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Handball Class

Published: Friday, September 14, 2007

Updated: Monday, August 9, 2010 14:08

USU students who are looking for a unique sport that is both challenging and fun should give handball a try, according to Herm Olsen, handball instructor and A division state champion.

"Handball basically follows the same rules and regulations as racquetball," Jackson Olsen, junior in journalism, said. "But the difference is you are not using a racket and you use a smaller, tougher ball."

"It is literally the oldest game in the world," Herm said. "All you need is a ball and a wall."

Herm, who began playing handball in 1971, said he started teaching the handball class at USU six years ago in order to introduce the sport to students.

The idea for the class came into existence when a group of handball players that Herm has been a part of for more than 20 years began talking about how they were getting older and there were no future handball players.

"It would be tragic if we had a generation who didn't know the game," he said.

Despite being confused for racquetball, the handball class has come a long way since its start.

"The first semester it began, the class was listed as racquetball, with handball just in quotes, " Herm said. "We had five or six kids that thought they had come to play racquetball; a few of them stuck it out though and became lifelong players."

From beginning students to veterans, Herm said there is something for everyone.

"It's like a brotherhood or a sisterhood," Herm said. "You are really just there to challenge yourself."

Kalecia Helm, sophomore in family, consumer and human development, said someone told her to take the class because it was fun and worth taking for more than one semester.

"The adrenaline rush from playing is the best part," Helm said.

Jackson said he had never played handball before but decided to take the class after hearing about it from friends.

"It kicks my butt," Jackson said. "I get a really good workout and there is a high level of intensity, but it's fun."

"We're teaching them a sport that will last for a lifetime, or at least until you are 70," said Ron Bachman, who co-teaches the handball class.

Many students who take the handball class also compete in statewide tournaments against other students.

Zach Bateman, senior in management and human resources, has been playing handball for four years and said he was completely new to handball the first time he took the class. Bateman went on to become the B-division champion at last year's state tournament and said his favorite part of the handball class is getting to play with the older guys who come in.

"They are great," Bateman said. "They have grown up playing and are training the next generation."

Herm said several students who are in the handball class travel and compete against other schools. While USU has virtually the only organized racquetball program in the state, students from most Utah colleges, including the University of Utah and Brigham Young University, compete in the tournaments.

"It always feels good to beat BYU," Herm said.

Bateman and Jackson were part of the team that participated in making a winning video for the Simple Green handball video contest this year. The video about handball and it's future won $5,000, which Jackson said would go toward equipment and tournament fees.

"The video was sending a message about the dying sport of handball and how it has been in the shadow of racquetball," OLSEN said. "It's about people who are veterans to the sport passing on the torch."

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