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Where there's a Wall, there's a Way: 7 Pointers for One-Wall Play

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.


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Instructional: Embracing the ‘Warrior’ way of Handball

A warrior will have many opponents in a lifetime, but the ultimate opponent is the warrior’s own self...To actually overcome one’s own defects is the true nature of victory.
— From “365 Tao: Daily Meditations”

Self-reflection being one of the hallmarks of wisdom, it seems wise to step back from time to time to consider the things we do and think about why we do them.  One thing I wondered about recently was: Why do I play handball? And when I play, is the experience positive or negative?

Here’s what I came up with. We can all recite reasons we play the game:

  • “It’s good exercise.”
  • “I like the camaraderie.”
  • “It’s a challenge.”
  • “It’s just plain fun.”

The reasons we come up with, however, may not be the primary motivating factors that keep bringing us back to the courts.  Chances are good that some reasons are subconscious, complicated motivational impulses associated with our egos, or an inchoate aggressiveness. If playing hand-ball reinforces our negative tendencies, it will likely do us more harm than good.

It may also be possible that our lack of a clear understanding of our motivation, and our failure to develop and cultivate a constructive point of view about handball, is preventing us from actually enjoying the game to the degree we could.
As I thought about it, I realized that in handball, as in practically every other activity, our attitude and our motivation will dictate whether the experience is constructive and beneficial — or destructive and harmful.  I found it helpful to consider the metaphor of the warrior.

Both Killian Carroll and Paul Brady have battled in epic finals since they
met in at the 2015 World Championships--each often exhibiting
a warrior’s characteristics. Photo by Keith Thode.

I had recently read a discussion of the warrior metaphor in Ming-Dao’s “365 Tao,” from which I quote above, and realized that it could easily apply to handball.  The sport is, after all, about as close as you can get to combat without people actually hitting each other (at least not on purpose).

The warrior is a symbol that appears in Eastern and Western cultures and religions as a person of great virtue.  The good warrior is courageous, self-sacrificing and highly disciplined.  As Ming-Dao points out, what’s admirable about the warrior isn’t that he defeats the enemy. Rather, it’s that he overcomes his own weaknesses.

Viewed from this perspective, the handball player who works hard at the sport while trying to reinforce his or her positive emotions is the player who will derive the most benefit.  Handball, besides being something we do just to keep in shape or just to have fun, can be a discipline that improves the quality of our lives by teaching us humility and self-discipline.

So it’s helpful to ask some basic questions about our goals in playing handball.  Because the game is part of our lives, it should advance our life goals.

Different people, of course, have different life goals and ambitions.  Sometimes those goals are subconscious urges that we blindly pursue and, occasionally, rationalize with platitudes.  Thus, we may fail to come to grips with the reality of life, and, as Thoreau observed, end up leading lives of quiet desperation.

I’m not talking about career goals or financial goals or even athletic goals.  I’m referring instead to more fundamental goals, such as the goal of achieving happiness and fulfillment, or the goal of seeking out the authentic meaning of our lives. This kind of goal isn’t advanced by self-indulgence or ego gratification.

This is where the attributes of the warrior come into play.  To live a satisfying life, we know but often forget that we must have self-discipline and foster in ourselves virtues of humility, compassion, courage, honesty and respect for others.  If we want to enjoy handball or any other sport, we should bring these same virtues to the way we play the game and use the game to help develop and enhance them.

So I come back to the question of how and why we play handball.  I suggest we attempt to play like warriors and use the game not only to have fun or get exercise but also to consciously practice the virtues of self-discipline, humility, courage, honesty and compassion.

This doesn’t mean we can’t be competitive at the same time.  In fact, we’ll find that the more we suppress our egos and respect our opponents, the more fun we’ll have and the better our game will be.

From the 2013 One-Wall Open final:  Tyree Bastidas and Joe Kaplan are two champions who leave everything on the court.
Photo by Keith Thode.

We all know it’s a lot more fun to win than to lose.  But if we can’t lose with grace and equanimity, we need to re-examine why we play the game — and step away from the dead-end pursuit of ego gratification.

Our real opponents are our own minds. We know that our bodies play the game much better if our minds aren’t flooded with ego-based anxiety.  And if we can’t appreciate it when our opponent executes a perfect off-hand, back-wall kill shot, we’re missing out on the fun of the game.

Or if we get seriously upset at ourselves every time we miss a shot and go into depression when we lose a game, we need an attitude adjustment.

