That’s the first thing that came to mind when my older brother suggested that I give the sport a try. After looking over some YouTube videos of Team Handball highlights, I figured that it can’t hurt to at least give it a go.
We were on vacation in Florida at the time, so as soon as I got back home to LA I researched to see if there were any clubs or teams near me. I dove into my research with the assumption that there might be a couple recreational clubs or maybe some beach handball leagues that might be fun to join. The first thing I ran into was the Los Angeles Team Handball Club. I saw that they practice once a week at a location not too far from where I live. Perfect! I then reached out to the team to see if I could come by and give it a try.
The Team Manager got back to me quickly and said I was more than welcome to stop by, but if I wanted to play in tournaments I’d have to try out for the team beforehand. I was honestly just looking to run around and play for awhile; but, I was happy to hear that because it gave me the idea that the people there would be somewhat athletic. A good resources for helping me learn the game.
So on Sunday I decided to get up early and head down to the facility where the practice was being held at. I found out right away that this was much more serious than just a regular pickup game or practice. These guys were there to compete and this was definitely a tryout to see if I could hang. Here’s a couple things I learned from my first Team Handball experience:
1.) The Popularity of Team Handball Hasn’t Hit the U.S. Quite Yet
After going around and being introduced to all the guys, I came to realize that I was the only American on the court. I was also the only person there that just started playing handball. There were guys from Finland, France, Germany, India, and Poland and all of them have been playing handball since they were kids. Playing and learning a new sport from scratch is something that I haven’t done since I was probably 3 or 4, so I was excited to get a taste of something fresh. Being the only American also told me that Team Handball hasn’t caught on here in the U.S. These guys weren’t surprised when they found out I had never played.
I can only imagine how scary it would be being a goalie and seeing someone like LeBron or Russell Westbrook jumping over your defenders to chuck a mini ball at you 100MPH.
2.) Team Handball is a Cool Mix of Basketball, Soccer, and Baseball
It has the jumping and dribbling of Basketball, passing and goal scoring strategy of soccer, and the obvious throwing motion of baseball. I think having the background of playing all 3 sports definitely helped me pick up things a little quicker, but I still felt like a fish out of water at times. You get 3 steps in Team Handball, which is similar to Basketball, but it’s a totally different ballgame when you’re allowed 3 steps, then a couple dribbles, then another 3 steps. The footwork is crazy and definitely took some time to get used to. Even the positions are similar to Soccer and Basketball in that you usually have bigger players in the Left and Right Back positions, a playmaker at Center Forward, and a couple wing players to help out on both ends.
^^^^ Nothing against Egypt, but they should not be better than us in any sports.
3.) There’s Much More to Handball Than Just Throwing the Ball Into a Net
Watching Handball highlights, you’d think that there really isn’t much to the game. Pass to teammates and throw the ball at the net. Pretty simple. Although, after playing with guys that know what they’re doing, you realize quickly that there are little things like screens, backdoors, and special passes that allow you to sneak past the defense to get the ball in the net. If you know what you’re doing, it’s much easier to run plays and create opportunities for your offense, just like Basketball and Soccer.
4.) Jumping and Throwing a Ball as Hard as Possible is a Lot of Fun
Running full speed, jumping as high and far as possible, then chucking the crap out of a miniature soccer ball is exhilarating. You have to throw from all angles too which makes it even more fun. Much more fun than just standing stationary on a mound and throwing a ball in hopes that someone doesn’t hit it back at your face twice as hard.
5.) Wristbands Are Still Cool In Handball
Wearing double wristbands and high socks was the cool thing during my younger basketball, baseball, and football playing days. Then the popularity kind of shifted to ankle socks and forearm bands. Then to wrist tape and arm sleeves. I participated in all the phases and rocked the shit out of all of them (in my opinion). Therefore, I was extremely happy when I rolled in Sunday morning to see most of the guys wearing wristbands on both wrists. This meant I could take a step back in my time machine and have my mom ship out all of my old wristbands from cupboard just so I can relive it all again.
We ended up practicing and scrimmaging for about 3 hours on Sunday and by the end of it I was both physically and mentally exhausted. We ran up and down the court repeatedly but I also had to learn something new every second which was tiring.
I have my first tournament with them in San Francisco for the Cal Cup, which is in two weeks. They were explaining the Cal Cup to me like it was something that I should know about. I think it’s played at a high school so it can’t be that important. Two weeks just means that I need to learn all the rules and make sure my mom ships out my wristbands ASAP.