Beach Handball’s Andres Espinosa And Cedar Bellows Serve Their Local Communities As Firefighters

By Melissa Zhang | Oct. 11, 2019, 3:49 p.m. (ET)

Photos of Andres Espinosa and Cedar Bellows
Cedar Bellows (left) and Andres Espinosa (right) will both represent the United States at the World Beach Games in Qatar this October. 

As national team members for the U.S. beach handball program, Andres Espinosa and Cedar Bellows have expectations on the court to perform.


But the expectations for them to perform off the court are much, much greater.


The two serve their community as members of the fire department, with Espinosa having worked as a firefighter paramedic for the Ventura Country Fire Department in California for the past 11 years and Bellows having worked for the Front Range Fire Rescue in northern Colorado since May.


“I was like every kid who wants to be a policeman or firefighter. I’ve wanted to be a firefighter since I was a boy, but I really like the medical aspect of it as well and that's why I became a paramedic,” Espinosa said, who has been playing handball since he first watched it on television during the Olympic Games Beijing 2008,.


“I realized that I could work for the fire department because firefighter paramedics take on a lot of the emergency medical responsibilities in the community. That's what drew me towards it.”


A few years ago, Espinosa was one of the first firefighters to arrive at the Thomas Fire in Ventura County. Lasting over a month, it turned out to be one of the biggest fires in California’s history.


“The fire was about six or seven miles east of my station, so we got the initial alarm and were one of the first engines to arrive. I was on duty that night,” Espinosa said. “A lot of the alarms we get are small fires or false alarms, so you never know what you're going to get. It was devastating for the county of Ventura, and it was the biggest fire I've ever had in my career.”


Bellows, who is in her first season with the U.S. beach handball program, decided to join her local fire department in Colorado after meeting a female volleyball player and learning that she was a firefighter.


“I thought that was so cool. I really started to research it and the first Fire Academy training program I could join was starting in three days,” Bellows said. “That was all I thought about for the next three days; do I want to jump into this head on? I decided it was the right move.”


Espinosa and Bellows both agreed that some of the skills needed for firefighting can also be applied to playing beach handball.


“Firefighting is like the ultimate team sport. There's so much crossover I can think of, how the approach to firefighting really translates into a successful approach in beach handball,” Bellows said.

 

“You're not going to be able to accomplish anything as an individual in either arena. In firefighting, there's a huge array of skills that people probably don't even realize you need; it takes training to become proficient and perfect in those. It’s the same with handball and any other sport, as you have to take it upon yourself as an individual player to work out and fine-tune all of your skills.”


Espinosa also mentioned the essential ability of performing under pressure.


“There are a lot of intense situations in both firefighting and handball," Espinosa said. "There’s pressure in public environments to perform as a paramedic during emergency calls, and obviously the same goes for any sport. You have to be able to perform under pressure.”


Both athletes are competing at the inaugural World Beach Games this month in Doha, Qatar as part of the American beach handball delegation. 

 

According to Bellows, the women’s team has great chemistry and is focused on hopefully bringing a medal home from Qatar.


“During our training camp in Greece last year, we really had some time to mesh together as a team. That’s when we started to realize we have amazing team chemistry,” Bellows said. “We love training together, we're so excited to go and we're just hungry to do well. I can't wait to see what we're going to accomplish in Qatar.”

 

The two also voiced their excitement for their sport to gain more exposure through a large international event.


“I'm really excited for Qatar, but I’m also excited for beach handball to get more exposure. Through this competition, hopefully people can watch on television and see what our sport is," Espinosa said.

 

"I really think beach handball could be huge. I know the potential is there; if someone were to walk by a game and watch, anybody would be interested in it. It just has so much potential, especially here in the US with all the beaches we have.