Sections

U.S. Handball Association Championship held in Coney Island

Contestants play one of the city's favorite schoolyard games

Brooklyn Daily
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook
Subscribe

Don’t miss our updates:

Photo gallery

1/5
Hands up: (Left) John “Rookie” Wright and Joseph Kaplan battle for the title of the US Handball Association overall men’s champion.
2/5
Ballin’!: Coney Island native Tony Roberts shows off the tools of the trade.
3/5
Hands down: Joseph Kaplan shows off his skills on Sunday at the US Handball Association championships in Coney Island.
4/5
Queens of Kings: A rival team from Queens competes in the U.S. Handball Championships on Sunday.
5/5
The champ: John “Rookie” Wright of Manhattan poses with his trophy after winning the overal men’s division handball championship on Sunday.

Handball players from across the boroughs — and the country — poured into the People’s Playground on Aug. 5 to play the city’s signature version of the sport.

Men, women, and children — 119 in all — converged on the Asser Levy Park courts along Surf Avenue near W. Fifth Street for the 52nd annual U.S. Handball Association Championship, where they played one-wall small ball: slapping a golfball-sized handball, not the Big Blues found in most bodegas, against a single concrete wall.

Alethia Mendez, one of the event’s organizers, said that the distinctively New York style of the competition — as opposed to the three- or four-wall variety played elsewhere in the world — meant that the contestants were almost exclusively current and former residents of the city.

“Even the people who came from out of state were from one of the boroughs,” Mendez said, though she added that the event also drew a few players from Ireland.

Mendez said that there were four divisions to the championship: men’s, women’s, juniors’ — for teenagers — and masters’, for adults over 50. The juniors’ and masters’ divisions were further broken down by age group to ensure fair play. But nearly everyone was a veteran of the sport.

“These are people who’ve been playing for years,” said Mendez. “You talk to some of the masters’ people who are in their 60s, and they’ll tell you they started playing at 7.”

Each division competed tournament style, complete with an elimination bracket and as many as 32 rounds — each round a best-of-three match. Mendez described the atmosphere as friendly and welcoming on the sidelines, but fierce in play.

“The handball world is very small. Everyone is very close, everybody knows each other,” Mendez said. “But on the courts it’s all competition.”

James “Rookie” Wright, who won the men’s championship in the final round by taking two out of three against closest competitor Joe Kaplan, said the match was so intense it left him exhausted.

“My gloves were super sweaty, this guy was taking me to the hill. I fought with everything, and he fought, too,” said Wright.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
Today’s news:
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook
Subscribe

Don’t miss our updates:


Reasonable discourse

Comments closed.

First name
Last name
Your neighborhood
Email address
Daytime phone

Your letter must be signed and include all of the information requested above. (Only your name and neighborhood are published with the letter.) Letters should be as brief as possible; while they may discuss any topic of interest to our readers, priority will be given to letters that relate to stories covered by The Brooklyn Paper.

Letters will be edited at the sole discretion of the editor, may be published in whole or part in any media, and upon publication become the property of The Brooklyn Paper. The earlier in the week you send your letter, the better.

Keep it local!

Stay in touch with your community. Subscribe to our free newsletter: