Cooney’s Corner 3: Leap of Faith

Posted on Feb 15 2016 - 5:58am by DV

sc1The Leap of Faith: Making your way from an “A” player to the Pro Ranks

Many handball players out there are looking for that vital win that will springboard them into the Pro Tour. We have seen the likes of Ryan Bowler aka “the Toronto Tank” prove what consistent improvement and perseverance can do for your game as he made his big break this year in the New Orleans Pro Stop qualifying for his first Pro event. Many handballers out there are looking to knock on that door like Ryan did. Similarly, you may want to move up from the C’s to the B’s, or are just looking to finally beat your weekly handball partner. In this article, I will show some mistakes the ‘A’ player makes that the Pro Player doesn’t and maybe it can help you make the changes necessary for you to make that crucial breakthrough.

Have a purpose

This is one of the biggest mistakes the ‘A’ player makes. After they come out of losing a game to a higher ranked player, they always chalk it up to them not performing and having a bad day. More often than not this is untrue; going into the court without a game plan is the real cause of their downfall. Every match you play and every shot in your game must be hit with a purpose. In handball, you are either hitting a defensive shot or an offensive shot. Everything in-between is a nothing shot. I don’t mean to say that you’re not going to make mistakes, that is a given, but you have to strike the ball with an intended purpose to execute any shot. This is the only thing that can lead to a positive outcome. Otherwise, you will end up giving endless set ups to your opponent and leaving the court scratching your head wondering what you did wrong and then just leaving it down to a bad day. All “A” players have the arsenal and ability to make it in the Pro ranks but it is the lack of purpose that divides the two.  Have a purpose for every shot in every match you play.

Go for your shots

Among the many things that will make this your breakthrough year, this is the one attribute that could take your game to the Pro level: shooting the ball. When the ball gets set up, you have to go for your shot. At the highest level of the game there are no second chances so you have to take the first one that you get. In the ‘A’ division and below, you will always see rallies lasting longer and games taking longer to finish. This is not due to players taking longer breaks or more shots being missed. It is because of simple shot selection; they do not go for the kill. They are happy to wrap it around the walls until their opponent makes a mistake. This works in the lower grades where players make more errors and mistakes on the defensive shots. Long rallies and persistent pressure on their bad hand also wear them out. In the Pro Game, this mentality does not work. The wrap around will be a fat set-up. The off hands of many players today like Allan Garner and Armando Ortiz are even better than their dominant ones. Constant pressure on their weak side simply does not cut it. A positive attacking attitude of trying to win a game instead of waiting for your opponents to beat themselves is the only approach in today’s game. So remember that there are no second chances and always take your first.

Waddle like a winner

As the old saying goes, fake it until you make it. The player looking to make that breakthrough should adopt this idea. Believing you are already there in the Pro Ranks is the best approach to getting there. This does not mean telling every opponent that you are better than him or her. But rather it means having the quiet confidence in your own ability and game to beat anybody you step in the court with.  No matter who your opponent is, you should never step in already feeling defeated. This is seen time and time again with players coming out of games smiling and happy because they are content with the mere experience of playing a top player. This approach does not make it in the Pro Ranks. If you don’t believe in yourself getting there, you will never make it there.

Always strive for improvement

In the top of any sport, the best players are always looking for that extra edge, whether it is their game plan, training, nutrition, mental game etc. You have to always be striving to get better. This approach should be taken to your handball game: never settle and keep moving forward even if you are suffering a tough loss and are not seeing improvement. Constantly seek new ways and opportunities to improve and take action, as with this your game will rise. With this mentality and constant hard work, you will become the next new player battling in the Pro Ranks and taking on the best in the game.

Stephen Cooney hails from Ballaghaderreen, Ireland and currently visiting New York City, playing, training and on hand to give coaching advice at the famed New York Athletic Club and the Westside YMCA Harry Mellis Junior Handball Program. After a successful junior career that saw the “Coondogg” rise to the top of the Irish junior ranks, Mr. Cooney quickly established himself as one of the top stars on the Race 4 Eight tour. In just 13 months as a full-time R48 pro, Mr. Cooney rose to the coveted position inside the R48 Elite 8.

Mr. Cooney and the World Players of Handball are thrilled to bring “Cooney’s Instructional Corner” to Mr. Cooney will discuss various skills, techniques and strategies to help you improve your game, beat your rivals and have more fun on the court.

If you have questions for Mr. Cooney, please contact him at