The Kansas City Athletic Club is an athletic club that formed over 100 years ago in downtown Kansas City, Missouri. About 10 years ago the facility closed down and the members were left without a place to dwell. These members then decided to pool their money together and venture out on their own. They ended up on the Kansas side of the metropolitan border after purchasing a house that was used as an accounting practice by a good friend. This house was modified to provide the amenities that they required from their previous facility.
Taking it one step further, they then decided to add some outdoor handball courts to the property. After securing the loan from a good friend and finding a capable builder, the KCAC courts were born. Once the courts were in place constant enhancements have been added: A 1,600 square foot multi-tiered deck was added with stair-step seating adjacent to the courts; A metal ceiling was added to keep the ball from leaving the court. The ceiling allows daylight to pass through, but is also sturdy enough to deflect the ball during play to the point that the style of play is no different than playing a ceiling shot in indoor handball. Also a patio was added to the deck complete with lighting and outdoor speakers. Finally, lights were added to the courts to add the ability to play outdoor handball even after hours in the dark.
The KCAC now hosts at least three handball tournaments a year, an annual golf tournament, and many other events. The not-for-profit organization also is committed to the development of the game of handball for young people, and actively supports all of the regional universities that compete around the country in the sport.
Handball is a unique game that requires a large amount of skill, agility, speed, and endurance. Due to the long learning curve and the lack of an immediate reward, the game has a relatively small following. New players are also usually turned off because of the discomfort of hitting the ball with your hand in the beginning. Because of the dedication required to being skillful at the game, handball players will often become very loyal to each other. This is why clubs like the KCAC are found in other cities as well. The game is almost always played by different generations of the same family. Kids, having long tired of watching and waiting while their old man plays at the club on Saturday mornings finally decide to take up the game themselves, only to then understand and embrace the addiction.
The game is played in a 20’X40′ court with 20′ high walls. The ball is made of rubber and can travel at a very high speed during play. Protective eyewear is mandatory as the ball can do quite a bit of damage when it hits something other than the wall. Players wear gloves primarily to keep the ball from becoming wet and affecting its movement. Some players will wear an extra layer of cloth gloves under the deerskin gloves, some times to soak up the extra sweat, some times for the extra padding. The primary strategy of handball is to exploit your opponent’s weak hand as both are used in the game. If two right-handed players are on the court, the ball will spend a considerable amount of time on the left side of the court trying to exploit each others weaker arm.
Handball is an ancient game dating back to Ireland and possibly as far back as Egypt. Abe Lincoln was an avid handball player and would hit the ball in the alley outside of his office to ease the stress of waiting for votes from his primary election to come in. The games of racquetball, squash, jai alai, and many others all trace their beginnings to handball. There is not a lot of love lost between handball and racquetball players, mostly because the two groups usually have to fight each other for precious court time. Handball players usually have little respect for racquetball players as they see it as a game much easier than the game they play and racquetball players are only “in their way”. But due to the rise in Racquetball’s popularity, it is essential to handball’s survival because racquetball’s demand builds new and maintains existing courts that we have to share with each other.