Van Houten in net

Ithaca, N.Y. — Matt Van Houten grew up in the Ithaca area, went to Dryden High School and began his legal career working with the well-known local attorney Walter “Wally” Wiggins.

He continued to practice locally afterwards with the firm Holmberg, Galbraith, Van Houten and Miller.

Then his career took a sudden detour: to Colorado, where in 2012 the attorney became CEO of USA Team Handball.

Van Houten in net

It was an opportunity for Van Houten to promote and help the game he loves — even if it languishes in obscurity for many Americans.

“It’s not the one where you whack the ball against the wall,” Van Houten, 47, said, by way of explanation.

But Van Houten still hungered to return home.

He’s since made the move and opened his own law firm: The Van Houten Law Office.

A ribbon cutting ceremony was scheduled to be held Thursday afternoon for the new second-floor offices at Clinton Hall, 104-114 North Cayuga Street.

The mayor and other city officials were scheduled to be in attendance for the ceremony.

A real (hand)ball player

Van Houten is a handball fanatic.

A former USA National Team goalie, he has played club handball for West Point (89 grad) and the New York Athletic Club (NYAC), according to the team USA website.

“In addition to his playing career he has served as USA Team Handball’s Athlete’s Advisory Council (AAC) representative and as the Chair of the USOC’s AAC, representing all Olympic athletes.”

A quick look at his Twitter feed confirms his devotion to the sport.

“So angry that puts whiffleball and cornhole on Sportscenter today but can’t give any airtime to team handball,” Van Houten writes.

Van Houten (Photo taken by Jon Reis)

The move home

Van Houten said he liked being able to help handball but missed both working with people and being home in the Ithaca area.

The Albany Law School grad says he plans to do work related to bankruptcy, family issues, divorce, landlord-tenants, and civil litigation.

He also plans on doing more criminal defense work than he had been.

“I’m the goalie … I’m supposed to take responsibility and the goalie is the last line of defense,” he said.

Van Houten said he’s been surprised by how many former clients have already asked for his representation again.

“I’ve been really encouraged so far by the level of support I’ve gotten from the community,” he said. “The business is really growing.”

And what might be the best of all? He still gets to play handball.

“My current club team is the NY Athletic Club,” he says in an email, “and we are two time defending national champions.”


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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.