By Mike Treacy
“Everybody has a plan ‘till they get punched in the mouth.” — Mike Tyson
“What I like so much about [this Tyson] quote is that its application stretches far beyond boxing. It really has meaning in any area of life, whether the blow comes from a health issue, losing your job, making a bad investment, a traffic jam, whatever.
It’s how you react to that adversity that defines you, not the adversity itself.”
— Mike Berardino
An extremely important fundamental… ‘Be polite as a church mouse.’ A well behaved mouse may get cheese thrown to it by the choir members. In other words, do not get involved with the referee, either vocally, or in your head. Politeness equals cheese.
If he is refereeing you in a tournament, he is a loser. [editor’s note: From beginner to the Professional level, the loser of the last tournament referees usually.]
Now, as we progress in Handball we should be more deceptive in position and shot selection.
A difficult thing to ‘read’ for the naked eye is fractals, and this is the realm of Dr. Benois Mandelbrot; fractals are the doc’s domain. Much of earth’s landscape is fractals. We can think of our handball mosaic as a fractal. Just like everything else, fractals are infinity, and infinitely expressing ‘themselves.’
The great American artist, Jackson Pollack also used fractals in his work. Fractals are also now used in many areas such as camouflage; i.e. deception.
Handball, our DNA, and our mosaic, are all a mathematical event. Understanding this leads to acceptance, joy, and the peaceful life. We do not resist the way the wind is blowing our small craft (human body.) We drill regularly but with intuition, and with our own unique irregular expressions in the Handball court.
Do not fight what God has blessed you with.
Now personally, I have been sitting Zen since the great Suzuki was Abbot at the San Francisco Zen Center, circa the 1960’s, and visualization is really effective, but it is secondary to the mastery of consciousness.
On a lighter note.
Okay, us kids in the Park during the small Handball Black Ball era? Late 50’s, early 60’s and we had a chance to play Handball with P.J. P.J. was a former professional bare fisted boxer/fighter from my beloved Ireland. P.J. had this disgusting habit of spitting on the ball when he had the serve. The serve would slip and slide past you like a scared snake running for its life.
It was impossible to return. When we complained about the cheating, P.J. said through a toothless mouth, “Well get the serve yourself then.”
Public Handball courts are the breeding grounds for anarchy and anarchists, just like P.J. I went to his funeral with at least one hundred handball players. P.J. just lied there at the altar, immobile, with his bald head shining like the sun. P.J. knew he was going to Handball Heaven.
Do not misunderstand me, please. P.J. was a true ‘OG.’ And, in hindsight, P.J. was a fine and wonderful mentor to me, in his own way. He taught me street smarts, humor, and so much more. I love you P.J.! You are one of the truest human beings I have ever known.
It has been said that if you are intending to write about a Safari in Africa, do not read the latest or current best seller about a Safari in Africa. In other words, be spontaneous, and innovative in a beneficial way, inside and outside of the courts.
Let erato, the muse, sit on your shoulder and the result will be purely you. You will certainly be a very dangerous adversary to meet in the Handball court, without question.
In the 50’s, it seemed that Handball players in the Bay Area, let alone San Francisco/ Golden Gate Park had their own style and their own mosaic. And we learned a lot from each other. Golden Gate Park is eclectic, not cookie cutter. We are only reiterating that there is an infinite amount of shots and an infinite amount of angles. Think out of the box.
Our imaginations are boundless. When we were young lads, often in the schoolyard we’ll pretend, for example, that we’re taking the final shot for the Championship in our schoolyard basketball games. Playing imaginative handicap Handball can do wonders for our game.
If you beat your friend handily by 10 points on a regular basis, give him 11 points to start out with in a game to 21. Now you are forced to go all out against an equal. Your friend will be excited to have the points; he will be looking to kick your butt.
Here is a great tournament practice technique. It makes every game we play competitive. I helped begin the Golden Gate Park Handicap tournaments. What a blast! I’ve seen a Championship player give away 20 points, and he would start himself off at negative 20. Good times. Lots of fun. 21 points to win.
