’s more likely, is that the pattern is being performed slower from swinging a significantly heavier bat. In most of these studies, the amount of swings taken with a heavier bat is hardly enough to “fatigue the muscles.” The fact is, when it comes to training a complex, neuromuscular pattern, it is more advantageous to instead strengthen the entire body, rather than mess with a specific pattern. Overall bodily strengthening then transfers to the specific motion at hand because of the gained potential to develop more power.
Here is a great handball example I have been asked before- “Would it be beneficial to play handball wearing a 20 lb. weighted vest?” If your goal is simply to burn more calories, or get a workout, then yes, but if your goal is to improve your
|A weighted fitness vest: Use for boot camps and pull-ups,
but please not for handball!
handball game, the answer is no. In the long-run you’ll just get good at moving around the court 20 lbs. slower (in the short-run it would just be a waste of time, and extra sweat). Sure, you may “feel” faster when you remove the vest, but you’re not getting anywhere. What is the goal here? Is it to strength the muscles used to move? If so, there are much more superior ways to strengthen the body, especially the legs and core, so important in moving well, through weight training. Moving slower around the court in a vest won’t equate to moving better or hitting the ball harder (as it’s a very fast, complex pattern). Lastly, know that mechanics do rule above all, even though sufficient strength and mobility are necessary for good mechanics as well as injury prevention.
Let’s take a look at the other extreme, cross-training. Cross-training is a broad term that encompasses any training besides the particular sport at hand (i.e. handball), and is usually done in a “conditioning” aspect. Spinning for hours, running half-marathons, or even swimming are common methods of cross-training. While cross-training has its place depending on one’s goal or where they stand in their tournament schedule, the “conditioning” aspect is being made a lot more complicated here than it needs to be. Not all endurance is created equal. If it were, Lance Armstrong would not only have been the best biker in the world, but also would have dominated in any marathon, swimming endurance competition, triathlon, etc. He also would be able to “endure” my lectures in weight training class, which no one has been able to stay fully awake for yet!
While he was one of the best on the bike (specific), he would be no match for the top marathon runners and swimmers in the world. They have become very efficient at their particular motion, and their endurance is tied right into that movement pattern.
Here’s a baseball example: traditionally pitchers have always run distance for endurance training. This started before we knew much about strength training, as it was seen as the best way to “strengthen” the legs. We now know better
|Cardio Training: While putting in the extra time on the treadmill may improve your cardio,
it won’t necessarily equate to better court endurance.
ways to strengthen the legs, and we know that too much slow aerobic work is actually counterproductive to strength- the body’s muscle fibers become less explosive and it becomes advantageous for the body to shed muscle. Not good for a powerful pitching motion on the mound. Additionally, consider that many power pitchers, such as C.C. Sabathia, are starting pitchers. Does one really think he’d be a better pitcher, have better “endurance” in other words, if he ran distance? Their endurance on the mound is specific and complex- too complex in fact to break apart and think we can cross-train effectively. The best way to develop pitching endurance is to simply pitch bullpens. That’s right, I don’t care if they’re able to run a sub-five-minute mile, if their body has adapted to throwing 150 pitches on their high bullpen days, that’s about where they’ll start to fatigue in games. Their endurance will be specific to the motion at hand.
Don’t get me wrong, having a few sessions a week of light aerobic work can help assist in recovery and help maintain an aerobic base. But be careful about going overboard, because handball is as much about power as it is endurance, and research has conclusively shown that too much aerobic work hinders power production. So if you’re trying to get in handball shape, stick to handball specifically as your main means of conditioning. Keep in mind that handball specificity doesn’t necessarily mean actually playing. If you have the ambition this could mean movement intervals of lateral shuffles on the court, quick 3-4 step bursts, etc., but make sure to rest similarly to what you would in a game. Or, even better, don’t complicate it- practice often and play someone who will run you around the court for your “handball conditioning.” After having developed a good aerobic base, don’t get much more aerobic than what playing simply requires.
What if you already play a ton and still want to improve your conditioning?
Let me answer that question with a better question: if you’re already playing a ton, is it a lack of conditioning that’s holding you back?
Would improving your conditioning really make you a better player in this case?
Or would you be wiser to spend that time practicing shots on the court, playing multiple games in a row to mimic tournaments, and devoting 2-4 days of the week to weight training?
