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While our founder, Bob Kendler was instrumental with promoting handball, he also had a large hand in promoting racquetball and paddleball. Historically, handball and racquetball players have a (mostly friendly) competition for court times at various clubs and parks. Some have even sparred over signage, labeling them handball courts vs. "racquetball courts."
Unfortunately, a pandemic forced us all off the courts. During the past year, a number of facilities have either closed permanently or have repurposed their 20x40' courts for other activities. Losing places to play means losing players for both sports. This chain of events has motivated the leaders of the USHA and USA Racquetball to come together to strategize a plan to save the clubs and the courts.
|Mike Wedel, USA Racquetball
Informally called the "20X40 Save the Courts Sports Alliance,” the group has met for the past six months to share information, offer support and collaborate strategies to keep clubs and courts open and available for players and tournaments when we can safely resume play.
During our last meeting, USAR's Executive Director Mike Wedel invited the USHA's Matt Krueger and Sam Esser to join their Facebook Live stream "Real Racquetball" to share our history and discuss our collaborative efforts. Real Raquetball's Game 13 episode will air LIVE on Monday, February 15, at 8 p.m. (Central).
Viewers can watch the stream live or catch the replay on Facebook HERE.
BROOKLYN, N.Y. -- The Coney Island Players / USHA Open singles Nationals Championship was underway earlier than the 8:30 a.m. start time on Saturday (Sept 26). New York’s weather cooperated allowing the tournament of 48 Open singles players and 9 Masters Doubles teams to finish in one day, with plenty of time to spare. Players came out in droves to support the first small ball tournament offered in New York, and knowing the event would also crown the USHA National Champion produced even more excitement. Tywan Cook, a two-time USHA Wallball Singles Champion (2015 & 2016) would emerge the winner, earning his first small ball National title with an impressive win over newcomer and Coney Island Players Championship MVP, Edwin Troncoso in the final, 25-5.
Tournament director Jared Vale congratulates the Men's Open finalists, Edwin Troncoso and Tywan Cook.
Cook’s “big game” experience and incredible stamina were the catalyst that propelled him to victory. Cooks traits paired with his devastating serves that pushed his opponents well off the court, offering easy returns that could be fly-killed to the opposite corners. That serve would help Cook plod through a tough slate of players in his bracket, defeating Franklin Vera, Jonathan Camacho, Tyree Bastidas, and Daniel Cordova.
Troncoso was the biggest surprise of the event, showcasing a natural athletic ability. In addition to beating Killian Carroll, the top-ranked four-wall player in the world, in the semifinals by a score of 25-22, Troncoso demonstrated an amazing comeback against last year’s CIPC winner Pee Wee Castro. Down 17-8, Edwin mustered up momentum to pull out the victory, 25-17.
Participants began showing up at 7:45 to check-in for the largest one-wall small ball tournament in recent times, for there chance at a share of $8,000 in prize money. Early rounds almost saw a few upsets with Ray Lu just falling short of upsetting Jurell Bastidas in the round of 16. With a lead of 18 – 12, Ray Lu had a few offensive chances and went for the ace serve, unfortunately serving our 3 times in a row. Jurell was able to capitalize on Lu’s mistake and push through to a 21-19 victory.
Among the participants were two of the WPH R48Pro four-wall tour top players, Killian Carroll and Daniel Cordova. With minimal experience in one wall, both players were successful making it to the quarterfinals. After a tremendous comeback and a controversial call, Killian Carroll fell just short of victory, losing to Troncoso.
The Masters Doubles bracket included a field of multiple national champions. The exciting finals between Joe Kaplan and Jai Ragoo vs. Robert Sostre and Peter Pelligrini looked like an early blow out for Ragoo and Kaplan, but ended up in a 25-23 victory for Kaplan and Ragoo.
|Masters Doubles finalists Robert Sostre, Pete Pelligrini join tournament director Jared Vale (center) with champions Joe Kaplan and Jai Ragoo.
The day was made possible by the generous support of Elliott Joseph, the USHA, Adam Gittlitz. Shentah (China) Pizzaro was a mastermind behind the desk, keeping matches moving and the tournament on schedule.
