This week, the Handball/Wallball community received a scare in one of their own – William Polanco. Though it is highly unlikely that someone reading this article wouldn’t know William, William is known by many names within the community: ‘Mr. Handball’, ‘Mr. International’, Ambassador for the sport of Handball/Wallball, Lefty Willie, and many more. William was in the hospital after suffering cardiac arrest which left his family, friends, and the entire community in shock and anxious. Irrespective of which name you know William by, it is undoubtedly true that William Polanco is one of the true greats of our sport, both as an athlete and contributor.
Born in the Dominican Republic, William ‘Willie’ Polanco started playing handball at an early age with his older cousin. A multi-sport athlete, Willie immediately fell in love with Handball/Wallball and how instantaneously rewarding it can be – hit a great shot and reap the benefits immediately. Growing up in the era of John ‘Rookie’ Wright, Ray Lopez, ‘Lefty’ George Figueroa, and Emmitt Fitzpatrick (just to name a few), it can be difficult to make a name for yourself and your park. Though he was proficient in singles play, Willie decided to focus his talents on the art of doubles. Within a short period of time, he was recognized as the premier right-side doubles player of his generation. As it would be a challenge of its own to list all of Polanco’s accolades, we have highlighted some of his most impressive accomplishments over the past two (2) decades:
• 5x World Doubles Champion (2003, 2006, 2009, 2015 Smallball and Big-Ball)
• 1x World Singles Champion (2006)
• 5x USHA National Smallball Champion (2008-2010, 2012, 2014)
• 1x USHA National Big-Ball Champion (2008)
• 7x European Wallball Tour Champion (2x 2013, 5x 2015)
It is easy to get lost in his Handball/Wallball accomplishments and not realize that Willie has also been one of the key driving forces in progressing our sport forward. Willie has served on the board of directors for the USHA, advised international Wallball councils, hosted Wallball’s first entry into the World Games in Cali, Colombia (2013), and traveled to over a dozen nations to spread the sport, while performing clinics for children. Most recently, Willie spent time on the European pro tour performing clinics, giving demonstrations, and competing at the highest level in front of hundreds of fans and players. A testament to his giving nature, you will be pressed to find a Wallball playing child who does not own a signed pair of William Polanco gloves or shirt/jersey from his time on the tour.
Every sport has their heroes, champions, ambassadors, and philanthropists. Handball and Wallball are lucky to have an individual who has all of these attributes – thank you for everything you do Willie and we all wish you a very speedy recovery!