By Aidan Sarazen
Latin School junior Julius Reiner didn’t invent Australian Handball. In fact, he didn’t even bring it to Latin (juniors AJ Marcus and Miles Baker did). Surprising, right? With all of his fervent marketing–from gathering announcements to t-shirt sales to clubs block games–you would think that Julius is the sole creator of Australian Handball. However, as junior Miles Baker says, “It doesn’t matter that Julius is not a founder because he is certainly the most avid promoter of the sport.” With the end of the 2013-2014 school year rapidly approaching, Julius’ promotion of Aussie has drastically increased, especially because of the May 21st end-of-the-year tournament.
Unfortunately for Julius and other members of the Aussie community at Latin, the timing of the May 21st tournament isn’t ideal. Latinpalooza falls on the same day, meaning there will be other special events like the Faculty vs. Varsity Boys Volleyball match going on at the time of the Aussie tournament. Additionally, the competition falls right in the midst of the most critical period of spring sports season. As Julius says, “It’s hard to get the best Latin athletes on the court” because most of them are already committed to a sports team. However, Julius remains optimistic. He is hoping that the tournament will get a turnout of at least twelve, which would equal the turnout of the last competition. In fact, Julius suspects that there is potential for a turnout of 16 or even 20 players.
The cause for this potential boosted turnout in the face of Latinpalooza has several reasons. One of these reasons is the numerous prizes that are going to be given out throughout the tournament. Gift cards are given out to the top finishers and to a lucky raffle winner. To Julius, the point of raffling off a prize is to show that “you don’t just have to be a talented Aussie player to win.” Oddly enough, these prizes have been the source of some controversy within the Latin community. A Latin senior, who wished to remain anonymous, told me that she doesn’t “think it’s right for prizes to be given out if there is no cause that the competition is supporting.” Other students even went as far to compare the Aussie tournament to gambling. While there has been a handful of criticisms of the prize system for the Aussie tournament, Julius informed me that all of the prize money comes from Latin’s clubs fund, which means that Mr. Cronister has approved the prizes for the competition. Still, some believe that money shouldn’t be involved. Freshman Clay Canfield says that he sees “more benefit from China Care’s ping pong tournament and K.I.C.K.’s soccer tournament” because most of the money spent on those tournaments is used to support an actual cause.
The controversy and appeal of the gift cards aren’t the only reason that more Latin students have been drawn to Aussie recently. Gym teachers throughout Latin’s upper, middle, and lower schools are beginning to incorporate Aussie into their classes. Latin students now have the opportunity to try Aussie at an earlier age. Mr. Sebastian, Latin’s longtime lower school gym teacher, told Julius that the sport was well received by his students. This early introduction has served as popularity boost for Aussie, as more middle schoolers play the sport during recess and are eager to show up at tournaments.
Looking into the future, Julius hopes that Aussie will expand beyond Latin. Julius has considered the possibility of “finding talent at other independent schools around the Chicago area,” and even “starting a league outside of Latin.” He knows that it is not realistic to practice every day. Rather, he envisions having practices once a week over the span of a few months so that fall, winter, and spring athletes all have the opportunity to participate.
Australian Handball will surely remain at Latin even after Julius leaves. Sophomore Dwight Brugh and freshman Alex Hagedorn are each skilled and dedicated players who will continue the sport within the community. And whether or not Julius starts an Australian Handball club in college, he will certainly never stop playing or loving the game.
Upcoming tournament information:
Where: Upper School Roof Gym
When: Wednesday, May 21st. 3:45 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.