Due to the pandemic canceling the USHA Nationals in August, the USHA Executive Committee voted to have the CIPC Open Singles serve as the USHA National One-Wall Open Singles Championship. In a year yearning for positive news, the announcement increased participation and brought the handball community together.
See more information on the 2020 Coney Island Players Championship Facebook Event Page HERE.
CONEY ISLAND PLAYERS & USHA National One-Wall Open Singles Championships RESULTS (Players from New York unless noted):
First Round (48 Players): Yuber “Pee Wee” Castro, BYE; Jonathan Davila d. Arthur Sayed, 15; Edwin Troncoso d. Paul Angel, 13; Milton Jones, BYE; Alvaro Rebaza, BYE; Sheikh Hossain d. Adam Gittlitz, 10; Manny Sanchez d. Jeffrey Geraldo, 0; Carlin Rosa, BYE; William Polanco, BYE; Miguel Mendez d. Eliel Torres, 20; Eric Lee d. Isaiah Hong, 4; Billy O’Donnell, BYE; Andres “Play Station” Calle, BYE; Killian Carroll (Boston) d. Gabe, 10; Jonathan Milman d. Alfredo Figueroa, 4; Victor LoPierre, BYE; Jurell Bastidas, BYE; Ray Lui d. Anthony Delgado, 15; Daniel Cordova (Norcross, GA) d. Robert Goeffner, 15; Eddie Perez, BYE; Saul Gonzalez, BYE; Mohammed Shakoor d. Carlos Gonzalez, 15; Dan Pitre d. Jean Pierre Garcia, 2; Cesar Sala, BYE; Tywan Cook, BYE; Franklin Vera d. Mike Torres, 10; Isaac Caba d. Austin Quinones, 7; Jonathan Camacho, BYE; Isaac Acosta, BYE; Ariel Garcia d. Matt Chu, 6; Eugene Lau d. Jonathan Mantilla, 19; Tyree Bastidas, BYE.
Round of 32: Castro d. Tuti, 13; Troncoso d. Jones, 18; Rebaza d. Hossain, def.; Rosa d. Sanchez, 14; Polanco d. Mendez, 11; Lee d. O’Donnell, 20; Carroll d. Calle, 11; LoPierre d. Milman, 11; J. Bastidas d. Lui, 19; Cordova d. Perez, 6; Gonzalez d. Shakoor, 5; Sala d. Pitre, 11; Cook d. Vera, 5; Camacho d. Caba, 8; Acosta d. Garcia, 14; T. Bastidas d. Lau, 19.
Round of 16: Troncoso d. Castro, 17; Rebaza d. Rosa, 15; Polanco d. Lee, 7; Carroll d. LoPierre, 9; Cordova d. J. Bastidas, 14; Sala d. Gonzalez, 2; Cook d. Camacho, 17; T. Bastidas d. Acosta, 9.
Quarterfinals: Troncoso d. Rebaza, 18; Carroll d. Polanco, 19; Cordova d. Sala, 12; Cook d. T. Bastidas, 16.
Semifinals: Troncoso d. Carroll, 22; Cook d. Cordova, 16.
Final: Cook d. Troncoso, 5.
Charlie Ikard snaps a selfie as players enjoy the refurbished three-wall courts in the background.
Doctor's orders, personal trials, club closures and a pandemic. Charlie Ikard of Salem, Oregon has never been one to dwell on setbacks, and his drive fuels his relentless pursuit to promote handball wherever he lands.
Introduced to handball in Lewiston, Idaho, in the early 70s, Charlie knew he was hooked right away. Jumping at the opportunity to be involved, he created and managed ladders for more than 45 players at the local Elks Club with two handball courts. He was also instrumental in bringing along the new players while also attracting some pros to offer exhibition matches, including two of the best players at the time: Terry Muck and Naty Alvarado Sr.
Playing with the old black ball, Charlie began to develop artery problems in his hand. "I wasn't hitting it correctly," he admitted. His family doctor recommended he quit playing handball or risk losing two fingers. He decided to work on how to hit the ball--and to find a new doctor. "I'm still playing, and I still have my two fingers!" Charlie said.
