The Pickup Summer Handball League
When Nick Holden (Moraga, Calif.) realized there was no handball league for him to join, he decided to make one.
In 2011, Holden wrote a Facebook post asking if anyone would be interested in a summer handball league. After receiving 45 promising comments, Holden went around Campolindo and Acalanes High School asking those interested to sign up. WIth 70 people 'registered', the first inaugural season of The Pickup Summer Handball League (PSHL) took place in Moraga, Calif.
Now, two years later, PSHL has over 120 participants competing in a two conference league consisting of five teams each. Goals were made out of PVC pipes while balls were ordered internationally. Players from around the league offer to help referee game they aren't playing in. Every game is filmed, enabling the league to track individual and team statistics over the course of the season. There is even an award dinner and All-Star Game at the end of the year.
Holden admits it has been a draining experience, but one with extremely high rewards. With the growing number of participants, solely by word of mouth around the community, Holden is happy to see handball growing.
"Handball is refreshing to high school kids," Holden said. "There's no opportunity to play the sport in our area aside from the PSHL."
What Holden feels helps drive the community-wide talk of the league is the control the players have.
" It's by students for students. The most dedicated players can come back next season as team captains and draft their team and make their jerseys. It's a group effort that makes everyone feel important."
With the way the league continues to grow, it's easy for Holden to envision handball becoming a more known sport in the U.S.
"Handball is refreshing to high school kids," Holden said. "What drew me to handball was its versatility. In the PSHL we have players who come from backgrounds playing basketball, soccer, baseball, water polo, and football - everything but handball itself. Watching these players apply their own skills to handball in different ways is a beautiful thing. It just goes to show how many different facets of athleticism the sport requires."
Holden sees the PSHL providing more than just an interest in an unknown sport.
"(Handball) was a sport that we all discovered together. As people discovered handball, they discovered friendships with each other. It was a great way to introduce people and bring the local high school community together.
Currently a senior in high school, Holden looks to develop a new league this fall when he enrolls in classes at the University of Oregon.
"I have several friends who are PSHL veterans that attend the school now and they've told me they'd be willing to help me create a new league there."
Holden envisions a league similar to PSHL: a league run by the students, for the students.
"I want its primary functions to be spreading the sport of handball to as many people as possible and to bring the community together by offering everyone the opportunity to partake in something."
Unlike the PSHL, Holden is aware of some obstacles facing him at the college level.
"To make it an official Oregon intramural league, you need student signatures on a petition turned in to the student recreation office. That's why first priority is to spread the word. After that, I'm going to have to sort of feel my way through the logistics, because I don't know entirely how much is in my jurisdiction in terms of equipment, finding a place to play, etc."