Today the Venice Paparazzi spotlight shines on US Handball ambassador Michael Koss.
The Venice Paparazzi’s “In the Spotlight” is an interview series that highlights people and organizations in the Venice community. The purpose is to shine a light on all the positive things being done by the fantastic folks in our town!
What is the name of your organization and what does it do?
I am an ambassador of the US Handball Association(USHA). We are the only governing body for Handball in the US, and hold over 100 tournaments a year.
Locally, I run the Facebook group “Venice Beach Handball Players.”
Who helps run the organization and who participates?
The current USHA President is LeaAnn Martin. In addition, 16 people are serving on the Board of Directors, and there are Ambassadors all over the country.
How long has your group been around? Why and how did you get started? Where did the idea or inspiration come from?
USHA has been around since 1951, but handball has been played for thousands of years in different forms. As a teenager in Brooklyn, NY, I enjoyed playing basketball and had a pretty solid jump shot. One day I brought my tall friend Vinny to play, assuming he would make some layups. He was awful, and I ridiculed him endlessly. Finally, he yelled back at me that he only plays handball, and I didn’t even know what it was, so I had him teach me. I was terrible at it at first, but I loved it and haven’t stopped playing since. I did get better.
How many events have your hosted? Share with us one of your favorite event/memories:
USHA runs over 100 tournaments a year around the country, including one of my favorites, the Junior Nationals, right here at Venice Beach. It’s great to see the young players picking up the game and playing so well.
In 2018, along with my partner Ram Williams, I came in 2nd in the B Doubles division. However, it was more fun than when I lost in the first round of the A Doubles division a year later!
How does your organization/events give back to the community?
We encourage everyone to play handball! In addition, we have taught and played with tourists, kids, and players from other sports.
We have held tournaments to help local families.
How are you surviving Covid-19 and the lockdowns? What moves or pivots has your organization made?
It has been a rough year as our favorite courts at Venice Beach have been closed due to the pandemic. Players have been using other courts in the LA area to get some games in, but nothing compares to playing at Venice Beach!
I have been spending the time advocating for the future protection of the Venice Beach Handball courts in the form of permanent protective fencing and lighting. I’ve had many meetings with the Department of Recreation and Parks and LA City Council. Also, connecting with the superb Alex and Edizen from Venice Paparazzi and the other recreational groups at Venice Beach in forming Team Venice!
What support do you need? How can one help your organization?
Handball does not get the recognition it truly deserves. It has long been known as “The Perfect Game”. Come find out why! We would be happy to teach you!
I think it would be great if the Venice community/businesses would come out and support our tournaments, whether it’s donating prize money/gift certificates or just coming out to watch these truly spectacular athletes at our tournaments.
How will you celebrate “post covid” times?
I am going to hug everyone I know, starting with Alex and Edizen!
Anything else that you want to share with our readers? Announcements, accomplishments, awards received, upcoming events, etc
THE NEED FOR FENCING FOR THE HANDBALL COURTS IS HUGE! The courts just re-opened, and unfortunately Rec & Parks has already had to repaint the court walls a few times due to graffiti. And graffiti has always been the least of the issues at the courts.
L.A. is due to fully lift all covid restrictions, and we will be working with the Park Department to see how quickly we can get some BIG tournaments going. Stay tuned to Venice Paparazzi for info!
A FEW PERSONAL QUESTIONS:
Achieving anything you set out to do. It can be as small as making a great sandwich.
What is the best advice you have received:
As a kid, I was told I was too short to play centerfield for the NY Yankees and too moronic to be President.
Buy, don’t rent.
Favorite affirmation, mantra, or quote:
“Become like water.”
Anything else you want to share about yourself to the world? Fun facts or accomplishments?
I am fully vaccinated, and I hope everyone else will be soon!
I once scored four touchdowns in a game at Polk High. Oh, wait, that was Al Bundy. Speaking of Ed O’Neill, he is a handball player and used to come to play at Venice Beach.
So hard to explain other than to say the vibe is incredible there! I’m always smiling when I’m here!
What do you do for fun in Venice?
I also love the music festival, the art festival, riding my bike around, and eating/drinking at all the great places here.
What is your craziest or fondest Venice experience?
I’ve seen many celebrities here, but my favorite moment was watching a guy in a full Spider-man costume play an entire game of basketball. He was pretty good too! I couldn’t stop laughing!
Anything else about Venice that you would like to say?
I’m excited about the future at Venice Beach. So many great ideas have come from the Team Venice coalition, and the Supervisors at the Recreation & Parks department have shared some exciting things that they are working on.
Any shout-outs or thank you’s?
So many! Thanks to Alex & Edizen, you guys have been so helpful throughout the last year with bringing attention to the needs of the Handball Courts! My Handball Generals that helped me whenever I asked: Gil Bartal, Freddy Reyes, Michael Ewing, and Alex Ruvalcaba! All great players and even greater people! My awesome wife Laura, for staying patient with me as I would bounce ideas off her and have her proofread all my correspondences with city council and the parks department. And all the people that signed and shared my petition!
Who should Venice Paparazzi cast the spotlight on next?
George Francisco of the Venice Chamber of Commerce.