In the late 80s, Charlie fell upon some hard times. He left Idaho, first relocating to Montana before settling in Oregon. "I lost everything," he remembered. "Thankfully, I had my handball family. Were it not for my handball friends, I'm not sure what I would have done."
Once settled in Eugene, Charlie jumped into promoting handball, working tirelessly to host tournaments and keep the Eugene Handball Association active and vibrant. He didn't miss a step when he moved to Salem in 2003, working with Salem Handball's Josh Reese (2010 USHA Volunteer of the Year). They continued to offer two tournaments a year. In 2018, Charlie led an effort to resurface and repair some three-wall courts at a local community college. The project's impact is still felt today as players have access to safe and playable courts outside.
In 2019, the Salem YMCA was demolished, leaving a number of handballers without a home to play. Charlie assisted those players, bringing them over to the Salem Courthouse where they could continue to play on their 7 handball courts. When the pandemic shut down clubs in his state, Charlie helped local players continue indoor play by working with the local club manager. By following safety precautions, there are as many as 10 handball players participating several times a week. This past year, it has been all too easy to fall away from physical activity when facilities are closed and restrictions on play still exist. For nearly five decades, Charlie Ikard has never stopped promoting the sport he loved, and we're proud to recognize him as our USHA Volunteer of the Year!
“It’s HANDBALL, Matt!” was the rebuke to an inquiry about the modified court and rules. There was no exact service box or short line (I stopped noting foot faults after four points) playing with slightly adapted rules, a familiar foursome dueled for two games in the early morning fresh desert air before Tucson turned into a virtual oven. I stopped asking questions and just observed the play. Despite the uneven wall, short playing area and unfamiliar ball, they were all having a pretty darn good time. Kudos to the Tucson Racquet Club, in response to the statewide court closures, for opening up the practice “tennis wall” to handball, as players have been shooed off that wall whenever attempting to warm up over the years.
Such is the norm for many of us during this global pandemic. Club courts and parks were closed across the country, and handball players, all itching to chase down a ball and feel the impact on their hands—let alone the thrill of competition and camaraderie we all enjoy, took their games outside looking for a wall; any wall, and with any ball. Hall of Famer Fred Lewis may have felt some nostalgia playing the same form of the game he learned as a youth in the Bronx. He was joined by Bob Gauna, Paul Flasch and Ken Hartnett for a spirited game of Wallball doubles.
(Right to Left) Paul Flasch reaches for a return in front of Fred Lewis with Bob Gauna and Ken Hartnett in the backcourt at the Tucson Racquet Club.
Lewis and Gauna held an early 10-0 lead as new partners Flasch and Hartnett took some time warming up. They eventually did. Hartnett’s steady play mixed with Flasch’s deadly left-handed kills would get them back in the game. Seemingly stuck at 17 points, Lewis and Gauna dug in to score the final four points on the way to victory.
I had my gear in my bag just in case anyone went down or didn’t show. But I didn’t have the heart to mention it lest I take away anyone’s workout or fun away.
It has been truly remarkable to see players finding ways to get their fix, from homemade one-wall courts in backyards, basements and garages, to impromptu handball play days and tournaments between local players, we’ve witnessed handball in ways we never imagined. One of the newest one-wall venues in the country is holding a tournament this weekend at St. Paul’s Clayland Park. Handball players will always find a way, and we remain confident that our sport will grow and be better when we all return to our familiar digs. Personally, I look forward to that, and I’ll have my handball gear ready. See you on the courts!
TUCSON -- Since March, it has been the USHA's goal to provide coaches, players, and families a decision on postponing or canceling events at least 60 days in advance in response to the pandemic. Today, with heavy hearts, the USHA Board of Directors has voted unanimously to cancel this year's USHA National Junior 4-Wall Championships. While we held out some hope of hosting here in Tucson this December, it is unlikely that junior players have had significant access to facilities to practice or play, plus we were unable to ensure we could offer the best playing experience for our juniors.
"While this isn't the outcome we had hoped, we certainly want to prioritize the health and safety of our junior players and their families," said Executive Director Matt Krueger. "Although we cannot control outside factors that affect our planning, we can prepare for when we're able to hold an event where players and people feel safe enough to participate. When that time comes, we will be ready."
