Success4Kids helps young people with the opportunity to play the sport of handball in a safe and structured environment. James Reitmyer, coach and mentor and Ken Dannenbaum co-founder of Success4Kids discuss the program.
structured environment. Joining me tonight to talk about the program is James Reitmyer, coach and mentor for Success Kids, and Ken Dannenbaum, co-founder of Success Kids. Gentlemen, thank you for joining us on "Horizonte." Let's start, ken, with the founding of this program. How did it begin?
Ken Dannenbaum: We started this program about 10 years ago, a young man named Jerry Bernard who happens to be my age, I decided to help grow handball and help them become better people.
José Cárdenas: Why handball? There are many ways to help and you chose this one in particular.
Ken Dannenbaum: well we both played handball and we have a passion for handball. And there are eight handball courts at every school in western and south Phoenix. Every high school in Phoenix. And every day at the schools on the west and south side of Phoenix there's approximately 100 kids playing handball, unorganized, maybe not playing by the rules but playing. So we realized that that was a very easy transition for us took back in.
José Cárdenas: Interest was already there.
Ken Dannenbaum: Interest was already there.
José Cárdenas: And you guys got involved with a little bit of a different focus which was indoor handball.
Ken Dannenbaum: And the reason we did that was because 98% of the people that play four wall indoor handball are on an extremely positive path in life. Today, these kids are playing big ball outside, and there's not quite as many people on a positive path in life. We try to transition them from the three wall game to the indoor game. We take them to various tournaments across the country so they can interact with other kids, and then they see how successful they can be. 98% of people who play handball are on a positive path in life.
José Cárdenas: I want to talk about some of the successes your program has had with some of these kids. But one of the reasons for handball as opposed to let's say basketball or football is it's kind of a great equalizer. Anybody can play it.
James Reitmyer: It's one of the most -- we call it the perfect game. You can play it indoors, outdoors, there's so many different types of handball, as well. Ken touched on two of the major ones but we have one wall with the big ball, one wall with a small play, it's Ireland's national game and it's a game you can play almost in a gymnasium.
José Cárdenas: It doesn't matter how big or small you are.
James Reitmyer: It seems like some of the smaller guys get around the court faster than the big guys. It's a phenomenal game. I have a passion for it, been playing it for 55 years myself and still play the game and love it.
José Cárdenas: Let's talk a little bit about some of the other organizations involved in the sport itself and how you interact with them. There's the United States handball association.
James Reitmyer: United States handball association is our major company that we represent and they provide coaching, instructions, and certifications. And then the newest organization, world players of handball, wph, both of them you can find online, they basically are driving the game of handball because a lot of people say it's a dying sport but I will be now it's a very fast-growing sport.
José Cárdenas:And right now, you're focused on three high schools.
James Reitmyer: We're focused on three high schools. There's about I would say 12 schools in the Phoenix area that have eight to twelve courts. And kids are playing there every day. So what we're trying to do is find out how many players there are, and try to guide them into a competitive position. You can start in elementary schools, too, which is another avenue we're looking for.
José Cárdenas: What is your involvement? How many people are involved? There's a number of coaches.
James Reitmyer: Our executive director Todd Hollister and I are going to two basic high schools right now and we're going to try to get our foot in the door with a third, Carl Hayden and we try to find out how many kids are just having fun on a lunch hour and who would like to make it more of a competitive game and learn the rules of the game.
José Cárdenas: Once or twice a week.
James Reitmyer: Exactly.
José Cárdenas: And who are the other two schools.
James Reitmyer: North high school and south melon high school.
José Cárdenas: Now, ken, you touched on this a little bit and tim has mentioned the success, as well, but your program, you've touched several hundred kids over the years or so that you've been involved. You've produced some pretty serious competitors.