A very important Handball mantra: “I take no prisoners.” …Or something like that which motivates you. It is beneficial and keeps us in the right frame of mind, because our opponent is a bane in our life. At the very least, we should have no respect for him (in the court only!). It’s called competition, as you know.
Here’s one of my fables regarding Handball drills.
One Saturday morning a forest meadow was full of curious critters who gathered to watch a flea jump 500 feet.
“Impossible!” shouted an outraged skunk.
“I shall now jump 500 feet,” confidently replied the flea, and it jumped.
I big gust of wind came as the flea jumped. The flea got caught in the wind and landed 499 feet down west. The flea jumped 1 foot and the wind did the rest. It is impossible to do the impossible, but if a critter tries, it can come very close…
Therefore, we practice devoutly to attain perfection in various aspects of our Handball game, but humans never attain perfection in Handball; there are too many angles to learn. But as a result of this, we are forced to hold on to our humility, which isn’t half bad.
Especially young people, girls and boys: they act grown up and practice alone diligently. They should. My dad used to always say, “Get off the couch and do your homework!” (edited for vulgarity).
Just to mention avoidables again; remember the ideal is to be white on rice, but that’s impossible, but getting within a horse hair of being called for an avoidable is the ideal. The ideal offense is an ace serve. The ideal positioning: ‘As close as a horse’s hair.’
This will result in the most possible annoyance to the opponent, short of insulting his family.
How do you learn to serve well?
First of all, we have to master the center of the serving area. We shouldn’t be moving about all willy-nilly serving from here and serving from there; this is a fundamental flaw and yet we see it often. Again, we go back to math and angles.
You should have a variety of serves, but the only way to for this to occur is by logically mastering one, before mastering another. And yet we still see folks serving from different mathematical positions and yet the master of none of them. A basic fundamental: Learn sequentially. Did you know a rock the size of a shoebox is doing billions of computations a second? It’s true. Now myself, I have never lost to a rock and I believe it is because I never let a rock out think me.
“You have to do your own growing, no matter how old your grandfather was.” à Irish Proverb
I often played with other balls, not just a small handball. Bernard was World Champion. He was a basque handballer. They play with a ball as hard as a baseball, maybe harder. He played me at Golden Gate Park with my ball and I played in the cement back courts against him with his ball. I’ve also played him in the huge Basque handball courts in South San Francisco. It sharpened both of our games.
One time a Basque player came from the concrete courts in the back of the Park, while we played on our wood courts. He asked us to call an ambulance. He was a bloody mess. Broken nose. He got hit so hard by that Basque ball his nose was splattered all over Golden Gate Park. The Basque game is a tough game.
I’ve played with a racquetball also mostly outdoors in the hot weather at night in Phoenix, Arizona. I would take the wife and kids and Kool-Aid . ( I recommend lemon-flavored Kool-Aid for best play and practice) and make a night of it at the local College.
You learn different things by using different balls, small and big ball.
[Editor’s note: Dad forgot to say it but he once said to me, nonchalantly, that he won the Arizona State 3-Wall Championship when he was living down there; almost like he forgot about it. He told me like it was no big deal; true story. Take what works for you, from dad’s stuff].
I beat the Arizona Racquetball State Champion; he used his racquet and I used my hands.
“Alert! Alert! Alert!!!”
Our opponent just hurt himself. He is screaming, “Call an ambulance!” Remember, we are not supposed to be the least bit helpful. Of course we may show concern, but unless you are a doctor (and some of you are) let the referee handle it. Take whatever action is necessary, but it is the referee’s job, not yours. Our opponent can’t tell us what to do. Ok! He’s managed to hurt himself; we all get hurt sometime playing handball.
Use this opportunity to work on drills. Victory is already guaranteed. You can visit him later in the hospital. Of course he is our great friend once we are out of the Court. But also, it might just be a ploy. Even if he is bleeding, it could be a phony injury. A ruse. It could be self-inflicted. He is looking for excuses. Never trust the veracity of the opponent. In addition, I watched 1950’s wrestling!
Always. Stay focused.
Always. Do your drills.
And always love others, just not in the Handball court . How do you get a great workout when doing your drills alone?
