By Laura Amato
Shkysi Cummings is never surprised when she hears the question.
Why handball? And, more often, why play handball? And, even more often, how exactly do you play handball?
Cummings takes it all in stride, answering questions, explaining rules, and then for good measure, going out and winning more than 50 regular-season games over the course of her career at Bayside High School.
Now, the Commodores grad is ready for the next round of questions, turning her attention to life after high school.
“Some people in school, like my friends and everything, are always a little confused,” Cummings said of the usual reaction to the sport. “They’re always asking how did I get so good and about the rules and just handball in general. But they’re all questions I’ve got an answer to. I just love playing this sport.”
Cummings, who received a Wingate Award for her accomplishments in the sport this year, was first introduced to handball when she was just 8 years old. Her parents both played the sport and it quickly became a family affair, discussing technique and practice sessions at the dinner table.
“I grew up around handball,” Cummings said. “My parents, both mom and dad, played handball when I was younger and so does my sister. So I just grew up around the sport. That’s been my everything for as long as I can remember.”
It didn’t take long for Cummings to realize she wasn’t just good at the sport – she was dominant. She went a perfect 14-0 in games this season, posting 55 aces and 30 kills, and was the de facto leader at Bayside over the course of her career.
Cummings led the Commodores to three city championships and won the Individual Tournament and Invitational Tournament titles twice during her time at Bayside.
Her numbers may make it seem as if Cummings breezed through the competition, but she never stopped challenging herself, always looking for the next opportunity.
“When I came to a point where I knew I was good at handball, my main focus was just trying to take it to the next level,” Cummings said. “I wanted to play in actual tournaments, play with people who are as talented as me, and that’s been a success so far. I’m always trying to challenge myself.”
Cummings also played basketball and even teamed up with her younger sister, Shnae, in doubles tennis this season. The pair finished third in the city tournament this fall, and Cummings is proud of everything she accomplished athletically in her final high-school year.
“It’s been an absolutely great year for me,” she said. “I don’t have any reason to complain. I want to play some more tennis, too. That’s been a good sport for me as well.”
Cummings is keeping her sports options open, but she’s not willing to give up on handball any time soon — even if there are more questions than answers when it comes to competing at the college level. She’s been playing forever, and while some people might not understand the sport, Cummings can’t imagine her life without it.
“It has not reached college yet, but there’s always other opportunities outside of the school team,” Cummings said. “I’m not giving this up any time soon.”