For the glove of the game

Handball players reveal the game's intricacies and pleasures

Dr. Bob Charney hits a high return against the front wall, while Dr. Dennis Faith, left, and Carl Wagner await its return.

Photo by QUENTIN ROUX, Staff

Dr. Bob Charney hits a high return against the front wall, while Dr. Dennis Faith, left, and Carl Wagner await its return.

Handball player Carl Wagner serves while his opponents Dr. Dennis Faith, left, and Dr. Bob Charny prepare for action.

Photo by QUENTIN ROUX, Staff

Handball player Carl Wagner serves while his opponents Dr. Dennis Faith, left, and Dr. Bob Charny prepare for action.

The players take a break in between games. From left are Carl Wagner and Drs. Dennis Faith and Bob Charny.

Photo by QUENTIN ROUX, Staff

The players take a break in between games. From left are Carl Wagner and Drs. Dennis Faith and Bob Charny.

In between shots, you can hear the players breathe heavily before the next burst of action.

On one of the two indoor courts over at the Marco Racquet Center are three dedicated handball players, Bob Charney, Dennis Faith and Carl Wagner.

The equipment is simple: padded gloves for each hand, and a hard rubber ball that is a little bigger than a golf ball.

Rules are identical to that of racquetball, with points to 15 or 21 achieved on serve.

And, like racquetball, the object is to return the ball by making sure it hits the front wall, and either pass an opponent by catching him out of position or dropping the ball short.

Like tennis, squash and racquetball, second bounce is the key to scoring points.

Charny, Faith and Wagner swear by the game, which they say requires a slightly different set of skills to the game’s closest cousin, racquetball.

“You have to be ambidextrous,” says Charny, who jokingly says the game originated with cavemen throwing skulls against cave walls and then catching them.

Wagner says although the gloves absorb much of the shock of hitting the hard rubber ball, it takes some getting used to.

“Your hands go a little purple when you first start to play,” he says.

Charny agrees.

“When I first started playing, I had to ice my hands so I could go and practice my dentistry,” he says.

Charny says the game was fairly popular about 30 years ago, but became overshadowed by racquetball as more and more players discovered that game.

Now, he says, there seems to be a resurgence of handball.

“But it still seems to be mainly the older guys,” he says.

Records of the history of the game indicate that Charny may not be that far off with his joking reference to cavemen flinging skulls around.

Hieroglyphics in the temple of Osiris in Egypt portray priests taking part in a game similar to handball.

Today’s game originated in Ireland and Scotland, with the earliest written record of a handball game being in the town statutes of Galway.

Town fathers in 1527 forbade the playing of ball games against the town’s walls.

Irish immigrants brought the game to many countries in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.

It is still played in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Wales and England.

The city’s Racquet Center can be contacted at 394-5454.

© 2009 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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