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National Handball Championships come to Des Moines


Paul Brady, the top-ranked handball player in the world, will be in Des Moines for the tournament.

Paul Brady, the top-ranked handball player in the world, will be in Des Moines for the tournament.

Something that could have easily been started by a bored teenager grounded to his room has evolved into an intense competition. Handball is a simple game that requires only a ball and a wall, but once inside the court, players compete in a high-intensity game that never lets up until one side is defeated. Equipped with only their own appendages, these athletes must demonstrate speed, agility and strength along with deadly precision.

“Handball started in the early 1800s in Ireland and has blossom into a sport that is being played in 15 countries worldwide,” said avid local handball player Tony Heiting. “It is a game that requires great dexterity, eye-hand coordination and quickness in a 20-by-40-foot court.”

To reach the 21-point winning score, a player is required to master shots that are low to the floor (kill shots), shots that pass your opponent (pass shots), shots that go to the ceiling (defensive shots) as well as making points while serving the ball (roll outs) to your opponent. Handball is played by all ages.

“While the game is played worldwide, the majority of handball players live in the United States. The United States Handball Association (USHA) was formed in the ’50s to promote handball among the states, and sponsor major tournaments around the country,” Heiting said.

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This year Des Moines was chosen by the USHA as the site for the 63rd U.S. Handball National Four-Wall Championships bringing some of the best handball players from around the world. More than 250 participants are expected to compete in different age divisions for national titles.

The highlight for most will be watching the Pro Handball players. Folks will want to get out early to catch some intense matches from both men and women as they compete for the Open Single and Doubles titles as well as their chunk of more than $20,000 in total prize money.

“The players will first of all be playing for bragging rights or the privilege to be called a National Champion,” said Ned Jorgensen of the Des Moines Hinder Club. “First and second place will receive a large plate trophy. Players in the Open or Pro events can also win cash.”

Twenty-five Iowans are expected to play in the National event. Stop by the Riverfront YMCA and cheer them on. CV

David Rowley is an Iowa native with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Iowa and a master’s in film journalism from the University of Glasgow in Scotland.


USHA National Four-Wall Handball Championships

Where: Riverfront YMCA, 101 Locust St., (515) 282-YMCA

When: June 25-30; Tuesday matches 8 a.m.-8 p.m., Wed.-Fri. 9 a.m.-7 p.m., Sat. 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Sun. 9 a.m.-3 p.m. (Length of matches will depend on the final player count and how many in each division.)

Price: Attendance is free, except for reserved seats for pro matches, which are $100 per seat.

For more information about handball, go to or


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