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Friday, October 1, 2010

Racquetball and handball club lights up the courts at USU

Maria Castro, Jean Guzman and Lourdes Taveras play a game of racquetball in the HPER building. Racquetball and handball clubs are offered to students this year

Though not well known, both racquetball and handball clubs exist at Utah State University, offering students, experienced or not, to come and join in the sports.

Currently, both clubs are headed by students who are eager to promote the sports throughout the university. The presidents of both clubs said they were introduced to the sport as freshman and have developed an increased love for them over the years.

Becky Drebin, USU senior and president of the handball club, said classes are offered for both sports, and prior experience is not necessary.

"A lot of people come, they start playing, and they love it," Drebin said.

The racquetball team this year consists of 18 individuals, both male and female. They practice Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7-9 p.m. Though there are not official coaches, master's student Doug Holt and institute teacher Curtis Jacobs assist with the racquetball club.

The handball club is new this year, and had sign-ups at Day on the Quad. Around 35 people expressed interest in playing the sport, though the official dates for the practices are still to be decided. Right now the club is focusing on fundraising to help pay for tournaments and nationals.

Herm Olsen, who teaches handball on campus, and Ron Bachman, who helps with the classes, work with the handball team. Also helpful in the success of the club are the "old guys," who Drebin said have played handball for years and are often seen on court at the HPER.

Obvious as it may sound, the main difference between handball and racquetball is that one uses a racket and one uses only the hands. A smaller, harder ball is used in handball, and is generally played to 21 points, while racquetball goes to 15. They are played on the same court and have very similar rules.

The ball can be played off of the walls and ceilings in both sports. The ball has to hit the front wall first for a serve to be valid. However, Drebin said the difference of hand versus racket does actually make a significant difference in how the sports are played.

"(With handball) you have to be faster, have to have more accuracy ... Rather than a big old racket you have only your hand and you have to use your less dominant hand," Drebin, who plays both sports said. Drebin now has increased skill with her left hand just from playing.

There are national tournaments for both of these sports. Last February, seven USU students competed in the national handball tournament, placing second overall in division two. For racquetball nationals, the team went to Springfield, Mo., last April 7-10 and took 12 students. Both clubs plan on attending this year as well.

Scott Warner, junior in physical therapy, has been on the racquetball team for two years, and is serving as president of the club this year. He said he has enjoyed his experience with the racquetball team.

Warner said the camaraderie and friendships make the team worth the time it takes.

"(It's about) not playing to be perfect, but playing to be part of a team," he said.

Warner said injury does occur in both sports, particularly to the ankles, knees, shoulders and elbows. He said he prefers singles over doubles because in doubles there is more chance for injury. Drebin said she broke blood vessels in the back of her leg, leaving two welts.

Drebin said last year she hurt her right elbow from racquetball, which forced her to use her left hand for a few weeks. She said she noticed significant improvement in her skill in her less dominant hand.

Warner is very optimistic about the season, with six returning team members, and two new players that collectively have 30 years of experience.

"It should be a good year, we have a lot of talent," he said.

Both clubs are offering opportunities for students not currently involved to come and experience the sport. The racquetball team plans to hold regular tournaments this year that are open to all students on campus. Notices will be posted in the HPER and the Fieldhouse. And for those who haven't yet experienced handball, students can stop by the courts Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays around 4 p.m.

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