The World Players of Handball Foundation was extremely proud to have celebrated their 10th anniversary of promoting all things handball in 2015. Founded in 2005 by current World Players of Handball Executive Director David Vincent, the WPH was formed to promote the game of handball through filming and live webcasting. The WPH successfully filmed its first event in 2005 with the “Big C Showdown,” and would webcast live for the first time at the Washington Athletic Club in 2006. The WPH continued to webcast all of handball’s biggest events through 2009, including the Simple Green U.S. Open, the “Dave Chapman Back at DAC” and the World Championships in Edmonton & Portland, plus USHA 4 Wall Nationals, to name just a few.
The WPH reorganized into 2009, becoming a 501c3 non-profit foundation aimed at introducing the game to hundreds of junior players every year, while continuing to broadcast handball’s biggest events. The WPH introduced the Race 4 Eight pro handball tour in 2011 to showcase the world’s greatest players, adding the greatest senior and women’s players in 2012 and 2013, respectively. Every Race 4 Eight event through 2013 was broadcast with such stunning clarity and professionalism that ESPN took notice after Vincent pitched Handball to Bristol in 2013 and 2014; signing an exclusive deal to broadcast each Race 4 Eight event live on ESPN3 & the WatchESPN App in the Race’s fourth season.
The WPH continued its mission to promote the game to new players, forming Junior WPH in 2013 and holding hundreds of clinics for more than 5000 new and experienced junior players between March of 2013 and December of 2015. The WPH reached the outdoor audiences as well, holding the first “Super Bowl of Handball” in 2010 at the 3WallBall World Outdoor Championships at the Stratosphere in Las Vegas and parlaying the success in Las Vegas to the WPH Outdoor Player’s Cup Series (the 3-Wall Big Ball pro tour based mainly in Southern California) to gigantic participation numbers.
“When Jeff, Ben and I stared the WPHL [as it was called in late 2004/early 2005] we wanted to revitalize the professional handball tour vacated by the PHA & USHA before it,” says WPH ED Vincent. “We knew that handball lacked a very important tool that other sports had, but were missing in our game, and that was major market mass exposure. We felt them, and still do today, that handball is such a great sport that a vast percentage of young and aging athlete would make it apart of their lifestyle if exposed. Jeff and I would essentially film and webcast big matches, expose the game to new audiences, inspire new play; meanwhile, the USHA and other local handball associations would reap the benefit of having the pipeline greased up as new players sought this new sport.” Vincent explained that not everything went exactly as planned, that months and years of tweaking and molding took place and while this happened, a list of warriors surfaced.
The World Players of Handball has been able to achieve their various milestones because of the influences of so many passionate handball players and fans, many of who donated their time, money, connections and professional expertise to grow the game of handball to never before seen heights. There is no way to list every influential person that has helped to shape who they are today, but they will list who they consider to be their greatest influences, in no particular order.
Mr. Bruce Fabrizio: Simple Green owner and founder Mr. Bruce Fabrizio has been an incredible influence and supporter to the WPH since hosting the first Simple Green U.S. Open in 2006. The WPH has broadcast every edition of the Simple Green U.S. Open “Festival of Handball” since the inaugural 2006 Simple Green U.S. Open, dramatically raising the profile of the Handball as a result. Mr. Fabrizio has provided the best players in the world with a place to convene each October, and in turn, with the WPH the opportunity to broadcast the best players playing on the biggest stage. Mr. Fabrizio has been a major sponsor to the WPH Race 4 Eight tour, as the Simple Green U.S. Open and 2012 Simple Green LAAC Invitational have accounted for six of the 29 WPH Race 4 Eight events held since 2011. Mr. Fabrizio famously said, “We’re out of the darkness now,” in reference to handball emerging on the big stage at the Simple Green U.S. Open, and the same can be said for the WPH. Thank you Mr. Fabrizio.
Mr. and Mrs. Jim and Marjorie Peixoto: Mr. and Mrs. Jim and Marjorie Peixoto have been avid handball supporters for more two decades, providing opportunities for hundreds of players to play handball in Northern California and raising two handball champions, Emmett and Courtney. The WPH was extremely fortunate to have had Jim and Marjorie’s support from the inception of the WPH in 2005, providing expert advice, donations and even housing WPH staff in the transition to its new headquarters Tucson in 2009. “Jim and Marjorie really understand the game of handball and what needs to be done to take the sport to the next level,” revealed WPH Executive Director David Vincent. “Opinionated, smart and pragmatic, Jim and Marjorie have been wonderful influences on growing all of our initiatives in our 10 years in business. Hell, to this date people call the WPH the WPHA or PHA and this just shows you how powerful the former PHA and Peixoto’s were to the sport and to me personally. The WPH is extremely grateful to the Peixoto family.” The former WPHL, now WPH, began as a result of the PHA. To leave the Peixoto’s off the list would be wrong!