Hall of Famer Albert Apuzzi.
Where there’s a wall, there’s a way to play the “perfect game.” Apuzzi offers 7 Pointers for One-Wall Play.
With much of the country still limited to outdoor activities, we’re hearing of many more one-wall courts (or close facsimiles), that are springing back into action. For four-wallers, one-wall can seem like a different sport, complete with different rules.
Who better to deliver some pointers than one-wall Hall of Famer Albert Apuzzi. Here’s a “primer” on one-wall for the newcomers to this version of the perfect game. Of course, it sounds and seems simple for Albert since he’s been playing and winning for over 50 years (that's eight USHA National Doubles titles with two National Singles crowns)!
Starting with the serve, Apuzzi gives us 7 Pointers for One-Wall Play:
|Attack the wall: It's one-wall so there's not a lot of time to set up...
hit it when it comes to you.
1. In singles, serve low, just over the shortline. Angling your serve to one side or the other will force your opponent far off the court. That makes it more difficult for the receiver to return the ball into fair play and you’ll want to remember to get to the opposite of the court since the receiver’s return will have to travel on the same angle back to the wall. Deep serves are more effective in doubles.
2. It’s better to serve a short or a long (resulting in a fault) than an out on the sidelines (resulting in a hand out).
3. Always move in to “attack the wall,” especially after your serve to pounce on your opponent's return.
Angles: Forcing your opponent off the court will bring the ball back to you and allow you to "attack the wall" for a point.
4. Singles is a game of angles. Properly used angle shots increase the ground your opponent must cover.
5. Doubles is more of a driving game, pounding with power. Since both of your opponents are covering the court, angling shots are less effective.
6. Lefty/righty teams position themselves with the lefty on the right side. This way, both players on the team will be taking most shots with their strong hands AND make the opponents risk hitting the ball out in their attempts to find your team's off hands.
7. Give yourself room for error. As you will learn quickly in one-wall, just a few inches can turn a great shot into an out ball. You’ll be surprised how hard it is to keep the ball inside the lines, so start with trying to keep the ball in play.
Want a more in-depth instructional for one-wall serves? Read Apuzzi's "1-wall Servers Must Learn How to Handle the Angles" article HERE.
FINAL DAY (10/18/20) LAS VEGAS — Championship Sunday started with the 3-Wall small ball doubles open final between Daniel/Luis Cordova and Carlos Flores/Isidro Garcia. The Cordova brothers were in full control of the first game, never letting Carlos Flores/Isidro Garcia get on the scoreboard; however, game two was a different story. Carlos Flores/Isidro Garcia came out hot, using the short sidewalls to their advantage. They were able to hold off the Cordova brothers and win 12-10. In the tiebreaker, the Cordovas returned to their first game form, keeping Carlos Flores/Isidro Garcia off-balance with great serves and kill shots, never letting up until they won championship point in the tiebreaker, 12-3. The Cordovas continue to show that no matter what type of court they play on, they are a force to be reckoned with.
In the 1-Wall big ball open singles final, Tywan Cook continued his hot streak taking down James Aguilera 25-13. Cook then teamed up with his partner Nazir Marston to take down Aguilera and Samuel Sandford to slam the one wall division. Cook has been lights out this summer, winning the USHA One-Wall small ball nationals last month and now winning a 3wallball world title.
To finish off the day, Josef Gotsch and Anthony Hernandez took down Carlos Marin and Chris Tojin to win the 3-Wall big ball open doubles title. It capped off an incredible run by Gotsch and Hernandez, who hadn't played together before this fall and were in the draw as the 13 seed.
It was a job well done by the Vegas tournament staff and volunteers to put on a great and safe tournament for everyone. With 200 Handball players and 400 Racquetball players entered, they had their hands full but were well-prepared and up for the task.
You can see the results of all of the brackets here. Thank you!
DAY 2 (10/17/20) - LAS VEGAS-- Day 2 in Las Vegas was another long day of handball in the sun with players taking the court at 8:30 a.m. and playing late into the evening.
