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Archive for Thursday, February 13, 1992

OFF THE WALL

February 13, 1992

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It's played on a racquetball court, but participants don't use a racket. They use their hands to hit a dense, rubber ball.

It's not handball either the ball is cantaloupe size, as opposed to racquetball-sized handballs.

Besides, there's a net in the middle of the court not used in either racquetball or handball games.

The game is called walleyball.

Four to eight people can play walleyball at a time, using a combination of rules from racquetball, handball and yep, you guessed it, volleyball.

The combination of the three games and having more people on the court than in racquetball or handball make for fast-paced action, say participants.

LIKE VOLLEYBALL teams, walleyball teams can hit the ball three times on their side of the court before hitting it to the other team, said Bob Stanclift, adult-sports supervisor for Lawrence Parks and Recreation Department. A team can hit the ball off any wall hence the game's name except for the opponents' ceiling and back wall, he said, which is the same as in racquetball and handball.

Games go to 15 or 21 points, again the same as racketball and volleyball. Scoring is similar to volleyball, points are awarded for opponents' missed shots and you must be serving be score. Often teams play a series of three games to 15 points for a match.

"I'd originally heard about it when I was living in Oklahoma," said Bruce Martin, who now lives in Lawrence. "I was playing in a volleyball league here in town and somebody mentioned that we play it (walleyball) one night. It sounded interesting. And different.

"It's a lot quicker than regular volleyball. It quickens your reflexes, that's for sure."

MARTIN CAN thank the fitness business in the early 1970's for his quickened reflexes. Up to that time, fitness had centered on weights, Stanclift said, and health-club owners wanted to offer something more.

They built courts to promote handball and racquetball quick-paced games that provided an aerobic work-out, but the courts were expensive to construct and, with handball and racquetball, only two to four people could use them at any given time.

Thus, Stanclift said, club owners invented walleyball to get more people involved, better utilizing their courts.

In January 1989, Lawrence Parks and Recreation started a walleyball clinic, said Stanclift, and in March that year, offered the first organized league play.

When Stanclift joined the department in June 1989, he instituted Friday night free-play, four hours of pick-up walleyball. Free-play sessions are still held at Holcom Park Recreation Center, 2700 W. 27th.

"ANYWHERE FROM 10 to 20 people show up now on Friday nights," Stanclift said. "The appeal about Friday night free-play is that you get to play with different people all the time.

"From what I've been told, you get to know a lot of people. It's not just an athletic endeavor, but a social gathering."

One of the reasons Stanclift started walleyball free-play was to generate interest in the sport. The amount of interest he saw convinced him to continue league play.

The first fall league started last October, and Stanclift hopes it continues.

He also has established a coed winter league for the fourth year in a row. Play begins Sunday and lasts eight weeks.

Martin forms league teams with the players he has met on Friday nights at Holcom. This is Martin's third year on a walleyball team and he said he felt confident about his team's chances to win.

"THE FIRST year that I played on a league team we won first place," he said. "The second year we took second place. I think we have a really good chance at taking first place this year. We're young."

However, not all avid walleyballers who play on Friday nights join the league. In fact, not all walleyballers play on Friday nights members of a `rebel-walleyball' crowd flaunt their own style.

"Ours is a little wilder game than what the regulations call for," said Bill Barker, who plays with friends at Holcom on Tuesday and Thursday nights.

"We tried playing it the way the regulations call for, but it was too slow."

Walleyball facilities are available at Holcom Center, as well as at Robinson Center on the Kansas University campus and in the Collins Sports Center at Baker University, Baldwin.

For more information about walleyball activities sponsored by Lawrence Parks and Recreation, call Stanclift at 843-7122.

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