American handball facts for kids
American handball is a sport in which players use their hands to hit a small rubber ball against a wall such that their opponent cannot do the same without it touching the ground twice. The three versions are four-wall, three-wall and one-wall. Each version can be played either by two players (singles), three players (cutthroat) or four players (doubles).
Games in which a ball is hit or thrown have been referenced as far back as Homer and ancient Egypt. A game similar to handball was played by Northern and Central Americans from 1500 BC, most famously by the Aztecs as the Mesoamerican ballgame. However, no references to a rebound game using a wall survive. It is thought that these ancient games more closely resembled a form of hand tennis. Further examples of similar games include the European-originated games of Basque pelota (or Jai-alai), Valencian frontó, International fronton and Welsh handball.
The first recorded game of striking a ball against a wall using a hand was in Scotland in 1427, when King James I ordered a cellar window in his palace courtyard to be blocked up, as it was interfering with his game. In Ireland, the earliest written record of a similar game is in the 1527 town statutes of Galway, which forbade the playing of ball games against the walls of the town. The first depiction of an Irish form of handball does not appear until 1785. The sport of handball in Ireland was eventually standardized as Gaelic handball. By the mid-19th century, Australians were playing a similar game, which developed into the modern sport of Australian handball.
In Treacherous Beauty, by Mark Jacob and Stephen H. Case, about the Arnold-Andre conspiracy, Major John Andre and General Sir Henry Clinton are said to have played a game called handball during the American Revolution. The earliest record of the modern game in the United States mentions two handball courts in San Francisco in 1873. The sport grew over the next few decades. By the early 1900s, four-wall handball was well established and a one-wall game was developed in New York City by beach-goers who hit bald tennis balls with their hands against the sides of the wooden jetties that lined beaches. This led to a rise in one-wall handball at New York beaches and by the 1930s, thousands of indoor and outdoor one-wall courts had been built throughout the city. American handball is seen predominantly in parks, beaches, and high school yards in New York, Chicago and other large urban areas.
National championships in handball have been held annually in the United States since 1919. These championships were organized by the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) until 1950, when their control was transferred to the newly formed United States Handball Association (USHA).
American handball is played on a walled court, 40 by 20 feet (12.2 m × 6.1 m), with either a single (front) wall, three walls, or in a fully enclosed four-wall court; four-wall courts typically have a ceiling while three-wall courts may or may not. The four-wall court is a rectangular box. The front wall is 20 feet (6.1 m) square, and the side walls are 40 feet (12.2 m) long and 20 feet (6.1 m) high.
In the middle of the floor lies a short line, dividing the floor into two 20 feet (6.1 m) squares. Also along the floor is the service line, which is 5 feet (1.5 m) in front of the short line. The service zone is the area between these two lines. The back wall of the court is usually 12 feet (3.7 m) high, with an above gallery for the referee, scorekeeper and spectators. Some courts have a glass back wall and glass side walls to allow for better viewing. (In three-wall court handball, the court often has a front wall and two full side walls, or the front wall is flanked by two triangular wings.)
Handball may be played as singles (two players against each other), doubles (two teams of two players), or "cutthroat" (three players rotating one against two). In cutthroat handball, one server plays against two receivers, until he or she is "put out." Then, the left-most receiver serves. Serves rotate in this way until one player wins by scoring either 7, 11, 15, or 21 points. Should both teams reach a score 1 below the winning score, the game can be continued by 'win-by-two' or 'straight'. In 'win-by-two', the winning score is increased by 2 points. In 'straight', the score remains the same and cannot be pushed. When a tie of 20 is reached in a 21-point match, a common decision is 'straight 25', where the winning score is set to 25 and cannot be changed. The cutthroat mode of play is also known as "triangles."
A typical outfit includes protective gloves, sneakers, athletic shorts and goggles. Eye protection is required in tournament handball, as the ball moves at high speeds and in close proximity to the players. It is rarely used in "street" handball, however, where a softer "big blue" ball is usually used.
The black or blue rubber ball weighs 2.3 ounces (65 g) and is 1.875 inches (4.76 cm) in diameter (smaller, heavier and harder than a racquetball), is hit with gloved hand (open palm, fingers, fist, back of hand) (informal games often don't include gloves).
American handball Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.