Ken Dannenbaum: Yes, we have. We have a young man, Edgar Medena who went to south mountain high school, he won the national a division championship two or three years ago. There are only 15 people that can say they ever won a national championship in the a division in handball, maybe , and we have other students that have done very, very well. We have young men and women who have gone through college. They've graduated through the game of handball. I talked to one of them's parents last week and he's number three in his class at Maryville high school and he's now an engineer, works for adot. We have another young man who got a full ride scholarship to Arizona state and we have people that are on a positive path in life. One of our young man from a few years ago, Richard and I were very good friends and he's a very good handball player and he now works for the sheriff's department. One day Richard, I used to have a ford lightning pickup. It will go zero to 60 in 5.3 seconds and I used to lend my truck out to my kids and one time Richard said thank you for letting me use the truck. I have two rules, the first rule is that you be careful and the second is that there's no drinking and he said don't worry, I don't drink. I said what do you mean? I've heard you talk about drinking before. He says yeah but if you play handball, you can't drink.
José Cárdenas: And that's a big part of the program right. Because in addition to teaching kids how to play the game, exposing them to the competitive aspects of it, as I understand it you have life coaches, as well.
Ken Dannenbaum: That's correct.
José Cárdenas: Tell us about that.
Ken Dannenbaum: We have a young lady, Alicia Cooper, she's a life coach. She's talked to our young men about nutrition. We hope to have her talk to our people a couple of times every two months or so. She's allowing us to show the video to all of the handball groups around the country. What I do, I'm 65 years old, I had to quit playing the game five years ago after my third back surgery. I don't teach very much about handball anymore. I leave that to jim and other guys than can play. Jim's 75years old and he can --
José Cárdenas: I don't believe it. You look terrific, maybe handball's the secret. So other people watching the program, that will be part of it.
Ken Dannenbaum: There are very few kids that can beat Jim in handball. So I focus on life skills. So one of the first things we do is when we go out, we go to a tournament, we talk about the proper way to eat so we always talk about your left hand goes in your lap and this is the hand that you eat with and you can't put this one up here and you can't go to sleep on the table and things like that. That's really huge. I go to restaurants today and I see young men and women, very good-looking young men and women and they're crunched over like this eating and it looks like they're at the chow hall in southeast Asia which they're not. We teach them things like that.
José Cárdenas: Let me ask tim about that. It's hard for me to believe that you're 75 , you look terrific but what kind of reaction do you get from the kids when you talk about the other stuff? I can understand why they would be excited about the sports part of it but at least initially do you see them rolling their eyes and wondering why you're even talking about this stuff?
James Reitmyer: The sports part is a blast, it's a fun thing to do. But it gives me as a coach along with our other coaches a chance to physically, you know, and mentally interact with one another. I talk about nutrition, I talk about --
José Cárdenas: And when you talk about that kind of stuff, what kind of reaction do you get?
James Reitmyer: They agree. They think it's a good idea and in order to qualify for a travel team, you have to have good grades, you've got to have -- I ask them regularly how's your grades coming? Well, we've got a little work to do. So we talk about that. The kids are not -- they're gaining some weight, we're trying to monitor that and we're trying to do everything we can to just put them on a positive path, not just to be better handball players because we can do drills all day long. To be a good player, you've got to eat right, you have to be in physically good condition and have good habits.
José Cárdenas: So they respond.
James Reitmyer: And they absolutely love Dr. cooper's presentations. They were just flabbergasted.
José Cárdenas: We're almost out of time. We did put the website up on the screen. How can people get involved and how can they help?
Ken Dannenbaum: Well, if they can send their donations in to one of those addresses, then we can reach kids more. We can reach more children. More kids. We do get funding from the usha and various grants, the Jake Plumber foundation is one of the people that contributes every year for us. Jake plumber's a handball player.
José Cárdenas: And if people want to get involved in actual instruction, they can do that, too?
Ken Dannenbaum: They can do that also because we need coaches.
James Reitmyer: We're looking for volunteers.
José Cárdenas: We're out of time, thank you for having us.
José Cárdenas: That is our show for tonight. From all of us here at eight and "Horizonte," I'm José Cárdenas, have a good night.
James Reitmyer:Coach and Mentor, Success4Kids; Ken Dannenbaum:Co-Founder, Success4Kids;