Charlie White is a key player on the U.S. men’s beach handball team
Santa Monica resident Charlie White excels at games on and off the court.
A former Division 1 soccer player at Vanderbilt University, White now represents the United States as a member of the U.S. Men’s Beach Handball national team.
Born in San Pedro, White spent his childhood moving around with his family as a result of his father’s career as a military officer. Before attending high school in San Francisco, he lived in Hawaii, Puerto Rico, New Jersey and New Mexico.
After graduating from college and art school, White worked at various tech companies in the Bay Area, before eventually going into video game design.
“I moved down to Santa Monica, also for another game company, thinking, ‘[I’ve] got to get out of the Bay Area and I’ll just come down here for the summer,’” White recalled. “That was seven years ago, and I never left. I love it here.”
He has contributed to several successful games, including CityVille, which once held the record for the most active game users on Facebook.
While adjusting to his new environment, White started looking for activities to take part in outside of work. Thus began his play in niche sports, but it wasn’t until he took up beach handball that his passion was stoked.
“For a long time, I just felt like I was kind of lost,” White said. “I was just working in tech. And I’d do recreational sports on the side, but I didn’t really have any meaning or purpose. It wasn’t until I moved down to LA and got involved in beach handball [that] I felt like my life had meaning again.”
White began his beach handball career in club tournaments, concerned about his eligibility for the American national team. Although he is 6 feet 2 inches tall, that is still shorter than the average height of professional players. When White was invited to a training camp with the team, he felt he could compete and excel.
Beach handball is a relatively new sport, having been played on an organized international level for about two decades. This creates a lack of established teams, allowing the American team to compete with just about any country.
“We have one of the best, maybe one of the most talented teams in the world,” White said. “And we have all these guys that didn’t grow up playing beach handball. You can’t really do that with any other sport that I know of. It’s a really unique situation.”
White has taken full advantage, traveling the world with the rest of the team. Coming from a background in soccer, where national pride is so important to the sport, he understands the value of being able to represent his country.
Perhaps just as important, White enjoys playing.
“Beach handball itself is a super exciting sport,” White said. “There [are] tons of goals. The offense always has an advantage. It’s like four on three, basically, because they have three defenders plus the goalie. So it’s a fun game.”
Over the past few years, White has competed in a variety of tournaments and events. One of his favorite memories is winning a gold medal with the USA team at the 2019 IHF North America and Caribbean Championships in Trinidad and Tobago. White was the leading scorer and also scored a Golden Goal in the final championship game against Mexico. It was a historic win for the USA team and qualified the U.S. for the ANOC World Beach Games in Qatar and the IFH Beach Handball World Championships in Italy.
White has received several other unique opportunities as a result of his time on the team. One of the trainers knew a casting director for the Fox game show “Ultimate Tag,” who interviewed White and cast him. White competed in the premiere episode and won $10,000. During the filming, White earned the nickname “Beast Mode” by his teammates.
The show, taped at a time when White was unsure if he’d get a serious shot at beach handball, gave him confidence.
“I’m standing up on top of this big pyramid and there’s all these cameras and lights flashing, and the crowd’s cheering down below,” White remembered. “I felt like if I never made the USA team, at least it brought me this. All that training and all that hard work, at least I got to experience this moment.”
During the pandemic, White has continued his game design work remotely. As for beach handball, he hopes to help bring more international success to the American team and is grateful for what he has been through so far. In 2022, the USA is hosting the World Games in Birmingham, Alabama, which will be a great opportunity to showcase the sport.
“It’s changed my life, [but] I didn’t even know what I was looking for or that I was missing it,” White said. “You put in all the work, you start training, you start practicing. You start going to these tournaments. You’re paying more attention to everything you do in your life … professionally, too, with all the gaming stuff. I really had more ownership of a lot of the projects. And I really was able to make more of an impact on those things.”
Follow White on Instagram @charlie_white
— Alex Hutton