Mr. Fred Lewis: Mr. Fred Lewis is a 6-time USHA national pro singles champion and USHA Handball Hall of Fame member, but his biggest influence on the game is likely his work with junior handball players and the reorganizing of the WPH. Mr. Lewis’ passion for handball is unmatched, as he spends virtually every free moment teaching the game, promoting the game, and fortunately for the WPH, serving as our President from 2009-2013. During Mr. Lewis’ tenure, the WPH reorganized itself as a 501c3 foundation, created and started the Race 4 Eight, created and started the WPH Outdoor Series and formed and strengthened relationships with handball players throughout the world. A CPA by trade, Mr. Lewis donated a significant amount of his time organizing the WPH’s finances, as well as providing the leadership and the support that only a man of his stature in the game would possess. Mr. Lewis was also instrumental in coaching many of today’s pro headliners, to include Luis Moreno, Abraham Montijo and Tracy Davis. Fred continues to coach the game to hundreds of new players each year, some of who will likely become the next Luis Moreno or Abe Montijo, while also serving on the USHA President’s Club and active donor list of the WPH Foundation. “Fred Lewis single-handedly changed my life,” says Vincent. “On a personal note, Fred did with me what he does with everyone and that is prove just how easy it is to accomplish great things, as long as you try and want to succeed at it. Lewis sits at my final dinner table.”
Mr. Jake Plummer: Also at Vincent’s table is longtime friend, Jake Plummer. Mr Plummer is a college and NFL football legend, amassing millions of fans throughout the world for his exciting style of play and ultra-cool disposition. Fortunately for the WPH, Mr. Jake Plummer brought the same excitement and enthusiasm for which he was known in football to handball, selflessly promoting, donating and hosting one of the best tournaments in the sport each October. Mr. Plummer transitioned from a an icon to handball’s best players to a friend, hosting dozens of players at his cabin in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, throughout the years at the Plummer Family Helluva Handball Bash. Mr. Plummer has appeared on ESPN’s Jim Rome show, AT&T Sports documentaries and numerous articles on YahooSports, Sports Illustrated, Outside the Lines, NFL Network and ESPN promoting the WPH and handball, attracting hundreds of thousands of views to WPH websites and webcasts. Mr. Plummer has always been willing to do whatever he could to promote the WPH and the sport of handball, volunteering as a handball coach for high school athletes in Idaho in Colorado to teach the next generation of players and providing countless interviews on radio and television to bolster the profile of the WPH. “Jake has been a huge catalyst for the growth of the WPH,” revealed WPH Development Director David Fink. “I have people come up to me every day and ask me if I’ve ever played handball with Jake Plummer. The answer is fortunately yes, and he is everything that you think he is. The WPH has been very lucky to have had Jake’s support and leadership.”
Mr. Jeff Kastner: Mr. Jeff Kastner was one of the WPH’s original founders in 2005, pioneering the advent of live webcasts. A video producer by trade, Mr. Kastner worked tirelessly from the start of the WPH to bring streaming handball to the masses. Often working entire productions by himself in the early years, Mr. Kastner managed to capture the first live footage of handball for Internet-only websites, starting with the Washington Athletic Club’s “WAC Classic” in 2006 and the 2006 USHA Nationals. Mr. Kastner’s vision and creativity has enabled the WPH to become what it has today. Mr. Kastner continues to work for the WPH, traveling to several tournaments per year and spending countless hours editing video for WPH productions at his home office in Portland, Oregon. “Jeff and I had a dream to stream handball live on the internet in the early 2000’s and because of that dream and his expertise and diligence, that dream became a reality,” revealed an emotional David Vincent. “To think of where we have come since our first broadcast together to where we are now is a reflection of Jeff’s inspiration and foresight. In those days I was the front man and I always felt so ashamed that Jeff didn’t get the recognition he deserved. So, if anyone ever thanked me publicly, I would always respond that it was all Jeff’s doing. For the most part, that was a true statement. I mean, no Jeff …no WPH.”
