Thwack, wshhhhhhhh, the sound of the ball reverberates inside the walls as players jostle for position. The movements range from cheetah-like sprints to backpedaling like a center-fielder. It is obscure, unknown, and uncelebrated.
Handball is a game that is probably unfamiliar to most, or as some people like to call it, wall-ball. (not to be confused with the Olympic sport handball)
It is essentially racquetball without a racket. But there is something special about this sport that is hard to explain, unless you play it for yourself.
I was first introduced to handball by my friend Sean. His family had been playing it for years, and he decided his “Senior Project” was going to be a handball tournament.
He invited me to play being the 5-foot-9, 155 pound stellar athlete that I was. But it turns out this game favors speed and intelligence, over brute strength and height.
If you are unfamiliar with racquetball or handball, the concept is simple: Hit the ball against the wall and return it before it bounces two times. One bounce, you good—two bounce, you lose.
Obviously, there are more guidelines than that, but for starters sake, that’s good enough. Bottom line is the game is simple.
I’m not a handball expert, so don’t consider me a messiah of information. I’m just a dude who has re-found my love for this sport during these unprecedented times.
There is just something so beautiful and magnetic that keeps my silhouette returning to the wall. And keep in mind this is coming from a basketball coach and someone whose favorite sport will probably always be hoops.
As fun as it is shooting around, the simplicity of thwacking a ball resonates with my primal instincts. As I write this, I’m thinking about that desolate wall (and the cute girl I just saw at the store).
Maybe it runs in my family; my Grandma Nan was a heck of a tennis player, and there are some striking similarities between the two games.
But I think it has to do with the fast-paced nature of the sport. There is no downtime once the ball is live, you constantly need to be shuffling your feet, plotting your next shot, and trash-talking your opponent. Ok maybe not spitting ish, but my friend is from Jersey.
On top of that, it is arguably one of the best all-around workouts, specifically in terms of developing fast-twitch muscles. You’re either swinging your arm, running, reacting, or contorting your body in a weird angle akin to a UFC submission hold.
But beyond all that I think the reason I love this game is because of the comradery it builds. There is something about playing an obscure sport that seemingly bonds people together.
Some of my favorite memories, while in the transition summer between high school and college, was hitting the handball courts with a couple of buddies, brews, and blunts, and getting at it. Lots of sweat included.
Forty-year-old men, teenagers, and everyone in-between traveled down to Ridgecrest that Summer and competed with a rabbit-like fervor.
The only thing that separated us, was the dividers between the two courts.