Al Banuet, one of Handball’s prophets, taught me how. During your drills, periodically you play yourself. That’s right. Yourself. You serve, then you run back a million miles an hour and make a return of your own serve. You might return it on the third bounce but that is ok! Then you continue, never stopping for 3-5 minutes, always trying to kill it or pass to the crack. Constant break neck speed, then you stop. Regain your breath, go back to angle and corner drills.
This is Handball practice at its best. Fast! Fast! Fast!
And then… Your resting heartbeat lowers.
Editor’s note: I found this today, in my garage, as I was cleaning junk out, right as I finished typing up dad’s stuff… My dad’s NorCal Hall of Fame speech that he never said; instead he told a few stories and went off riffing. Now I am putting this here because it exemplifies the friendships that my dad still loves and that many of you have also. My dad feels that Handball is a special sport; that is my motive for typing this handwritten note I found. That HOF night, my dad was walking up with his speech, and I asked, “Hey tell some funny stories about the Park.” He handed me his speech and he went up.
Anyways, this is the original thanks he planned to say…
“Thanks to the Hall of Fame Committee. Thanks to Jay Capell for sponsoring me. I want to thank my family, Rosemarie Barrios [my mom], Tim, Dave, and Teresa Treacy, Arlene and Gil Sequeros, and my mother and father.
My Handball friends and partners: Mike Kelly, Renard Perucho, Eddie Coleman, Vince Briening, Tom Kelly, Jim O’Brian, Larry Aguilar, Dave Rios, Randy Badler, Steve Weiser, Steve Ebert, Eddie Francis, Beaver, Bruce Menekin, Jerry Fegundes, Terry and Chris Mesa, John Heaney, PJ, Johnny Six-Pack, Greg Clark, Frank Chavez, Frank Garcia, Bob Little, Angelo Campana, Rino Del Curto, Jeff Capell, Coach Mike De La Torre, Bob Brady, Bill Keyes, Al and Henry Chaparro, Tom Fleming, Bert Reid, Pete Colochitas, Dick Langoon, Tony Ragazini, Mark Haskell, John Parent, Wayne Black, Mike Alvarez, Rudy Stadelberger, Howie Wyrsch, Dave Graybill, Al Banuet, and many, many others. Thank you.”
Addendum: I am a writer. I am writing my own take on the Nature of Handball. I am not pretending to be a big expert on the Nature of Handball. Everybody’s experience in Handball is just as legitimate as mine. Every human being experiences Handball in their own particular way. – Mike Treacy
No Consciousness No Handball
You know, once inside a Handball court, the Devil, or his demons can’t touch you. The court is the sanctuary of grace, where duality is replaced with the dance of competition.
Growing up, my time was the beginning of the 1960’s in Haight Ashbury with all of the Love Children, not to mention the turmoil. Golden Gate Park has produced so many Champions and Hall of Famers; too many to mention in spite of it all, even with society, and all of its confusion.
But there will always be those rare places in the universe where something magical happens for us, and no doubt you have had the privilege and enjoyment of being in such a rare environment for a period; in a wonderful “narrow corner” of the world, in a special time and place.
Certain places are chosen by happenstance to be the center of the universe for a specific time. The San Francisco Golden Gate Park Handball Courts were just that in the 1950’s and 1960’s. I made it a point to go early Saturdays and Sundays, and I grew up to know everybody in the Park, even in the summer when the courts were really cold. I even grew to know all the names of the gardeners.
The Hall of Fame would be barren without the San Franciscans in it, and almost all of them blue collar types, enjoying a fine day at the Park.
San Francisco has a hundred centers of the universe. The Golden Gate Park handball courts are only one of them. Hopefully, it will soon be recognized as a historical landmark to be nourished and protected, as it should be.
I wore no gloves when I first started. Beginners couldn’t play inside the Golden Gate Park handball courts. There are 4 courts: two in the back for beginners and two courts in front for the experienced. The veteran players, many the product of World War II, would flat out kick your unwelcome butt out of the relative warmth of the inside courts. So, beginners had to play outside in the back courts. Really though, old folks played there as well. And they never taught us beginners; they just cheated you and beat you without remorse.
The blackball was hard as a rock in the cold weather of the Park. Many were too shy to play barehanded, but I knew it would be beneficial to suffer now, and get the benefits later. I did this once, later on when I was able to play a Mexican champion with a broken right hand. It just numbed up on me, and I used it as usual.
Editor’s note: [Many athletes, whether MMA fighters, boxers, football, or handball and the like, have finished their competition with a broken bone. As an athlete, there is a mental toughness that goes beyond the body’s pain. Playing with pain just goes with the territory.]
San Francisco can be freezing in the early mornings. The open air of the courts was damp, often both the walls and the floor. The cold air would go straight through your clothes to the bones.
Sometimes, all we had was a cigarette to warm us up. I did have a hand warmer that I bought at the 5 &10 store, but it did little good.
In the cold, the ball got hard as a rock when you would hit it. On fist shots, my knuckles would often split open, and all the bones on your hands would suffer greatly, while swelling up, and getting bone bruises. You had to love Handball, or you would just throw in the towel and quit. Gloves would have helped a lot, but I wanted long term tough hands.
[Editor’s note: This is absolutely true, regarding the cold mornings in San Francisco; it is kind of crazy, but true. It is, interestingly enough, warmer when snowboarding than the damp cold air that goes to your bones in San Francisco. At least that is my experience.]
I put my time in, accepting the cold outdoor back courts, while all of the time I wanted to get inside and play the best adult players. I was confident I would beat them all one day.
I would put Band-Aids on my bloody knuckles and wear them all day, but they helped very little. Quite often, I would play at 6:30 am in the morning, when there was low-hanging park fog and just the smell of the park and the dampness on my cheeks. The environment and exercise would place me in natural ecstasy.
I would practice by myself, listening to the birds and the squirrels chatter. Golden Gate Park was God’s sanctuary for me. My love for life came from those cold early mornings alone, as I continued to play in those young years.
Golden Gate Park is where I made many Handball friends that have lasted a lifetime. To me Handball is foremost about friendship and comrades. I found the same type of spirit of friendship as soldiers back from WWll , who keep each other upbeat, despite the difficulty of their current circumstances. We were all in this together; life that is, and it is great.
Al Banuet, a Sanctified Prophet of the Church of Handball was an advocate of wise and prudent thinking. In other words, Handball was our religion, and the court was our church, 7 days a week.
The moment we entered the door of the court for the first time, we are baptized, whether we wanted it or not.
We learned what a grave sin it is, not to try your hardest, and at the very least, give the opponent a good hard-fought game. We are condemned to an athlete’s hell for eternity if we don’t show up and give our best effort.
All of the ordinary embellishments of classical religions we can find in Handball, Lord forgive us.
I wish to explain how a Zen attitude marries itself to this understanding, and how it ties into Handball for a few of us.
Al Banuet knew that the ‘truth’ i.e., ‘The Nature of Handball,’ requires intuition, silence, consciousness of abstractions, and seeing false realities.
Al would say, “I don’t know, let’s see!” He would give a momentary pause, then insight a drill. I attribute many of my championships to this discipline. It teaches us to be comfortable with the infinite territory that the court provides.
Often, I knew where the opponent’s ball was going because I was totally in the ‘now.’ I left my petty emotions outside of the court. I was thoughtful and I learned. I was coached correctly.
The reality of consciousness is that it takes in and recognizes infinity. We are able to understand Handball more deeply, when we use the expansiveness of our consciousness to intuit and explore, for example, the mathematics of angles.
We maintain innovation in our drills, just like Bob Brady (National Champion) would play against his wife with her tennis racket in the Handball court, for added speed on the serve against him.
Important and well known by a few… but I want to mention the Al Banuet ‘flipper shot.’ You do not conventionally swing the ‘flipper,’ you hold the arm in an ‘L’ position, and swing as if it’s on a hinge, and put a reverse hop on it with both hands. Remember, always the corners. The reverse hop allows the ball to die. Drills, drills, and drills; the Game will take care of itself.
