Hooked on Handball

Originally posted: April 4, 2012

Junior Ben Cardiff first discovered handball at the Student Organizations Fair at the beginning of his first year at Southwestern. He had not known about the sport beforehand and decided to try it out.

Although he had played several other sports, including soccer and basketball, Cardiff said he quickly discovered handball was not easy. “You can come from different background sports and they will help you, but there is still a lot that goes into it,” he said.

Cardiff has found success in the sport, however. He and four other members of the SU Handball Team − Andrew Reynolds, Josh Martin, Joey Kyle and Daniel Lenihan − recently returned from their third year at the national collegiate championships sponsored by the U.S. Handball Association. This year the tournament was hosted at Missouri State, and Southwestern came out as the runners-up in Division II.

Southwestern has had a Handball Team since 2000. The team practices two evenings a week and goes to two tournaments at UT-Austin each year, along with the USHA collegiate championships. Cardiff, a computational math major, is captain of the team this year.

Cardiff attributes the team’s success to the passion all of the members have for handball.“We’re mainly self-taught and self-motivated,” he said. “Our success is due to each individual player on the team sharing their passion and dedication for handball, and supporting and coaching each other throughout the year.”

Cardiff said he likes the camaraderie and the challenge of handball. “The skill required to be great at handball is incredible,” he said. “I look up to players better skilled than I, hoping that I can reach that level some day. Not only do you need a lot of skill, but you also have to be in great shape to play handball, especially in the higher divisions.”

Cardiff said that although the team only goes to two tournaments a year, they still end up meeting people from all over the country.

“[Handball culture] is a small, close-knit community,” he said. “You will get to know more people and make friends.” Even when talking about how he has a rivalry with another player on the handball circuit, Cardiff describes it as fun. “Since it is just you versus another player in these rounds, most players create a form of camaraderie with their opponents,” he said. “Sometimes, you just give tips to other players you know because you want to see them continue on − even if that guy beat you before.”

Another thing he likes about handball, Cardiff said, is that you can play at any age. “There are a lot of older, even elderly, people who play handball. So age isn’t even a restriction.”

Cardiff said he hopes the Southwestern team will get additional recruits next year to continue to go to nationals.

“If you stick around, you will get hooked,” he said.

− Isaac Bernal

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