If played with the right attitude, handball rewards and reinforces virtues and qualities that make life worth living.  Taking the game seriously means to work at training our minds and bodies to play the game well.  In the process, we may find that the sweetest victory is victory over our own demons.

So we should play handball like warriors — fun-loving warriors, but warriors nonetheless — who never disrespect our opponents or ourselves.  This just might enrich our handball experience and help make us all a little more enlightened.

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Bill and Kary Kelly = Happy Helpers

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!)

Bill soaks up the traditional atmosphere of one-wall in New York as he tries his hand at the game.

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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USHA Hall of Fame Tourney & Masters Doubles POSTPONED

USHA Hall of Fame and 2020 Masters Doubles Postponed

Dear Handball Family,

As I mentioned in my last message, the COVID-19 response is fluid and things are changing rapidly. As a result of care and concern for our members and families, as well as current restrictions on facilities, businesses, and gatherings, we are postponing the following events at this time:

Hall of Fame Tournament, Tucson, Arizona, April 3-5; and National Masters Doubles Championships scheduled for Schaumburg Tennis Plus in Schaumburg, Illinois, April 16-19.

Of course, we do this with heavy hearts and we sincerely apologize to those who may be inconvenienced. The USHA will give full refunds for entry fees. We are also pleased that most businesses associated with travel (e.g., airlines, hotels) are accommodating cancellations, as well. But, concern for our handball family and friends necessitates these postponements. We encourage you to contact your tournament directors regarding upcoming local, state, and regional events as they may be postponed or cancelled. We are already aware of some of these situations.

We are committed to doing what we can to reschedule the important USHA events identified above. And, of course, we look forward to a time when we can go back to “business as usual.” In the meantime, we hope you stay safe and take care.

Yours in Handball,

LeaAnn Martin
USHA President
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An Introduction to Three-Wall Play

Vern Roberts shoots from the long line in the 1985 National Three-Wall final.

With clubs closed due to COVID-19, many four-wallers might be getting their first taste of three-wall in the great outdoors.  Fresh air and more court area would certainly be a safer bet when you get back on the court.  And, it’s fun to be able to hit as hard as you want on almost every shot!  That will certainly help get rid of some of the anxious energy these days.

While many of the winning strategies used in four-wall are still appropriate in three-wall, there are some dramatic and some subtle differences between the two versions of the perfect game.   

Even though we’re still “just hitting a handball,” the changes start with the fundamentals.

The term "fundamentals" is used for everything that takes place in a player's effort to strike a handball: the pre-shoot position, the actual stroke, and the follow-through and positioning.

Anyone who has played three-wall knows that raw power is a major ingredient to success on the outdoor courts, where the backwall is replaced by a long line. The ability to power the ball deep in the court, causing it to carry far beyond the long line makes for great passing shots, easy points, and easier points when your opponent begins to tire from chasing your rockets and hitting them back to the front wall from 60 feet away.

Power is developed by getting to a good pre-shoot position, striding into the ball, executing a good stroke, and timing the ball precisely. You can forget the off-balance punch to the ceiling with a snap of the wrist in three-wall. Even if you hit the ceiling, the shot will drop inside the court for a setup. To save your arms for the timing and powering of your shots, no matter at what height you strike the ball, make sure you are always moving forward into your shot in three-wall play. Your legs contain the strongest muscles in your body and are most important in hitting the ball with power.

To obtain the needed power, most four-wallers will have to alter their strokes a little, too. The four-waller's overhand was developed to "touch" the ball to the ceiling, not hitting it too hard to avoid giving away backwall setups.  Most four-wallers will find their first few trips to the three-wall courts fun since they are in the "great outdoors," but also frustrating due to their weak overhand strokes.

To hit your overhand shots with more power and send them higher and farther, your overhand stroke will have to be altered. The four-wall overhand only generates power from the elbow to the hand due to the direct-overhead form used. To generate the needed power and height to make the ball carry in three-wall, the four-wall over¬hand needs to be dropped to about a two-thirds or three-fourths motion. This stroke is very similar to the motion used in throwing a football. This slight change in the overhand will not only give you more power but will also help your overhand shots carry past the long line due to the better trajectory.

The classic underhand stroke used in four-wall play also needs to be adjusted. The classic underhand stroke was developed to control your serves so that they would just clear the short line and to allow you to let the ball drop off the backwall. In three-wall play, you'll want the majority of your serves to be bouncing just before the long line and then angling around the side¬walls. To achieve the power and angle necessary for these serves, as well as the longer-distance kill attempts, you'll need to use more of a sidearm motion than the classic four-wall underhand stroke. Instead of contacting the ball below the knee as you would in four-¬wall, you'll probably find the best height to be just above the knee in three-wall. Of course, there will be times when the four-wall underhand will be appropriate. Usually for a surprise low serve and when you’ve earned front-court kill attempts.

The Off Hand

For the most part, your off-hand strokes should emulate the strong hand strokes we've been discussing. As important as the return of service is in four-wall, it is even more important in three-wall. The service return is even more critical since you will usually be returning serve from 38 to 46 feet from the front wall, as compared to the normal 34 to 36 feet in four-wall. This extra distance means you'll need extra time to get back to a center-court position to protect yourself against your oppo¬nent's fly shots. So a good return of serve is critical to your success in three-wall play.

To compound the four-waller’s problems on the return of service, the classic punch to the ceiling won't be appropriate for two reasons. First, the ceiling shot is not very effective and, second, it is difficult to hit the ceiling from the deeper position and from a point of contact above the waist, from where most service returns will have to be hit.

Making contact with the ball above the waist on the return of service will severely limit the options available to you. If the serve is a few feet from the left sidewall, and you have the skill necessary, the return can be hit back down the left wall. This is a highly¬-skilled shot, much like the left-to-left return of service in four-wall. If this return goes just a little errant and hits the left sidewall or drifts out to the center of the court, it will result in a setup.

When you attempt this specific return, you'll want to aim 12 to 16 feet high on the front wall. The exact height will depend on the amount of power you possess with your off-hand. Hitting the ball straight to the front wall and trying to make it carry back down the left sidewall to bounce deep in the court is also an easy shot to hit "out."

A much simpler and safer return is the high V-pass to the opposite side of the court, especially if the serve is close to the sidewall or has angled out of the court past the sidewall. Most of us four-wallers find it all too easy to hit the front wall about 15-feet high just to the right of center. Thank goodness this shot is appropriate somewhere: three-wall! The angle and height will provide you with a return that will force the server to retreat to at least the long line. This is much safer than the down-the-line return because you can hit this shot as hard as you like and it won't carry "out" since it slows down dramatically when it hits the right sidewall in the air.

Stay in the Court

Sean Lenning, the current leader for all-time Three-Wall Nationals Singles titles with 11, is a master of the fly kill.

Most four-wallers, due to the extensive use of the ceiling in four-wall play, are conditioned to always allow the ball to drop before striking it. Since the timing of the shot is easier when the ball is dropping, this is most appropriate. However, for the shots hit deep in the court in three-wall, you should be cutting the ball off instead of backing up to 60-plus feet for the return. Once you're out of the court, your return has to be almost perfect or a three-foot high kill attempt by your opponent will be successful.

Many of these deep shots won't be appropriate for hitting on the fly. Thus, they must be taken "on the rise" with the three-wall overhand stroke and sent back to the front wall in the same manner. These rallies are much like the ceiling rallies in four-wall -- they continue until someone makes a mistake. Of course, it is most important to be moving forward into this shot or it won't carry, which means you made the first mistake.

The timing of this shot is different than any shot in four-wall, especially since the ball rises fast off the concrete floor. Your first few attempts may find you jumping, and hitting the ball weakly, but stay with it as the timing is quickly learned and the shot is necessary if you're going to stay within the confines of the court.

Playing three-wall is also good training for four-wall, thanks to the aggressive style necessary for success. So get out there and improve your fly shot and add power to your four-wall game.
Here's hoping you find your play in the great outdoors most enjoyable, and successful, too.

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POSTPONED: 2020 USHA Masters Singles - Nashville, Tenn.

MASTERS SINGLES POSTPONED: In response to the national COVID-19 coronavirus concerns, and due to suggestions from the Department of Health and the YMCA to discourage large group gatherings, we regretfully announce that the 2020 USHA National Masters Singles in Nashville has been postponed. 

Please read A Message from USHA President LeaAnn Martin HERE.
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Take it easy when you get back on the court

    Because handball involves fast-twitch reactions, it’s good to work interval training into your workouts. 

If it seems like a long time since you last played handball, it is. Depending on where you live, most four-wall facilities were closed for at least two months. Maybe you were able to play three-wall in a few parks that remained open or one-wall against a wall with some chalk-drawn lines.

The good news is that things are opening and moving toward normalcy. Hopefully, tournaments will return. Some form of social distancing will be in our future, at least until a COVID-19 vaccine is readily available.

