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allan Sherrill

Watsonville YMCA
Inducted as a Player in 2005

by Jim Tamagni

Alan was born in Santa Maria, California on December 2, 1948. Who would have suspected how that December birth date would influence his handball career 45 years later? Alan attended UC Santa Barbara from 1968 to 1971 where he got his first taste of handball at age 20. His roommates talked him into trying to play handball at the Goleta, CA YMCA, where he played about 10 times. Normally, history would say Alan caught the handball bug like the rest of us and he just kept on playing, but that was not to be the case. In fact, he would not pick up a handball for another 10 years.  

He became a Vista Volunteer, which is the statewide equivalent of the Peace Corps. After a year of working for free he became a county worker, finally pulling down a real paycheck. Tiring of that rich and famous lifestyle, he quickly packed up his bags and headed for South America, wandering across the continent looking for the meaning of life while helping to burn the rainforests. Eventually the smokes ran out and he ended up in Watsonville CA, where he now works at a county medical center. 

It was at the Watsonville YMCA where he got reintroduced to handball. Dropping in at the Y looking for someone with whom to play racquetball, he quickly found out that there were no racquetball players there. . . only handball players. All of us should have been so lucky. Forced to play handball, he soon caught the fever and found himself playing five and a half days a week, every week. He was now 30 years old and in his physical prime. He rode his bike a thousand miles a month and continues to do so today. He had speed, endurance and no off hand. For fifteen years he labored in anonymity getting beat by everyone, but also learning from everyone. 

Finally, in his first Veteran Master (45) National 4 wall singles he broke through. Seeded 13th, he ran through the draw, which included Bill Peoples, Don Chamberlain, John Nett, Danny Carillo, Jim Ward and Chuck Reeve, to win it all . Of course, thanks to his December birth date he was able to play as a 44 year old, being the youngest man in the draw. His birth date would indirectly have an impact on most of his next twelve national titles. Yes that is right . . . Alan has won twelve national titles in 3- and 4-wall, including singles and doubles. He has slammed in both 3- and 4-wall, which is no small feat. 

Most of us would love to get into just one national final let alone twelve. But Alan also has twelve second place finishes, meaning he has been in the finals of 24 national championships. Not only is he a USHA grandmaster (10 or more USHA master titles), he likes to say he also is a Grandmaster in second places. Plus, he has achieved a “second place slam” both in 3- and 4-wall. Again, no small feat.

In the early days Alan would pick up aluminum cans while riding his bike and that was how he would finance his airfare to the nationals. Little did he know that that aluminum would turn to gold twelve times. When asked what his biggest handball moments were, they were not what you expected. Beating Jerry Fagundes for the first time in a tournament at Chabot College and losing to Pat Kirby in the Berkeley Nationals in a tiebreaker were his two best memories. I think there are still a lot more to come! 

As long as Alan avoids any more collisions with deer (two in the last two years), his endurance, speed, birth date and tenacity will keep him in the winners circle for years to come. It is great to see a player develop his skill through hard work and practice and earn his way into the NCHA Hall of Fame.