Handball is sometimes called "the chess of the court sports," because the
game requires a combination of physical and mental skills.
Handball is played with the same rules as racquetball -- minus the racket
and with a smaller and harder ball.
The ball used in handball is hard rubber and is about the size of a golf
ball. It is played on either a one-wall, three-wall or four-wall court. A
handball game lasts about 45 minutes.
Handball was invented before racquetball. As a matter of fact, racquetball
was invented by a former head of the United States Handball Association (USHA)
and is played on a handball court. Because of the popularity of racquetball,
many people think that handball is played on a racquetball court, but it is
just the opposite.
Gary Cruz is a letter carrier from Newport Beach, California. He says the
sport is sometimes confused with team handball, which is an Olympic sport
played mostly in Europe.
Cruz estimates that 20,000 people play organized handball. That number
goes up to 100,000 when you include the people nationwide who play outdoors
using any ball that they can find on any wall that is available.
Once a person has reached a competency in the sport, they play as long
as they can. Many players are still playing in their 70s.
"There is an estimated two million people who play handball in the world,
with most of them here in the U.S., Ireland and Canada," says Mark Carpenter.
He is the development coordinator with the USHA.
"The difficulty in getting started in the sport lies in the fact that you
need to get your hands in condition to hit the ball, and learn how to hit
the ball with your off hand," says Cruz. "It can take upwards to one year
before the game is fun."
Cruz summed up the difficulty beginners have with the sport by an analogy.
"Imagine if you are right handed, trying to use your left hand for any task
that you don't usually use it for -- such as writing," he explains.
"In handball, until you can overcome the coordination required to keep
the ball in play with your off hand, you are not competitive. This is the
learning curve, and it requires some patience to stay with it. Handball does
not have the luxury of the extension a racket gives you, so you must use your
head and anticipate where the ball will be and move your feet to get to the
As for careers, Carpenter says there aren't many related to the sport.
"There are not a lot of jobs that are full-time employment in the handball
field, unless you are working for the governing body of the sport of handball."
He says currently, three full-time employees and three part-time employees
work for the USHA. Those interested in careers related to handball could become
an instructor at a health club.
The USHA has a pro tour where the top pro makes around $25,000 a year and
the average pro pulls in around $6,000. There are six pro stops a year, plus
the four-wall nationals, which is like the Super Bowl of handball tournaments,
according to Carpenter.
The sport of handball is one of the most affordable games to pick up. "All
you need is a ball and a wall," says Carpenter, "and if the player prefers,
gloves and eye guards, which we highly recommend for safety reasons."
Steve Grow is a director of information technology from Portland, Oregon.
He says the costs associated with the game are minimal.
"All you need are balls, about $2.50 each, gloves, which cost about $20,
eye protection which can cost anywhere from $20 to $100, and a court that
can range from no fee to up to $10 per hour, depending on where you play,"
"Once players pick the sport up, they truly embrace it. It is rare for
someone to just walk away from the game," says Cruz. "Handball has been around
for many more years than racquetball."
U.S. Handball Association
2333 N. Tucson Blvd.
Southern California Handball Association
503 38th St.
Four Wall Handball Rules
A good summary
Links to various articles on the sport