So what is a handball player to do while waiting for the courts to reopen?

In my opinion, handball players comprise two groups. One group plays only handball for exercise and likely has not been very active during the COVID-19 crisis. The other group cross-trains even when handball is available and likely has continued to work out during the pandemic.
Very few people possess fully stocked weight rooms and cardio equipment at home, but a lot of players have a few weights, stretch bands and a stationary or road bike to ride for cardio maintenance.

No matter how good you think your conditioning is, there is no substitute for playing handball. The cross-trainers will get back into tournament shape faster, however.

Where to start? Until the courts are open, get outside and walk, run, or bike. Handball is a series of intense 10- to 15-second exertions followed by a serve or change of serve. So vary your walking, running, or biking with interval training. Run 15 seconds, then walk 10 seconds and keep repeating. Or while biking, throw in intense 15-second bursts followed by 10-second slowdowns.

Setting up a circuit is easy and requires minimal equipment. Run or jog 100 yards, then stop and do 10 pushups, then repeat and do some situps. You can set up stations for pushups, situps, jumping jacks, dumbbells, skipping rope, and other exercises.

Lastly, save time to stretch before you exercise and afterward. Keep your Achilles tendons and hamstrings stretched. A ruptured Achilles is not uncommon and takes a long time to heal, with or without surgery.

One final thought about life without handball. Most of us eat what we want because handball burns calories. Without handball, it is easy to gain a few pounds. So a little discipline in food intake is needed during these times.

If you play at the three-wall nationals, you’re used to an incredible amount of delicious food.  But during a prolonged period of low activity or none at all, it’s wise to control your caloric intake.

Handball will return. Start getting back into shape now. When the courts do open, start easy. Do not overdo it. Remember, our hands need to get back in shape too. A bone bruise is the last thing you need.

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68th USHA National Collegiate Handball Championships

AUSTIN, Texas -- The Men's Open final of the 68th USHA National Collegiate Handball Championships produced an instant classic on Sunday in University of Texas' Gregory Gym.  In a momentum swinging affair, Shane Dunne of IT-Tralee willed himself to the title with an improbable comeback in the final against Galway-Mayo IT's Diarmuid Mulkerrins, winning 12-21, 21-17, 11-6.  When looking at the draw, casual fans wouldn't expect the No. 6 and No. 5 seeds would reach the championship final.  But both players stepped up in the biggest college handball tournament of the year.  

Things didn't start smoothly for the eventual champ.  Before the referee called the first score or he'd even set foot on the court, Dunne couldn't locate his eye guards leaving him scrambling for an alternative.  Once he settled on a borrowed pair, he began his pregame ritual warm-up; however, that distraction may have affected his mindset once the match started. 

Mulkerrins came out firing on all cylinders, comfortably zipping the ball around the court for some dazzling kills while a frustrated Dunne pressed his shots.  While he prevented his opponent from running away with the game too early, Dunne's shots kept falling short, many skipping off the floor before reaching the wall.  Mulkerrins capitalized on all his opportunities to close the first game with a 21-12 victory.  

In the second game began, a settled Dunne began to find his grove.  Now he began killing the ball from any angle, putting away the majority of the rallies and gaining confidence winning 21-17.  It appeared Dunne had all the momentum going into the tiebreaker, but that wouldn't be the case.  

Mulkerrins served first in the tiebreaker and quickly ran off to a 6-0 lead.  After a few rally exchanges, Dunne would score his first.  Getting that first point fired up the IT-Tralee standout, and he would go on to outscore his opponent 10-0 to get his first National Collegiate title.  

In Women's action, Ciana Ni Churraoin (shown swinging) of Minnesota State, Mankato, defeated Fiona Tully (Dublin City) in her final Collegiate Nationals, 21-11, 21-3.  Tully exacted some revenge in the Women's Open Doubles final, teaming up with partner Meadhbh Ní Dhálaig to stop Ni Churraoin and Maddie Kennedy, 21-5, 21-17. 

The final match of the day was by far the most exciting.  University of Limerick's duo of Fergal Coughlin and Tadgh O'Neill snagged the first game from Adam and David Walsh of Cork Institute of Technology 21-19.  Team Walsh (no relation) answered big in the second game with flawless execution and teamwork winning 21-15 and setting up a tiebreaker.  