Instead of having a crucifix or rosary beads in our pocket, we would keep a handball, and bounce it throughout the day wherever we would walk. In our religion, the Handball is a sacred relic. Many of us put it under our pillow. Some would even have an alter and display it there on holy days, like tournament days.
“A Champion needs motivation above and beyond winning” Pat Riley
I want to address consciousness and Handball. I began sitting formal meditation at the San Francisco Zen Center. The first morning meditation began at 5 AM. I was young in the 60’s, and needed an outlet.
Recently, the Seattle Seahawks, tough dudes, won the Super Bowl. Their coach, Pete Carroll, brought in a meditation teacher during their pivotal journey. Even Jordan, Kobe, and Shaq all have the same meditation teacher. I also have been teaching meditation for many years, and even many mixed martial artists practice Zen. I believe it’s the best aspect of our mosaic.
A basic fundamental: “Learn to be at peace with yourself and life.”
This can be by meditation, contemplation, pondering, reflection, reading the Good Book; if it lifts your spirits, poetry, and uplifting literature. Keep good company, like the Buddha says. Love your neighbor as yourself, just as Jesus advises.
Character building creates great Handball athletes.
Most Handball players that I’ve met are of such fine character, so really no need to mention it. I’ve met and played many agnostics, all fine men. Handball, because of its intimacy, makes you that way, if you weren’t already that way before. I recommend “The Art of War by Sun Tzu,” an Asian classic. Also, I also recommend, “As a Man Thinketh” by James Allen.
I led a dysfunctional adolescence, with two alcoholic parents, so my character had to be resurrected. Handball truly saved me. When I was confused and suicidal, I was blessed at that time to find Handball, and all of its great friendships.
The Zen attitude is carried over to our drills. Thoughtful, careful, repetitive drills bring the unseen to fruition. All of a sudden, one random Saturday morning, we were rolling out corner kills against our opponent. It was all due to our belief that it would happen, and our patience that caused this belief to be seen.
This is just one example, but there are many others.
Consider the judicious use of weights. One player trains eight hours a week intelligently, and another player trains twenty hours a week, foolishly. Guess who wins? And, guess who has time for other life enhancing things?
As Buddha says, walk the middle path with no extremes. If it means we are not the best, so be it.
A basic fundamental.
The middle path. Balance.
Regarding the concept of intimidation and sports, in Handball it is low IQ to use it because the opponent is always secondary. We are only concerned with creating our own mosaic and letting the wins and losses fall as they may. Any emotional involvement with our opponent is ego-centered foolishness. Our natural, conscious presence, has a purity that is sullied by any schoolyard strategies.
Just elaborating on the mosaic, our individual mosaic; it is all about friendship and character building. There are a thousand things to know. Handball is a physical chess game.
Remember; always try to end the game immediately.
We don’t respond to the emotional dysfunction of our opponents. Some of them have arrested development. Many of our opponents are still children or adolescents in their development; read the works of John Bradshaw . We always want our opponent overwhelmed by the possibilities of our mosaic.
“Virtue is an inner strength. It expands your nature.” John Bradshaw
The Tao is never wrong, so I accept losses. If you don’t understand Tao, please read about it. Having an understanding of comparative religion will help us understand our neighbors. Remember, we will be playing some of these bastards, so it’s best to understand some of their mosaic.
Always get familiar with each individual court before you play in it, whether the lighting or peculiar bounces. Sometimes it is good. It’s a lost art. Tai-chi and yoga will both lengthen your career, as well as isometrics. I blew out both of my rotator cuffs in my late 20’s doing too many military presses. Don’t do military presses in your training. Really, you should work with light weights, and do lots of reps.
The human body takes a pounding in our religion, so we must nurture it. It’s a temple: Body, Mind, and Spirit. Nurture all three. They all make up our mosaic.
Remember, don’t ever make a pass shot without trying to hit the crack.
If you are going to lob serve, use an underhanded lob serve. This is an Al Banuet technique from the right service area. It is impossible to attack this serve. It dies in the left rear corner. It cannot be taken out of the air, if done correctly. There are many, many different and great serves in Handball. Work with the mosaic you were born with, however.
