Tavo Slaps 2016

This is the first time our new Player of the Week has graced the pages of our website, wallballworld.com. However, based on his reputation you’d be surprised to know that he never actually won a major pro singles title, until this year. Although to many he is regarded as one of the best players in NYC just a few short months ago he was on the verge of quitting wallball (handball)…and we’re so glad he didn’t! Congratulations to the most talented, humble and courteous athlete to ever earn the title, Player of the Week – Gustavo “Tavo” Ruiz.

What inspired you to play wallball?

A girlfriend of mine invited me to play when I was 15. I played just about every sport out there and excelled at everything which wasn’t really a challenge for me. Once I picked up a wallball I was hooked. I never went back to any other sport.

What/who inspired you to compete competitively?

I’ve been competitive all my life but I clearly remember one day going down to W4th street and seeing Gio when I was 16. I was so fascinated with the skill and athleticism necessary to compete at his level. I knew I had what it took to be that good but I was also aware of the work that had to be put in. I immediately started training like any professional athlete would. I do calisthenics and ride my bike every day. At that time I was playing at 28th street and 10th avenue in Manhattan. I knew if I wanted to compete with the best I had to step in the box at a more competitive park. And so I started seeking out the competition.

What inspires you in life?

Well, I have an 8 year old daughter named April who inspires me every day to be the best version of myself. I was young when I had her and everyday I’m learning and becoming better at being the Dad she needs me to be. I have a full time job and am working on my second job now. I also play wallball (handball) on the weekends and give her my trophies. In fact, last week she asked me for the 1st Place trophy on my way out to Red Bull Slaps and I could not disappoint her. I didn’t!

The only reason I’m still here competing is because of Rookie, Gio and Timbo. Watching them play inspires me to keep going in this sport. I thought of quitting last year because I got discouraged. I was placing in tournaments and couldn’t understand why I wasn’t winning. You guys don’t know how hard I train every day and that’s what makes me a champion…not the fact that I finally won the title, but the fact that I never gave up!

Tavo Slaps 2