The highlight of the day was the 3-Wall small ball singles finals, where brothers Daniel and Luis Cordova faced off. Daniel was able to dominate the first game with deep hop serves that earned him easy setups in the frontcourt. He held off a late comeback from Luis to win the first game 12-6. The second game Luis stepped it up, hitting deep power serves and putting down the ball nearly every time he went for a kill shot. Luis took the second game 12-7. The tiebreaker was tight the whole game, but Luis was able to use the short sidewalls (they only go to the short line) to his advantage, making Daniel run side to side. He was able to finish off Daniel 12-8 and take home the title. The brothers will team up tomorrow to take on Carlos Flores and Isidro Garcia for the 3-Wall small ball doubles title.
In the 3-Wall big ball doubles, the 13 seed Josef Gotsch and Anthony Hernandez made an incredible run to the finals upsetting everyone in their path. They will take on the 2 seed Carlos Marin and Chris Tojin tomorrow for the championship.
The 1-Wall Big Ball doubles finals will be between the defending USHA small ball 1-wall champion Tywan Cook and his partner Nazir Marston vs James Aguilera and Samuel Sandford. Both teams have made the trip down from New York and have represented their state well in Vegas. Tywan will also compete for the 1-Wall singles championship tomorrow.
Lastly, in the open Big Ball 3-Wall singles division, 4 players remain, and they will kick off the day tomorrow with their semifinals. All of the top 4 seeds have been eliminated so it will be an upset regardless of who wins.
Check-in tomorrow afternoon for the final results of the tournament. You can see every bracket here.
DAY 1 (10/16/20) - LAS VEGAS -- The 3 WallBall World Handball Championships kicked off today in Las Vegas at 9:30 am across the street from the stratosphere hotel. It was a long day at the courts, with the final games finishing up just after midnight. A limited capacity of fans were allowed in to watch, and everyone not playing had to social distance and wear a mask.
Due to the big draw, games were only played to 12 points, including the tiebreaker. Players competed in 3-Wall and 1-Wall with both the small ball and the big ball.
One of the biggest upsets of the day came in the 3-Wall small ball doubles where the 7 seed Carlos Flores and Isidro Garcia took down the 2 seed Max Langmack and Sam Esser. Other than that, most of the top seeds were able to advance. Some of the finals will be played tomorrow, including the 3-Wall small ball open singles.
It will be another early start Saturday, with play beginning at 8:30 a.m. You can follow along with the draws here.
LAS VEGAS -- The tentative times and draws are now available here. As always, make sure to double-check your times the day of the tournament.
If you are participating in the tournament, remember to read the Safe Play Flyer here.
Don't forget that lensed eyewear will be required. Good luck to all of the competitors and you can follow along here for daily recaps from the tournament.
North Dakota couple a fixture at major events — and it’s a labor of love
From Handball Magazine - August 2019
Bill and Kary (right) gather with Vern Roberts and super volunteers Charlie and Joan Wicker, Vince San Angelo and Mike Dau at the 2016 four-wall nationals.
Handball volunteers are a lifeblood of our sport — and a big reason USHA events have remained well organized and well attended over the years.
Volunteers help the USHA staff leverage activities and keep tournament budgets intact. And they do it for the love of the sport.
One such couple, Bill and Kary Kelly, has stood out over the years for their service to handball. That leads to some questions:
Why do they do it? What brings them back? When is it time to step down?
Born and raised in Fargo, N.D., Bill and Kary met in 1970. They attended the same grade school and high school but did not meet until after Bill returned from his tour of duty in Vietnam with the Marine Corps. They were married in 1974 and celebrated their 45th anniversary this year. Both graduated from college.
Bill was introduced to handball at North Dakota State University in 1980. He had competed in tennis growing up and was playing racquetball at NDSU when he met some handball players who invited him to give it a try. He was hooked!
Bill enjoyed being able to use both hands as well as the challenge of hitting the ball without a racket. He started playing regularly at the Fargo YMCA and learned many aspects of the game, such as the serve, hooks and watching the ball. His interest in the game was sparked even more when he attended a handball camp in 1983 in Steamboat Springs, Colo.
Three years later, Bill entered the world championships in Kelona, B.C., where he won some matches and watched Vern Roberts win the invitational singles. Like many of us, he was impressed with Vern’s skills as well as Vern’s commitment to serving the sport.