Short hop the ceiling shot, when possible. Attack it upfront right as it hits the floor. Look upon an opponent hitting a ceiling shot as a tremendous opportunity for you to short hop it and even kill it, when you can. Don’t let anybody try to make you go defensive.
The wonderful game of Handball, in my opinion, was ‘poisoned’ by many years of defensive minded champions.
Other athletes have copied them. Pretty soon, the game was ‘poisoned.’ I believe the integrity of the Game must be resurrected. We need reformers. Be gone Satan, and take your defensive minded game to hell where it belongs, and take your scaly tail with you.
“Go and wake up your luck” – Persian proverb.
I learned that the purpose of Zen is to master consciousness. A Zen attitude means that we are maximizing our use of consciousness with its use of infinity, i.e., the infinity of angles and space within the dimensional Handball court. Use what works for you.
Remaining in a relaxed mental position, rather than an emotionally reactive gestalt wakes up our ‘luck,’ you might say. That’s why we say, “don’t get involved with the referee,” let alone your opponent.
Figure out the odds. We don’t want to be dealing with two bastards (the opponent and the referee). We have more luck, more energy, if we are Zen-like. Total concentration on our own Game is what the Persian proverb speaks to.
Concentration = Luck
“Some things have to be believed to be seen” Ralph Hodgson.
I played a lot of three-wall in Arizona. We played with a hard ball, or the racquetball. I won the State Championship with the soft ball. Three-wall builds speed, and nurtures quick decisive thinking. There is no back wall to save you. Check it out. All of the guys, including Dave Graybill, played on the weekends at Phoenix College in 100 degree weather. You learn how to play with sunstroke in hot weather.
The best exercise for hopping the ball is attaching a weight to a bar with rope, and winding it up and down until you feel an annoying burn. We feed baby birds worms. We feed our hops with this exercise.
Dave Graybill, considered by many as the best athlete to come out of the State of Arizona, one of only seven three-sport ( football, basketball, baseball) letterman in Sun Devil history, taught me a lot. I had to learn from observation, because Dave would tell me nothing. I have countless stories about him.
He used to say that I was the best Handball player for the first ten points. He and I also played at 6 am at the YMCA, then we would go to work, only to play at noon and then, we would play after work at 5 pm. This was when he was training for the Pro Tour.
I favored taking saunas. Dave favored steam baths. I would always take the longest saunas, just to torture myself. Like I said before, when sissies take long timeouts, you’re ready for it. I’d be prepared to sweat all day, if necessary. Dave approached steam baths the same way. Not to be outdone, I often tried to outlast him in the steam, but could not do it.
Several times, I had to be taken to the trauma ward at the local hospital by ambulance, but I still played the bastard the next morning. It really wasn’t too wise on my part doing those steams, because I couldn’t produce babies after that torture.
So anyhow, the movie Star Wars came out in 1977. Dave was waiting in line for over an hour. A friend told me about this. So, Dave is bent over the whole time as if he is touching his toes. So, our friend walks up to him, worried about him. He asked, “what’s wrong, Dave?”
“Oh, just stretching my hamstrings.”
Dave was a true believer, a Sanctified Church member. Hosanna in the highest.
It was 106 degrees one summer day in Arizona, and Dave shows up to play outdoor three-wall in a rubber suit to enhance the sweat.
Hosanna in the highest.
Samson, step aside.
Dave Graybill, a true Biblical hero.
Hosanna in the highest.
Just like my ‘Savior,’ Al Banuet, who ultimately helped to save me from my struggle to survive adolescence, while many of my other friends had died… Many others found their way to prison or led troubled lives. Growing up, there was so much pain and suffering in the neighborhood here in San Francisco, and it was reflected in the 40 or so of us kids that hung out at the Golden Gate Park handball courts. I was a serious asthmatic, as a teenager, and I almost died several times. But, as I grew up, it taught me compassion and empathy for others that have also suffered.
My personal experiences in the Great sport of Handball and its wonderful lifelong friendships… Well, they remind me of the famous Gospel song, ‘Amazing Grace.’
“How sweet the sound / That saved a wretch like me / I once was lost, but now am found / T’was blind but now I see.”
God Bless Handball and all of you Handballers!
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