A Good Sport: Law student co-founded Detroit Handball Club

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Photos courtesy of Joe Williams

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Law student Joe Williams is zeroing-in on business law at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law.

“But I’m not sure exactly what that looks like,” he says. “I like to joke with my law school friends that I’m going to specialize in the ‘up-and-coming legal field of handball law.’”

A co-founder of the Detroit Handball Club, Williams aims to make this one of the top handball clubs in the world in the next 15 to 20 years.

“Even if it takes 50 to 100 years, that’s a goal that we’re striving for,” he says.

Williams co-founded the club last summer with his brothers Miguel and Christopher, shortly after returning home from playing for a small Danish club last spring.

He had competed internationally for the United States U-21 National Team for a few years, and felt there was a lot of work to be done off the court in order to grow the sport stateside.

“I felt the way handball was presented to the general population was ineffective—matches between clubs were seldom marketed to the public, and they were often scheduled at inconvenient times and locations,” he says.

“The mission of the Detroit Handball Club is to make the spectacular sport of handball—also known as team handball—more accessible to the public. This approach forces us to be creative, and gives us the chance to partner with some great organizations like ComePlayDetroit, the Detroit Soccer District, the Detroit City Fieldhouse, the Joe Dumars Fieldhouse, Detroit Sports Commission, and several others.”

The club hopes to play several matches this year against teams from across the U.S., Canada, and France, subject to the Coronavirus crisis. Home contests are played at the Detroit City Fieldhouse, 3401 E Lafayette, Detroit.

The Detroit Club also was selected to host the 2020 USA Team Handball National Championship. Originally scheduled May 8-10 at the TCF Center (formerly Cobo Hall), it will be rescheduled in July/August.

“This is the biggest handball event in North America, and serves as the tryout for the United States National Team,” Williams says. “I’m chairman of the Local Organizing Committee, and have had a lot of fun organizing the event. I’m biased, but I predict that the Detroit Handball Club will win the national championship this year!”

Williams is looking for individuals and organizations to partner with USA Team Handball for May’s National Championship. His plans to finalize a partnership with Telekom Veszprem, one of top professional handball clubs in the world, were disrupted in mid-March by the Covid-19 travel restrictions; however, he still plans on making the trip to Hungary once it becomes possible.  
“The partnership will involve a number of programs, including player exchanges, coach exchanges, and cross-promoting the Detroit HC and Veszprem brands,” he says. “We’re the first club in North America to form a partnership like this, and I’m very excited about it.”

Closing in on the end of his 1L year at Detroit Mercy Law, Williams—who is a Dean’s Fellow and member of Delta Theta Phi—is pleased the law school has been on board with his sports interests. He says the school reminds him of his undergraduate experience at Hope College, where he played team handball and varsity lacrosse while earning his bachelor’s degree in history.

“The professors and administrators genuinely care about their students as people,” he says. “I’ll never forget, during one of my first visits to UDM Law, several administrators took the time to get to know me as a person and were extremely supportive of my goals and career with handball. That support has persisted today, which has really meant a lot to me.”

The legal field seemed a natural career path for Williams, and his interest was stoked after realizing that many people he admired—including entrepreneurs Stephen Ross and the late Peter Huizenga—were attorneys. He also was inspired by an internship for the Mike Cox Law Firm while a student at Detroit Catholic Central High School, where he was on the Mock Trial teams.

Williams believes his love of sports helps him achieve a good work-life balance and makes him an effective law student.

“Whether it’s through physical activity or social interaction, sports tend to improve lives,” he says. “Most athletes agree that the goal setting and work ethic required to compete in sports are important in life, but I also believe that simply staying active and being involved in a group like a recreational sports team are just as important to a happy and healthy life.”

Before law school, Williams worked for Global Health Charities, a Farmington-based nonprofit.

“GHC is an amazing organization that I wish more people knew about,” he says. “It supplies pregnant mothers in some of the most dire situations on earth with supplies to have a clean birth. To date, they’ve provided supplies to over 11,000 mothers in over a dozen countries, like Nigeria, Myanmar, Syria, and Haiti.

“I’m still active with GHC, and have helped plan and operate events like their annual fund-raising gala.”

In his leisure time, Williams enjoys reading books about Michigan history and playing lacrosse with his four brothers; and he also is a member of the Detroit chapter of Young Catholic Professionals.

A native of Farmington Hills where he still makes his home, Williams plans to move to the Motor City in the next couple of years, and enjoys the law school’s location in the heart of downtown Detroit.

“It’s been very inspiring and exciting—I really love spending time in the city,” he says. “I feel energized every time I’m downtown. People here take pride in what they do and where they come from, and that’s something I really appreciate.

“The dynamic, entrepreneurial spirit in Detroit is extremely inspiring. There’s a tradition of innovation and open-mindedness here that really makes Detroit a special place, and pairs well with what I am trying to achieve with the Detroit Handball Club.”

 

Not your Grandpa’s handball

Handball, or team handball, was developed in Denmark, Sweden and Germany in the late 19th century.

It is a fast-paced, high-scoring sport, played between two teams on a court approximately the size of a basketball court.

Seven players, including a goalkeeper, from each team try to outscore their opponent by throwing a volleyball-sized ball into their opponent’s net.

Handball is one of the most popular Olympic sports in the world. Handball had the second highest viewership of any sport during the 2016 Olympics, and nearly 1 billion people tuned into 2019 IHF Handball World Championship.

Countries like Germany, France, and Denmark are home to some of the top professional clubs in the world, which catalyze millions of dollars in economic impact every year.

The Detroit Handball Club, 3401 E. Lafayette, Detroit, is looking for athletes who want to compete for Detroit. When the coronavirus pandemic dies down, the Club will hold tryouts and will be open to any and all newcomers.

For more information, visit detroithandball.com or email detroithandball club@gmail.com.



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