Tucson, AZ, WPH Press, 8/14/17- The World Players of Handball is proud to name WPH ambassador, promoter and tournament director Veronica Figueroa as August’s WPH Ace of the Month for her extraordinary efforts in growing the sport and the WPH. “Ms. Vee,” as she is affectionately known in New York, recently ran the JR WPH NYC 1WallBall Shootout, featuring more than 105 junior players between the ages of 12-19. 105! Read about the amazing event here
This was the second consecutive year Veronica has run the JR WPH NYC 1WallBall Shootout, featuring more than 180 combined boys and girls junior handball players in the two years. Veronica also runs the Big Blue Ballers, one of New York’s premiere Men’s and Women’s Big Ball singles events every August, volunteers with the WPH at September’s 3WallBall Outdoor World Championships and promotes handball daily in New York City. A retired police officer, Veronica spends as much time with her wonderful family as possible, all of whom are equally passionate about handball as her.
If you run into Ms. Vee at a tournament, please stop and say thank you to one of the sport’s greatest volunteers, promoters, and tournament directors. Check out what Veronica has to say about the state of the game today, what having her family involved with the sport means to her, how she started in the sport and much more.
WPH’s August Ace of the Month: Veronica Figueroa
Hometown: Brooklyn, NY
Home court: St. Johns Park
Career: 20 years as a New York City Police Officer (retired since 2015)
Why does handball mean so much to you:
I started playing handball when I was ten years old, nobody actually taught me. I played Pinkball or Pump Ball at St. Johns Park because I lived right across the street from the park. Handball became very addicting, like food, I had to play everyday. It wasn’t until I met my husband in 1996 that I began to play competition that actually helped my game improve.
1. Watching my daughter dominate all four years of high school girls Small Ball handball (singles and doubles).
2. Watching my daughter take first place in all the ICHA and USHA junior tournaments (2003-20006)
3. Winning the 2005 Small Ball National Women’s Open Doubles with my daughter when she was only 16.
4. Watching my husband George Figueroa win the King of Courts three times (2001, 2003, 2005)
5. Taking first place in the Women’s Open Doubles in Hollywood, Florida with my daughter in 2016.
6. Taking first place in the Women’s Open Doubles with Yolanda Monroe in Ireland, France, Italy, Holland and Canada
7. Traveling to Zacatecas, Mexico for five days in January of 2017 and playing five exhibition handball games each day. The Mexican handball community was so impressed with Cheryl Chen and my performance that they put us in the sport section of the newspaper, which was a big deal because the women are not allowed to play handball there because it’s known as a man’s sport
What has been your favorite handball tournament:
1. Big Blue Ballers and Lady Big Blue Ballers because I created them using my own ideas and each year the tournaments continue to get bigger.
2. King of the courts is my second favorite handball tournament because I get to see the best of the best
3. WPH 3WallBall Outdoor World Championships (Vegas) is absolutely one of my favorite tournaments because there are so many different games you can choose from and so many places to go–it’s like New York City to the fifth power.
4. Simple Green U.S. Open
Who started you in handball:
Nobody started me playing handball. I would go to the handball courts across the street from my house and play all day
What motivates you to provide so many opportunities for young people to participate in handball:
When I was a kid there were no tournaments for children. We had to watch the adults play. Now I motivate other children to play, including my younger daughter Veronica, who is 12-years old and my grandson Jayden, who is 9-years old. It’s great to see so many junior events available to the youth.
Could you talk about your family and what they meant to you in handball and what having them involved in the sport you love has meant to you:
My family is a handball family, all we do is challenge each other and support each other at every tournament. We also travel together to all the main events.
Like this year, for example, my daughter and I competed in Zacatecas, Mexico, and we will be playing in Florida in September and then at the 3WallBall at the end of September
What life lessons do you think can be learned from handball:
The life lessons that can be learned from playing handball are courtesy, professionalism, and respect. It all goes a long way to make the perfect game
What separates handball from other sports:
No other sport is as versatile as handball. We have many different balls and walls to compete on and we have different levels of competition for everyone to be a winner, rather by skill or age. Boxers play handball to help them with their footing. Also, there not many sports you can play one-on-one.
Who is your favorite handball pro to watch past and present:
My favorite pros to watch in the past have been my husband (George Figueroa) and Rookie. My favorite pros to watch in the present are my husband, Timbo and Rookie.
What handball pro or handball coach been your inspiration:
My husband, George Figueroa
What does handball need to do to attract more players and grow as a sport going forward and how can that happen:
In order to attract more players, the players and organizers have to socialize with everyone, including the lower skilled players, to make them feel important as well. Additionally, we need to have training camps on educating referees. I have seen so many people lose a game because of poor reffing. It’s so frustrating because a lot of the refs are so inexperienced and it’s the players who suffer.
What do you see in handball that inspires you:
Seeing how handball has evolved has inspired me so much because of the many places I can travel to play and compete and the many people I have met
What give you the most satisfaction as a handball promoter and tournament director:
Seeing the priceless moment when a players wins, regardless of what place they achieved, when the players come from near and far to support you at your event, and when just one player says thank you for having this event
What do you see as the future of the sport in 1-Wall, 3-Wall and 4-Wall:
In the future I see 1-Wall, 3-Wall and 4-Wall in the Olympics because it is a professional sport that still doesn’t get the recognition it deserves.
Why aren’t more people playing handball:
A lot of people don’t even know what handball is and some people actually think handball isn’t a sport and is a waste of time
In your opinion, what are the barriers to entry in handball:
In my opinion, for juniors it’s the parents who are the barriers because if the parents don’t believe in the sport or think it’s beneficial to the child they won’t encourage it. For adults, the barriers are 95% mental, as many adults lack the confidence to participate
If every handball player did (blank), handball would grow: promoted the sport and taught it to others it will grow
What have live ESPN broadcast done for handball:
ESPN broadcast has put handball in the spotlight as a professional sport, It’s a great thing because now the sport and the players are exposed to the world.
Could you talk about your up coming Big Blue Ballers tournament:
I’m really excited about my Big Blue Ballers Men’s Open Singles tournament and Lady Ballers Women’s Open Doubles tournament on August 19. The goal was 64 entries for the men and 16 teams in the Women’s Doubles. We greatly surpassed our goals, with the Men’s Open Singles reaching 105 entries and the Women’s Open Doubles featuring 24 teams (that’s 48 women). The Lincoln Terrace Handball Association will host its largest event ever with 153 entries!
WPH Senior Writer