Joe Kaplan

Joe Kaplan

By: Ben Brighton

There is an expression “behind every successful man there is a strong woman”. While usually remaining in the background they make their presence felt during presidential elections. Jackie Kennedy set trends in fashion, elegance and style for American women during her years in the white house. Michelle Obama’s charm and personality won over the public and helped garner votes for her husband.

player profiles-joe kaplan-3this oneIf you go back in history to the great explorers and adventurers, they were often gone on their journeys for months, even years. They often left wives who now became the wage earner – farming, sewing, taking in laundry from neighbors; whatever it took to keep the family whole.

The wives of professional athletes play an important role in their husband’s success. While the perks of fame and fortune are exhilarating, it does come with its own unique set of problems. The average working man has good days and bad days which he’ll share with an understanding wife. For a pro its different if your husband has struck out with the bases loaded in front of thousands of booing fans.

Which now brings us to the topic of marriage and handball. If you scan the list of singles champions for the last decade most of them were single. It takes a lot of dedication, time, focus and in some respect selfishness to become great not just in sports but in any worthwhile endeavor. That is why perhaps many successful people put off marriage until they’ve achieved their career goals.

Joe Kaplan is unique among champion players as he has successfully balanced family (his wife Carmen and two young sons Joe Jr. & Rafael), his physical job as a glazier and still managed to carve out a remarkable handball career. He is a multi-time champion. Last month, in Portland, at the World Championships Kaplan won the singles title and lost in the tie-breaker of the doubles final. Joe has done all this while balancing and giving equal attention to areas of his life.

Despite his diminutive stature; he is a powerhouse on the court, excelling in all phases of the game. Proficient on both offense and defense his aggression to win is tempered by his sportsmanship on and off the court.

One thing that I’ve enjoyed is the good natured kidding that Joe and I engage in regarding the merits of big vs. small ball. When Kaplan comments on the craziness and chaos that accompanies most big ball games in Coney Island, I’ll say to him “At least our games have color and excitement. You small ball games are so devoid of emotion they could be played in a library, hospital or church without disturbing anyone.” That always brings a laugh to those hearing the conversation.

In doubles he has had a successful partnership with long time friend Cesar Sala. The two represent all that is good about the sport which is often faced with criticism that it will never rise above a street game.

Joe, if it is tough juggling fatherhood and handball; think about when your kids are old enough to drive and borrow the car. You’ll have to lug your toolbox on the train.