Finally, one might say, “well it can’t hurt, can it?” Actually, it can in terms of resourcefulness. The more you do, the less you’ll get out of each modality. A guy like Jimmy Costigan might have been able to bike from Denver to Boulder and win a handball tournament, but besides simply being one of a kind, the fact remains that the less fatigued you are from cross-training while tournaments approach, the harder you can push yourself on the court. So if your top training priorities are to get better at handball, don’t forget to prioritize handball first when it comes to conditioning, and strengthen the body through a good weight training program which will carry-over to better power and won’t interfere with your swing by being “too specific.” In summary, get stronger on days devoted to getting stronger, play handball on days devoted to handball conditioning (with maybe some movement intervals afterward), and use light, aerobic recovery sessions sparingly and only when necessary.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Travis Owen is a certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) through the NSCA, has a Master’s degree in Health & Physical Education. Having interned at the University of Louisville, Travis is passionate about a comprehensive approach to sport performance, including proper movement, strengthening, conditioning, and nutrition. Travis started the Northern State University Handball Club, bringing them to the national collegiate tournament in 2010, and competes as often as possible in handball tournaments. He has two open division wins in Colorado (DAC Open and the Great Gorilla) and finished 3rd in the 2011 Minnesota State tournament.
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
Thriving in the First World
I live in Portlandia, weird and wonderful.
I’m a native, in fact … some of you might chuckle and think, “Aww, now we get it!” I live a straightforward life in my hometown, barely two miles from my childhood neighborhood.
Many other Portlanders are not nearly so fortunate. Portland has an outrageously visible and impactful homeless population, which is most often described as a crisis.
These durable and challenged folks withstand freezing temperatures, driving rains, brutal heat and a lack of access to basic life dignities, like cleanliness, bathrooms and healthcare. Most struggle with mental health problems and addiction.
I know the names of a few who live nearby, and I greet them when we meet. Sometimes I deliver coffee or leftover party food to them. But there’s one woman who resides barely a half a mile away whom I think about the most.
She’s in front of the co-op grocery, under a partial awning on a small patch of sidewalk, 365 days a year. She has two bags of belongings and one hat. Occasionally she sits in her place and screams and mutters; other times she’s quite immobile.
She doesn’t appear to sleep in that spot – she’s gone in the late hours – and the rest of the time, she’s just there.
If she had a problem with her ovaries, how would she know?
It’s been 20 months since my adventure with ovarian cancer began, and I got a new start on Thursday to take some more chemo. Nothing awful has happened, I assure you all! Some cells that didn’t get swept out the first time need to be shown the door.
My 2019 kicked off with bountiful good health and fitness, then disintegrated almost overnight into an onslaught by an intestinal protozoa upending every single day. Where it came from wasn’t my main concern; how damn long would it take to move on? became the question. Meanwhile I got a CT scan since my doc loves me and is really good at his job.
A tiny bunch of cells showed up, all in one place, and there’s no surgery necessary, just head back to chemo five or six times. Some women take two rounds of treatment to clear. Jim has a list of those that have, and both he and I, and dear David of course, want me added to that list!
I am not just living in the first world, I’m thriving here. I have loving support from so many, clean water, a very happy home, health insurance, a daily schedule I pick myself, access to the best doctors and treatment centers, nutritious food and warm little cats to share the sofa with me.
I hope my homeless neighbor could get the same, if she’s able to reach out for that one day. Meanwhile, I continue amazed and deeply grateful for all I have.
Handball in Zurich
There wasn't. Handball in Zurich. But our sport got us there, in a manner of speaking, in early November 1994. Following the World Championships in County Clare, Ireland, David and I added time in Europe, then found ourselves worn out (tournaments can be that way). Flights from our original Italian destination didn't work out, so we hopped a train to Switzerland for a couple of nights before returning to Portland, Oregon.
Zurich glowed with lights on glittering water, frosty air and glistening packages of outrageous chocolates in shop windows. The holidays were so near; I spun toward my husband on an old stone bridge as we gazed at the city. "Let's come back for Christmas!" I exclaimed.
Twenty-five years have passed, and the genesis of that dream, handball, remains an enormous part of our lives. Friendships from those distant years continue, players age but still compete and enjoy their comrades at the courts, and every three years a select group comes together for the World Championships.