Mr. Kris Gurrad and Ms. Linda Manning: Mr. Kris Gurrad and Ms. Linda Manning have forever changed the way we are able to watch handball. Since 2012, Gurrad and Manning have engineered every WPH broadcast with multiple camera angles, instant replays, scoreboards, interview clips, and much more, doing with two people what requires 100 professionals at most networks. Mr. Gurrad and Ms. Manning arrive on site the day before an event, staying up all night to run cables and setup for the WPH production and work 18-hour days during the event to ensure that WPH webcast viewers have the best production possible. The quality of the Gurrad/Manning production caught the eye of ESPN, who promptly signed an exclusive contract to broadcast handball on the Watch ESPN App. The Gurrad/Manning team has taken WPH broadcasts from a one-camera production in the early years, to a professional, crystal-clear, high-definition production that rivals any sports programming on any channel. Gurrad and Manning work with one of the most talented teams in the business, to include Jeff Kastner, Jean Kastner, Matt Titaino, Ben Manning and Omar Lemus to ensure that handball fans from across the world can enjoy the best players playing against one another from any device. “The influence that Kris Gurrad and Linda Manning and their team have had on the WPH is staggering and cannot possibly be quantified or overstated,” revealed WPH Development Director David Fink. “Thank you.”
The Washington Athletic Club: The Washington Athletic Club was the home to the first live WPH handball broadcast in 2006 and has hosted numerous WPH live broadcasts in subsequent years. The WAC’s Mr. Brian Henson, Mr. Randy Multack and Mr. Al Vinson served as visionaries and trailblazers for handball broadcasting, staunchly supporting the WPH and its efforts to innovate and grow the game. The Washington Athletic Club boasts one of the most venerable 4-Wall show courts in the world, allowing for broadcast viewers to feel as though they are inside the court with a several back wall camera angles, a front wall camera angle and a side wall camera angle. “Much of our early and current success can be directly attributed to the Washington Athletic Club,” revealed WPH Co-Founder, Jeff Kastner. “Brian Henson, Randy Multack and Al Vinson, as well as the WAC handball community, believed in the WPH and what we wanted to accomplish. Nine years after our first broadcast at the WAC, we have broadcasted from dozens of indoor and outdoor facilities in the United States, Canada and Ireland.”
Mr. Mike Coulter: Hank Marcus, from World Outdoor Racquetball, Ektelon and 3Wall Ball, along with Mike Coulter have helped shape the WPH. Handball being played on the Las Vegas Strip underneath Las Vegas’ tallest structure with several hundred thousand onlookers per day seemed like a fantasy just seven years ago, but Mr. Mike Coulter changed that and made handball on the Las Vegas Strip a reality. Conjuring up the notion to hold a combined handball and racquetball event, Mr. Coutler contacted the WPH in 2010 to offer the opportunity to be a part of what would become the greatest outdoor handball tournament in the world. Hundreds of players from New York, California, Canada, Australia and Ireland, to name a few, have traveled to Las Vegas every September to experience the world’s greatest outdoor event, always awed to be playing underneath the Stratosphere Tower. The WPH has broadcast each of the 3WallBall World Championships live, leading to the WPH Outdoor Player’s Cup 3-Wall Big Ball tour and introducing the greatest 1-Wall players in the world to an international audience. “The 3WallBall World Championships has become our Super Bowl,” revealed WPH Outdoor Director Thomas Flores. “His vision undoubtedly became one of the WPH’s greatest influences. and will continue this September.” In Mr Marcus’ case and on the Ektelon subject alone, perhaps one of the most influential people in all three sports (racquetball, handball & paddleball). “In my second life I will come back as Hank Marcus and if not, don’t bring me back,” chirped Vincent.
Mr. Doug Clark: Mr. Doug Clark, Mr. Charles Charvoz, Mr Jeff Healam, Mr Jim Garner, Mr. Steven Soto, and all original BODs have served on the World Players of Handball Foundation’s team of Executive Committee members at some time since the reorganization of the WPH to a non-profit 501c3 in 2009. Mr. Clark has been as one of the WPH’s most generous donors, contributing to virtually each of the WPH’s junior and broadcasting initiatives, while also serving as legal counsel for the World Players of Handball Foundation. Mr. Charvoz provides invaluable fundraising and non-profit guidance to the World Players of Handball Foundation, while also serving as the CPA of the World Players of Handball Foundation, managing payroll, prize money payouts and taxes. “Both Doug and Charles are invaluable resources to the WPH,” stated WPH Development Director David Fink. “Having Doug and Charlie’s professional knowledge and experience, as well as their passion and enthusiasm for handball on our board of directors and professional team has been incredibly valuable for the World Players of Handball Foundation. Doug and Charles work nearly each day to ensure that the World Players of Handball continues to thrive and we are extremely grateful.” A private conversation with Doug Clark in 2005, coupled with donations, insight and vision, shaped the WPH and helped the company stay liquid when the wells were drying out. For this, Mr Clark is certainly atop the list of most influential.
