Handball: a great all-around conditioning sport

David Gonzales
Contributing Writer

***image1***The courts at the Sembach gym have been creating a lot of noise lately, thanks to a small ball striking the front, side and glass back walls. No racquets are involved, though – only sweating players with goggles and gloves. This is American handball.

Handball is a fast-paced sport and can be played in an indoor four-wall court, a three-wall outdoor court or simply a one-wall outdoor facility. Since court facilities vary, the United States Handball Association conducts annual one-wall, three-wall and four-wall championships throughout the country. The rules of handball and racquetball are similar, and four-wall handball and racquetball share the same size four-wall space.  

From its introduction to the U.S. by Irish players in the 1800’s until 1951, various size courts were used to play handball. The United States Handball Association, founded in 1951 by Bob Kendler, standardized the size of the court to what we use today.  

The game is played by young and old alike and develops qualities associated with teamwork, personal courage, confidence, aggressiveness, determination, respect, self-discipline, camaraderie and a strong sense of fairness. Boxers use it as a method of cross training, and the President’s Council on Physical Fitness states that it is the best all-around conditioner.

In order to be the most effective, a player must be able to strike the ball equally well with either hand. Unlike tennis and racquetball, where the backhand is often used, a handball player must be able to go left or right. It is this shifting effect that boxers find useful in their training.  

Al Gerber, Program Manager for Department of Defense contractor ARTEL and USHA Handball Ambassador for Germany, said, “The beauty of this game is that a player must use both sides of the body. I’m not ambidextrous, but opponents can’t tell if I am right or left handed.”

There was a time when military services sent handball teams to the National Championships. The United States Marines still send a team. For more handball information, visit www.ushandball.org.