In 1997, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, I met the delightful, vivid Ranger Russell. He's an American whose home is in Belgium with his wife Joelle. Ranger cheerfully leads the Belgian Handball Team to world events and makes friends easily wherever he goes. I am blessed to be counted among his friends, and next week David and I embark upon our shimmering dream of a quarter-century ago. We'll join Ranger and Joelle in Brussels, deepening our long friendship while exploring Christmas markets, sharing meals and creating holiday memories.
As anyone reading this knows, handball is family. I hope you'll join us on this adventure!
There’ll be many flags on display beginning this week at the World Handball Championships in Minneapolis. National colors will fly, and be worn proudly, while some will represent loyalties of players and fans from specific counties, and even
Then there will be colors that have personal meaning, such as the Teal that’s now part of my daily look.
You see, every cancer has a color. Who knew? I didn’t, I Googled it and ended up at ChooseHope.com, one of many websites selling a rainbow of supportive accessories. Most people are aware of pink ribbons for breast cancer, and yellow wrist bands declaring it’s possible to live strong with any cancer. My particular journey with ovarian cancer is represented by teal. There’s even an acronym in the community: Treat Early And Live. Most ovarian cancers are found in the late stages and become very difficult to treat.
I’m getting more involved in service to others with cancer and cancer agencies as I approach the one-year anniversary of my surgery on September first. Linked below is the second feature I wrote for the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition (ovarian.org). Read carefully – you might even see the word “handball” in there! And comments from Portland’s Dr. Bob Gill, who is living with gioblastoma.
Hanging around the Championship courts in Minnesota, show your loyalties in every way and we’ll share a laugh. I’ll have on some teal, but I have a Team USA red, white and blue pedicure too.
READ MORE HERE: http://ovarian.org/component/content/article/33/501
Quite enough can happen in just one day. What about 3,175 of them? Almost nine years ago, Jay Maxwell, Tom Hussey and I were preparing for the start of the 2009 World Handball Championships at the Multnomah Athletic Club in Portland, Ore. I emphasize the start because it was a heck of a run-up. A bit like settlers crossing the Great Plains, watching and watching the Rocky Mountains never get any closer, suddenly we were “in the foothills” at last. Now. Oh, good heavens, now!
In the fall of 2004, not long after hosting a successful and popular national four-wall event, loyal and dedicated MAC handball folks gathered and thought, “Hey, maybe the next U.S. worlds would be doable.” I remember we drew up a pro/con grid that day, the kind I made when choosing between less elaborate competing choices, like buying designer earrings:
Pros: Pretty and desired.
Cons: Expensive and unnecessary?
Come to think of it, in autumn 2004, perhaps those lists resembled one another!
During that long run-up, complications took root and grew. Waterford Crystal, which provided exquisite signature trophies for the world championships beginning in County Clare in 1994, ceased production. I visited Ireland and met with a very kind former employee at the closed Waterford factory. Noel Power supplied many thousands of dollars of product from remaining stock so Portland 2009 didn’t have to break the tradition of presenting world-class crystal to champions.
The MAC leadership changed too. Administrators who in 2004 and ’05 excitedly permitted and supported such a long horizon for a very involved event were gone from the club. Some plans became more complex under new club direction.
Additionally, by 2009, many economies had experienced enormous downturns. Global issues impacted daily activities. Yet our committee of 27 chairmen had held the grand vision and love of the event and each other for years. We just kept working.
“I thought it was a fabulous experience,” Maxwell said recently. “I still think it’s probably the best worlds that’s ever been put on.”
A breathtaking moment occurred on a summer Saturday close to the entry deadline. A committee member logged on to the website and saw entries, which had barely been trickling through the system, beginning to pour in. We called and emailed each other in disbelief throughout the day: “Are you seeing this?” “It can’t be real, right?” “Is it a computer error?”
I suppose all of us realized, just then, that we had indeed been holding our collective breath. Ultimately, our efforts created a world championships that welcomed 993 players from 10 countries for 12 days.
“The success was attributable to a fantastic facility and an amazing team of volunteers,” Hussey says today.
Now all the moving parts of hosting the worlds are back in our country, with the Minneapolis tournament’s needs expanded again by the growth of one very important aspect. One-wall handball changes dramatically each time the event is staged.
In 1994 the cheerful and persistent Irish one-wall organizer, Tom O’Connor, called it “the funny games,” and just a wee number of players arrived in County Clare from countries like Finland. A few Eton fives specialists appeared from England with peculiar gloves and strange rules and customs but no shortage of cheer.