Mr. Dave Chapman and Mr. John Bike: Mr. Dave Chapman, Mr. John Bike, Mrs. Anna Engele Christoff and Mr Naty Alvarado Jr (plus Mr. Tony Healy after them) are legends of the game of handball and unquestionably some of the best players in the history of the sport. The World Players of Handball Foundation has been extremely fortunate in receiving advice, support, donations and expertise from Mr. Chapman and Mr. Bike since the inception of the WPH in 2005. Mr. Chapman made a huge impact on the growth of the WPH when he returned from a three-and-a-half year retirement in 2008 to challenge then #1 Emmett Peixoto in the “DC Back at the DAC” WPH broadcast exhibition match, pointing all eyes from the world of handball on the WPH. Mr. Chapman continued to support the WPH following the “DC Back at the DAC” WPH broadcast, playing in virtually every pro stop through 2012, producing two instructional videos and lending his expertise on various WPH broadcasts. Mr. John Bike has been a wealth of valuable handball information from even before the WPH officially opened its doors in 2005, helping the WPH make connections with clubs, promoting WPH events to the top players, serving as a head referee and announcer at various WPH events and acting as an ambassador to the WPH. “To have the support of two of the game’s all-time greats has been such a tremendous asset to the WPH,” stated WPH Executive Director David Vincent. “These guys have served as consultants, sounding boards, ambassadors, friends and confidants. It can be argued that their influence off the court has been even greater than their hall of fame influences on the court.”
Mr. and Mrs. Walt and Laura Kastner: Mr. and Mrs. Walt and Laura Kastner have been two of the World Players of Handball Foundation’s greatest supporters since the inception of the WPH in 2005, assisting the World Players of Handball in every imaginable way, from carrying and setting up video equipment for broadcasts to generously donating to WPH broadcasts and junior programs. Much like many of the World Players of Handball’s greatest influences, the Kastner’s offer support purely for the love of the game and to provide young people with the opportunity to play the great game of handball. “The Kastner’s are so incredibly generous and they have truly inspired the WPH team for the past decade,” revealed WPH Development Director David Fink. “The WPH is so incredibly fortunate to have the ongoing support of the Kastner’s. Walt and Laura are one of the biggest reasons the WPH is where it is today.”
Mr. Fred Banfield: Mr. Banfield joined the WPH in 2009, transitioning the WPH to a 501c3 foundation aimed at not only broadcasting handball, but also introducing the game to hundreds of new players each year. Mr. Banfield has unquestionably been handball’s most generous supporters. “If all Fred ever did was come into my office and talk about life, Handball would be in a better place,” claimed Vincent. “He, much like Bruce Fabrizio, know how to make innovative ideas and productive thoughts turn into realities and the game of handball reaps the rewards.” Vincent continued by claiming that there would be no mass ESPN exposure, R48Pro Tour or even full time Development/Junior Directors, if not for Mr Banfield’s influences. “I know that Fred does not like any recognition, even though he deserves almost all of it, but he is the reason we are where we are today,” stated WPH Development Director David Fink. “I am choked up just talking about Fred’s influence because he has provided thousands of handball players and fans with the opportunity to play on the greatest pro tour in handball history and to watch all of the action from anywhere in the world. Fred is unquestionably handball’s greatest innovator and we are so fortunate to have his positive influence every day as we strive for our goals.”
Who influences you and your game? How has the WPH Changed your handball world? Have these influential people also affected you? Contact s: firstname.lastname@example.org. You never know, you could be presented in our next article.
Editor’s Comments: There are many influential people that have helped mold and shape the WPH Foundation over the past 10 years. Some of these people were not named in the above article but were VERY important to the growth of the game and WPH, from an early start. Ben Thum, USHA, Ken Moeller, David Fink, Emmett Peixoto, Alvarado Family, Simple Green Family, Gurumeet Khala, Abbie Bajon, Rodney Fink, Matt & Lonnie Stalsberg, Omar Lemus, Wayne Black, Dave Kennedy, Rory Moore, the Big C Athletic Club, Paul Brady, Catriona Casey, Larry Lenning, Chatten Hayes, Wayne Salo and so many more that will be recognized throughout the upcoming months. Thank you all, again, so much!