Saturday, June 23, 2018

Rebote-The Game of Handball in Barrios by Antonio SolisGomez

At Noon on November 22 of 1963 my class on American Drama ended and I walked out into the hallway, busy with other students going to and from classes. A young woman coming from the opposite direction weaved her way through the throng of students, openly crying. I wondered why but continued to the gym where I was to play a game of handball. It was only after my game that I came to know that President Kennedy had been killed.

Killian Carrol about to return a ball against Sean Lenning at the Tucson Raqueball Club

I played the type of handball played inside an enclosed room using all four walls and the high ceiling to return a small hard rubber ball to the front wall by striking it with a gloved hand. The rules are similar to the game of racquetball whose popularity has practically done away with handball because it is easier to learn to play.

Handball is an old game and its origins debated. Its simplicity, a person striking a ball against a wall and an opponent trying to return it, lends itself to the notion that it developed in many places around the world.

Play on a two wall court in Hazard Park

Today handball is played on courts with one wall, two walls, three walls, four walls and with four walls and a ceiling. Mostly the four wall game is played with gloved hands, the ball so hard that even using gloves can cause painful bone bruises especially on fingers or the bony part of the palm. The ball used on outdoor courts is generally a bigger softer ball like the one used in racquetball and is often played with bare hands.

Play on a two wall court showing the long side wall

Good handball players must be ambidextrous in order to strike the ball equally hard with either hand and be in great physical condition to move around the court, chasing balls travelling at high speeds. It is also a game where a player’s physical size is a negligible factor, quickness, great hand eye coordination and stamina are the attributes that gain success on the court.

An old one wall court in Zacatecas Mexico that is still in use

In the 1960’s when I first learned the game, many of the professional athletes played handball to keep in condition during their off season and to enhance their flexibility and reflexes. A good game will leave a person drained and exhausted. One doesn’t often see good players who are not in top notch physical condition.

Play at the Folson Prison handball court

On the west coast Chicanos have been playing on outdoor courts for many years. Many of these courts are found at local parks and for a variety of reasons vatos in particular have found the sport to their liking. One of the principal reasons is that outdoor courts are found in most of the prisons and their popularity there has transferred to the barrios. It may not be cool to play other sports but playing rebote is.

In actuality there have been handball courts in East los Angeles for many years that seem to have their origins in the Basque people of Spain. In the 1950’s there was a court on Main Street In Lincoln Heights, near where the brewery is located. It had a long sidewall and they used a ball called a bola basca that was bone hard made of some unknown material. A similar court was also found in East Los Angeles proper on Hammel near Floral, home to the men's-only Maravilla Handball Club from 1928 to 2007. It was built brick-by-brick by East L.A. residents and is the oldest remaining handball court in Los Angeles.

Youngster palying at the old Maravilla Men's Handball Club court

In Tucson where I live handball continues to have some popularity due in some part to the fact that the National Handball Association relocated from Chicago in the 1980’s. Then the now defunct Tucson Athletic Club was a draw for many of the top handball players. One of those hall of fame players, Fred Lewis, runs a non-profit foundation to teach young boys and girls the sport. And there are many outdoor tournaments taking place in New York and in Los Angeles.

Young woman diving for a ball travelling low to the ground

I no longer play, my knees not able to handle the stress of going up and down the court and from side wall to side wall but I do have a recurring dream where I find myself on the court, sweating profusely, swinging my arm and my gloved hand hitting the ball and then waiting axiously for my opponents return. Ah to have a youthful body again!


msedano said...

i know this dream. "I do have a recurring dream where I find myself on the court, sweating profusely, swinging my arm and my gloved hand hitting the ball and then waiting axiously for my opponents return. " and echo the conclusion.

Unknown said...

Here's a link to my short story about rebote:

Daniel Acosta

Jojo tamayo Ayo said...

Love rebote