A simple game that was virtually unknown in Lodi a year ago has gained traction as a favored sport among teenagers.
Handball players can be found at lunchtime and after school at Lodi and Tokay high schools, and on the handball courts at Hutchins Street Square. All it takes is a small blue rubber ball, agile feet and strong hand-eye coordination.
Lodi city officials are counting on that enthusiasm to carry through to the first-ever handball tournament held in Lodi.
All high school and middle school students are invited to compete in a handball tournament on the last Saturday in September at Tokay High School.
Students will sign up first thing in the morning. They’ll be organized into brackets, then warm up and take part in an instructional clinic. Then the tournament begins.
Players will receive a free lunch, and winners will get a T-shirt.
Representatives from the U.S. Handball Association be on hand to offer tips and tricks for the game. They also donated dozens of pairs of protective eyewear, 60 handballs, instructional videos and rulebooks.
“We hope to get a big turnout. With 12 courts, there’s plenty of space to play on,” said Jeff Hood, interim director of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services.
The handball craze started with a gang specialist and youth outreach worker, Ruben Y. Guardiola, organizing lunchtime handball games at Lodi High School. Fewer fights broke out while kids were playing.
“He found that handball is one way to bridge the differences between kids who may not otherwise socialize,” said Hood. From there, the sport caught on.
“Hopefully this tournament is the first of many to come,” he said.