In 2013, Bill was inducted into the North Dakota Hall of Fame for his dedication and contributions to handball.
We asked Bill and Kary about their experiences and thoughts about the game.
Bill, where do you play nowadays?
I play two or three days a week for a couple of hours. We have a very good group of competitive players. The YMCA in Fargo has six indoor four-wall courts and three indoor one-wall courts. We also have two outdoor one-wall courts. Having the one-wall courts has brought some additional players who don’t play four-wall.
Does Kary play?
Kary tried playing handball, but the ball hurt her hands. She enjoys being around handball events, watching and talking with other fans.
What hobbies do you two enjoy when not participating in handball?
Bill: My favorite hobbies have been taking care of my beautiful wife, raising our wonderful son and participating in his interests growing up. I enjoy painting in both watercolors and oils. I also enjoy Sudoku and other word-scramble puzzles.
Kary: When I was younger, I enjoyed any type of water activities — swimming, boating and water skiing. When I met Bill, we both enjoyed scuba diving. Once our son was born, our family became my all-consuming hobby, watching them both grow up participating in their numerous activities. Our son has turned into a very fine young man. I also took on raising and training a beautiful and intelligent Shetland sheepdog to compete in competitive levels of obedience, agility and rally events.
The group at the Steamboat Springs, Colo., handball camp that Bill attended back in the day.
When did you two start working at tournaments?
Bill: I volunteered 30 years ago at the four-wall nationals in Chicago. Vern introduced me to Joan and Charlie Wicker. They taught me a lot about how to run the control desk at tournaments. I still get advice from Charlie to this day. Kary and I have worked numerous national four-wall events over the last 30 years. We’ve also worked the last five world tournaments, in Winnipeg, Portland, Ireland, Calgary and Minneapolis. We’ve also helped out at the Semper Fi Tournaments in San Diego from time to time. We like to help the local organizers make their event the best they can make it. By the end of the tournament, we feel we have become part of their extended family. That is what makes the handball community, around the world, so unique.
Kary: I started after Bill was already volunteering. I wanted something to do, and you can only watch a ball hit the front wall so many times! I met Paula Dau. She managed the registration desk, so I joined her. We enjoy meeting people and making new friends with both players and volunteers.
It is a lot of work, isn’t it, Bill?
When you volunteer at a national event, you have to be ready to answer all questions from the players and their families. You become a tour guide, a registration host, a general information coordinator, a first-aid station and, when necessary, a referee. Handball tournaments are run by great organizers who rely heavily on volunteers to help them make their event a success. The players and their families deserve the best. Kary and I like to be part of the crew that makes that possible. We understand it only takes a friendly smile and the ability to ask anyone at the event, “How can we help?”
Have you become friends with your fellow volunteers?
Kary and I have enjoyed being part of each tournament, and we started a few traditions. The first tradition involved roses being delivered to the national four-wall events. The second tradition was started in collaboration with Chatten Hayes. We designed a souvenir pin for the junior players to trade at the world events. The third tradition is one Kary and I enjoy a lot.
While volunteering at world tournaments, we noticed how hard all the volunteers worked and seeing some of them going above and beyond. Kary and I decided to bring thank-you gifts to present to these hard-working volunteers as appreciation and gratitude for all their hard work.
Kary and I have had the honor and privilege of being paired up with some wonderful volunteers over the years, such as Mike and Paula Dau, Chatten Hayes, Charlie and Joan Wicker, Tom Sove, Gary Cruz, Vince San Angelo, Ray Leidich, Fred Penning, and many others.
Bill and Kary together on a social outing.
The attendance at the USHA four-wall nationals has fallen. Why?
There are a few deterrents that may be the reason the four-wall national events are getting fewer players:
- Time of the year.
- Location, location, location.
- The cost of going to a national event for a full week.
- Not enough playing time — one-and-done in both singles and doubles.
- A lot of members do not feel they are good enough to play at the national level. They play great in their local events, but when they come to a national event, they get to see just how much better the talent is, and it usually ends their attendance at future national events.