O’Connor can be proud of that start. By 1997 the Winnipeg worlds committee built two side-by-side outdoor courts for the tournament. Mayor Susan Ann Thompson and host chair Bob Pruden produced a grand opening media event, and the walls were emblazoned with the spectacular and creative 1997 logo, my personal favorite of all time. Later years placed courts inside hockey rinks and gymnasiums, and the construction of multiple courts by Dublin in 2012 was the most visible and central setting for one-wall ever attempted.
Anyhow, nine years can make a hell of a difference indeed. I am so glad I’m not in the center! I’ve got other stuff going on, as many of my handball family are aware. Unlike October 2009 (and for years ahead of it), when I ate, slept, wept, sweated and dreamt handball, since September 2017 I’ve had the luxury to put all my energy into well-being and recovery from surgery and chemo for ovarian cancer. I’ve moved into survivorship and am evaluating what the journey has meant and will mean throughout my long life, including the unknowns.
But we all have unknowns. This may seem like a grim example, but when I was in treatment I read that a woman who survived the Las Vegas massacre was killed by a drunken driver a month later. Her story gives me a certain strength. I delight in each day because I’ve got a boatload to do, and I’m ready to devote my energy, passion and charisma to new things.
As you read this, handballers from every section of our sport will be in Minneapolis cheering friends, family and our U.S. dream team … and I’m not just talking about our great players in one-wall, four-wall and wallball. I’m talking about Steve Johnson and his crew of sponsors, administrators, facility directors, loved ones and everyone making this come together for us.
You can cheer at the courts and wave flags and have fun … and please, pat every single one of the hosts on the back as you go by. They’ve earned it!
What time is it? I’m journaling with morning coffee so … for Joe Santilli in Australia, it’s the wee hours of morning. Tomorrow.
Oh, sweet Joe. At the 2015 World Handball Championships, he gave me a pen, knowing I love writing. When using it, I think about Joe, Donna, and their sons. I hope we’ll all meet up in Minnesota.
I know many players who show up at the World Championships with a few simple gifts for friends and friends-to-be. Some are based on long knowledge of the recipient, like my pen; others seem cannily intuitive. At my first World Championships, in Phoenix 1991, a Japanese woman player, Kumiko, presented me with a tiny ceramic white kitty sleeping in a ball. I can’t remember who won our match, but I’ve still got the kitty.
As a host committee co-chair in 2009, I was showered with magnificent presents, among them a handsome lacquered box from the Japanese team. Irish friends and administrators brought me a number of lovely gifts, including a buttery-soft violet wool scarf from County Wicklow.
Globes were a theme that year. Bill Kelly, who’s shared desks, dinners, laughs and lamentations with me over many years, gave me an incredible globe which spins with light. It rests on an engraved pedestal commemorating the tournament.
Another globe came my way from Down Under that year, this one a delicate Swarovski crystal orb from Vic DiLuzio.
Ranger Russell seems determined to ensure that I have plenty of his adopted country’s national gear. I can now cheer for him in a shirt (2009) and snazzy ball cap (2015) in Belgium’s bold heraldic colors of red, black and yellow, both items embroidered with my name
Luxurious customized gifts are not necessary, of course. But bringing along a few goodies is fun and meaningful, often many years after the tournament.
Some “gifts” can be shared more than exchanged. I pick up a few picture postcards of my hometown – and Portland, not lacking anything for scenery, has a lot choose from – to show new tournament friends where I hail from. Another way to create special memories is recycling gear from bursting drawers and closets. Handball t-shirts get exchanged formally at some events and informally at others, and it’s fun to wear the rare ones back at the hometown courts.
Many souvenirs are easily tucked in luggage, airport security friendly, and not bulky for new friends to carry home. I can pick up inexpensive Oregon-themed buttons, magnets, keyrings, luggage tags and bookmarks nearly everywhere. In addition, some products are both portable and boldly local: Oregon Rain lip balms are going in my bag, and a few lightweight wooden Christmas ornaments, from Made in Oregon stores.
Journaling with Joe’s gift reminds me that, as I’m preparing for my 10th World Handball Championships, it’s time to pack more than clothes and cosmetics. In Minneapolis, I’ll be ready to present and receive small tokens of enduring friendships with my extended handball family. Travel safely, and see you there!
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