LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Lake Forest College Handball Coach Mike Dau told the 180 former players and supporters assembled how the 50 years of handball and 51 national titles started. The crowd had assembled from far and wide, from Suhn Lee coming from South Korea, Mike Bargman from Israel and inaugural team member Steve Jamron flying in from the Virgin Islands. Coach, as he’s affectionately and respectfully called said: “In 1964, Athletic Director Nick Wasylick came to me and said the college would be building a new sports center. I went out on a limb and told him if he built a couple of handball courts, I’d field a handball team. Nick put three courts in, so I had to deliver.”
Dau had already done his homework, and knew he needed to recruit handball players to get off to a good start since it’s a longer road to bring non-players to a competitive level right from the start. Mike brought in the Yee brothers, Wes and Willie, from New York and Dave Smith and Steve Jamron from St. Louis. Those four started a great tradition of headlines for “tiny Lake Forest College” taking on the likes of The University of Texas, Memphis State, and other big-name institutions.
Since those early days of just four players, the team has grown and everyone is welcome. Coach still travels to the national junior tournaments and recruits but he also invites LFC students who didn’t know of handball before Lake Forest. When women were included in the collegiate program and scoring in the ‘80s, scores counted for the top 6 men and the top 6 women. LFC’s team size is about double that these days to encourage participation and improvement over the four-years of collegiate eligibility.
As that first group of four earned LFC’s first title (a tie with University of Texas), Dau had some clout as he recruited and his next recruiting class grew to a group of 10 with new members coming every year and not waiting for the four-year turnovers to occur. That’s the same time that team sizes grew to new scoring that counted more players.
While Dau also served as Athletic Director and football coach throughout his tenure at LFC, he’s been the only mainstay for the handball team that meets at different times to accommodate the large numbers on the three courts.