In my opinion, there should be a couple of sites that host the four-wall national event on a regular basis, just like the one-wall events in New York and the three-wall nationals in Maumee, Ohio.
Give us your thoughts on the WPH and the USHA.
After serving on the USHA board, I’ve come to an appreciation of the efforts and cooperation between the USHA and WPH. The goal is to promote handball to a wider audience. WPH is providing the public, via webcasts, live action from pro matches. They have even provided webcast promotions at four-wall and world events. The USHA and WPH are helping promote handball as a lifetime sport.
You have one-wall courts at your club. Does your group play wallball?
Our club in Fargo plays wallball all the time on our indoor and outdoor one-wall courts. We have an annual wallball tournament in the summer called the Steve Kraft Memorial. I really have enjoyed playing in wallball tournaments. I like the fact I can control the ball better than the small ball. I have a chance to get to the ball better, it is easier to see the ball and it is easier on the hands and body.
Who is your favorite doubles partner over the years?
Steve Kraft, may he rest in peace. He was a national one-wall and world one-wall champion many times over. (Not with me!)
Steve was mostly my four-wall doubles partner. There were times we would participate in three-wall national events and one-wall national events. We did play in three world tournaments in both one-wall and four-wall events.
Steve was instrumental in teaching me the one-wall game. Because of Steve’s efforts, I have really come to enjoy the game of one-wall. Closer to home, I have enjoyed playing with some very good partners on a regular basis, such as Dennis Tallman, David Wells, and Richard Stevens, all from Fargo.
Do you have advice for the up-and-coming players who are striving to improve?
My advice to young players is to play hard, stay composed during your matches, focus on each point, and don’t allow yourself to be distracted by calls that don’t go your way or the antics of your opponents. Stay cool and have fun. Once the game or match is over, leave the emotions of the moment in the court. Remember, it’s just a game. Then ask yourself: Did you have fun? Last but not least, always be available to referee matches if you have time and always pay it forward by mentoring younger players.
Who in your opinion are the best all-time four-wall players?
There have been so many great men and women players. Just check out the Hall of Fame recipients. Currently, there are some great young talents coming up. The most consistent player has been Paul Brady. The player I feel who has shown great strides over the years is Sean Lenning. He is a great player, and he pays it forward by interacting with fans and young players. When he works with young players, they gain so much more than how to play the game. They get to see a true pro giving his time to work with them.
You have traveled to play and work at so many tournaments. Any fun stories to tell?
Steve Kraft graciously asked me to be his doubles partner at the one-wall nationals in New York. He asked me to come to New York a week early and he would help me get ready to play. Steve took me around to different parks and introduced me to a lot of New York one-wall legends.
These guys were great. They were very patient and provided a lot of good advice. Steve did his best to prepare me for my one-wall experience. All in all, it was a great experience, and I will always remember my time with Steve in New York along with some of the great legends of the game.
On another note, Kary and I have experienced some great moments volunteering at world events in Ireland and Calgary.
In Ireland, we asked the organizing management if they needed some help. They said sure, and from that point forward, we were in the trenches for two weeks working side by side with some great volunteers. This was Ireland’s biggest turnout for a world tournament, and there were close to 2,000 players who played in events over the next two weeks.
When the worlds were held in Calgary in 2015, we went up there and asked if they needed some help. Once again, we were in the trenches for two weeks working with some fantastic volunteers. By the end of the two weeks, we felt like we were part of the extended Canadian handball family.
We were taken by surprise at the banquet when the tournament staff bestowed on Kary and I the ceremonial “white hat” honor for our time helping them during the tournament. It was quite the honor, and we have the hats ready to go when we travel back to Calgary.
Thank you for volunteering and for sharing your experiences with us. Any final thoughts?
Kary and I say thank you to all the volunteers who dedicate their time to help out at tournaments around the world. These volunteers go about their duties, working hard to make the event the best it can be for the players and their families. To all of you, we say thank you for all you do to make handball fun.
Bill stands in front of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on a visit to Washington, D.C.
The Kellys have richer lives for the time they have given to our sport. And handball players’ lives are richer because of their efforts. Volunteering is hard work and a special avocation for those who take it on. As Bill says, we are all part of the extended handball family.
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