DELPHOS — Most local sports fans will remember Alex Recker.
Recker, a two-sport star at Delphos St. John’s in football and basketball, is remembered by local fans as an All-Ohio lineman who was toppling linebackers. It was an incredible run for the Blue Jays, who fashioned together a 42-3 record in a three-year span from 2008-2010 that included two state championships.
After graduating in 2011, Recker is still starring on the field even though it is in a completely new atmosphere.
Recker has now taken on a new sport, team handball. While especially popular in Europe and Asia, the sport has yet to reach its peak popularity-wise in the U.S. Recker is hoping to change that, and has himself in position to do so as a member of the USA National Handball Team.
Recker went to The Ohio State University after graduation to study engineering. In 2012, his freshman year, he was participating in handball as a club sport. The team he played for was competing in a national tournament. It just so happened that Javier Garcia Cuesta, the coach of the USA national team, was watching.
“He saw me play and thought I had a lot of potential,” Recker said. “He talked to me and wanted to know if I may be interested.”
Recker was indeed interested. He began to practice, and ultimately was named as a member of the national team in 2016. Bearl-Eaves Memorial Coliseum, located on the University of Auburn campus, is the official training site for the national handball team, so Recker has transferred to the school. Now majoring in civil engineering, he is pursuing his Olympic dream. He has a full day of classes from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Friday. The day ends after class with handball practice from 6 to 7:30 p.m. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, Recker lifts weights to gain strength for the grueling sport.
Coming from a football family, they didn’t catch on right away with Recker’s switch. The son of Steve and Lisa Recker of Delphos, his father is the defensive coordinator for Delphos St. John’s. His brother, Keith, is the head coach at Van Wert.
“We are a football family,” Recker said. “Soon after seeing it though, they became fans.”
For those unfamiliar with the sport, Recker described it as “fast-paced and hard hitting. The best way to describe it is soccer with your hands.” Teams of six outfielders and a goalie attempt to put the “handball” in their opponents’ goal. The team with the most goals after two 30 minute halves wins.
“It is fast-paced like basketball and has the hitting like football,” Recker said. He said the sport has the potential to take off in the U.S. because it gives athletes the chance to combine the skills from those two popular American sports.
“As soon as people begin to realize what this sport is about, I think its popularity will skyrocket,” Recker said.
Handball became an Olympic sport in 1936 in the Berlin games, but disappeared until 1972. It has been and Olympic sport since. The USA team has not qualified for the Olympics since the Atlanta games in 1996. Teams can qualify during the Pan-American Games (top three), the World Games (top two) or two European Games that will happen before 2020 (top three teams each tournament). The host country also receives an automatic bid. A total of 12 teams participate in the Olympics.
“It will be hard to qualify because of a relative lack of knowledge of the sport in the U.S. right now,” Recker said, “but we are in full time training. I think we have a pretty good shot.”
Reach Lance Mihm at 567-242-0409 or on Twitter @LanceMihm