With a national title at stake, the intensity on the court picked up a notch.  Each team was putting extra zip on serves and making some incredible retrieves during a few long exchanges.  While Coughlan and O'Neill held the opportunity to win at match point, the team from Cork IT pulled off the improbable side out and converted championship point.  The Walsh's victory marked their second consecutive doubles title (2019 was also decided by tiebreaker). 

See the updated results and match times on the draw links below.  (FILES UPDATED as of 8 PM - Feb. 23).  

The Saturday night awards banquet was an event that recognized the Most Improved Players, Spirit of Handball Winners, Sabo Scholarship recipients and the winners of the Combined, Men's and Women's Team titles. 

Kouichi Saito of Pacific University and Jonathan Gutierrez of Front Range Community College were presented with the 2020 John C. Sabo Memorial Scholarships. 

William Rangel-Alfaro of Angelo State and Pacific's Hannah Ramsey were the recipients of the Spirit of Handball Awards (nominated and voted by their peers), and the Most Improved Player Awards were presented to Jordan Turnquest (Colorado School of Mines) and Abby Evan (Pacific). 

A very special "THANK YOU" goes to the UT Handball Team, Wayne Lee, UT Handball President Avery Shepherd and the rest of the volunteers who pulled off an amazing event. 

Final Team Standings
Combined  --  Men's  --  Women's

Final Brackets

Open 9-16 



Open 9-16 


Men's Doubles


Women's Doubles


Men's Singles (Wednesday Matches)

Men 1-16
Men 17-32
Men 33-48
Men 49-64
Men 65-80
Men 81-96
Men 97-112
Men 113-128
Men 129-144

Women's Singles (Wednesday / Thursday Matches)

Women 1-16
Women 17-32
Women 33-48
Women 49-64
Women 65-80
Women 49-80P

Men's Singles (Thursday)



Women's Singles (Thursday)


Missouri State University is once again on top of the Collegiate Handball World as they captured the Men's, Women's and Combined Open team titles at the 68th USHA National Collegiate Handball Championships.  Limerick University won the International team title. For the first time in recent memory, the Men's Open Singles final will feature the No. 5 an No. 6 seeds.  Shane Dunne (ITT) will meet Diarmuid Mulkerrins (GMIT) in the Men's Open final.   It's a finals rematch in the Women's Open Singles with Ciana Ni Churraoin (MNSU) mixing it up with Fiona Tully (DCU).


(Megan Mudd of Missouri State sets up for a shot off the back wall on Friday).

The Irish player's talent and dominance was on full display through the quarterfinals of all divisions in the 68th USHA National Collegiate Handball Championships.  All four Men's Open semifinalists hailed from across the Atlantic and will playoff for a spot in Sunday's final.  Fergal Coughlan (University of Limerick) faces off against Shane Dunne (IT-Tralee) in the top semifinal.  In the bottom bracket, Diarmuid Mulkerrins (Galway-Mayo IT) tussles with David Walsh (Cork IT) for the second spot in the final.  

In the Women's Open bracket, defending champion Ciana Ni Churraoin (Minnesota State, Mankato) meets Sinead Meagher (Limerick IT), while 2019 finalist Fiona Tully (Dublin City University) matches up against Niamh Hefferman (University of Limerick) in the other semifinal.  

Doubles semifinals will be played Saturday after singles action completes.


The second day of competition at the 68th USHA National Collegiate Handball Championships brought more contested matches as players pressed on through preliminary rounds.  Doubles divisions also advanced another round on Thursday (Image Courtesy of Missouri State Handball). Friday brings the first matches of the "knock out" brackets where players "win of go home" in their respective divisions.  Each round players advance in the final brackets scores more points for their college team.   

AUSTIN, Texas -- Collegiate handball players representing 36 institutions from around the world stood in awe when they saw the main observation "fish bowl" court in legendary Gregory Gym.  

"Everything IS always bigger in Texas!" joked one player as they checked in for the 68th USHA National Collegiate Handball Championships. No sooner had players received their hospitality package, they immediately took to the courts to practice before scheduled matches.  Once official matches began, it set the tone for what promises to be a long weekend of raucous handball competition.  Wednesday's matches would determine where a player would end up before points may be earned for their respective teams.  First round doubles matches were also played on the first day.  Click on the draws below to see the results. 

2020 Entry and Eligibility

Important Deadlines and Dates

  • Monday, February 17 - Starting Times and Draws Posted
  • February 19 (12 pm) - Play may begin
  • February 23 (12 pm) - Play ends
  • March 3 - All American Bios and Championship Articles due
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