top of page

Our Story

  • Learn about the history of handball and how ​players across the globe competed for glory.

Handball Origins and World Handball Council History

Wallball is a rebranding for "handball" to gain international recognition. It's a sport in which players use their hands to hit a small, rubber ball against a wall such that their opponent(s) cannot do the same without the ball touching the ground twice nor hitting out-of-bound. The three versions are four-wall, three-wall and one-wall.

Handball origins are referenced as far back as 1427 when King James I of Scotland ordered a cellar window in his palace courtyard to be blocked up, as it was interfering with his game. [1] In Ireland, the earliest written record is in 1527 in Galway...Once called "Fives" for the number of fingers needed to play, handball today traces its lineage to the Irish and Welsh folk sport since the 15th century [2].

Although the sport of handball was mastered in Ireland several centuries ago, and Irish players scattered across the globe in the nineteenth century, taking the game with them to other continents and countries, the possibility of international competition did not arise until 1956.

In that year, the President of the Irish Handball Council, the Very Rev. Canon Carroll, was visiting the U.S. and brought up the possibility with the AAU handball President, Charles J. O’Connell. Two players from America, Harry Hyde and Tom Ginty, both with Irish roots, were chosen to cross the pond for a 1957 exhibition. In fact, Hyde’s son, Bob, also made the trip. A total of eight matches were played in a ten-day period in September 1957, all in different locations in Ireland, and the results were an even split. Harry Hyde returned for further competition in 1958 but played only one winning match before the planned series did not materialize.

In 1960, the Irish council heard from players in Australia who proposed that Irish players come to Australia for a series of matches at Easter, 1962. They also proposed that Irish, Australian, and American players meet for competition in the U. S. in 1964. Neither occurred for various reasons.

Indeed, players from five countries—Australia, Canada, Ireland, Mexico, and the U.S.-- met for the first “World” event in the World Fair year of 1964 in New York City at the NYAC. This was a clear turning point, as all involved needed to agree upon common rules to follow, and the Irish players encountered their first 40 x 20 “small” courts. Jimmy Jacobs won the singles round-robin while John Sloan and Phil Elbert won the doubles. The U.S. was undefeated in 8 matches, with Canada taking a play-off with Mexico for second place.

bottom of page