Nfld. & Labrador

Like Racquetball minus the racquet: Handball N.L. brings in world-class athletes to grow sport

New York City’s Danielle Daskalakis and Ireland’s Darragh Daly are in town this week training up-and-coming athletes of all ages at a national handball camp.

Players from Ireland and NYC leading training camp in St. John's

Danielle Daskalakis teaches proper handball technique during a training camp at the Paul Reynolds Centre in St. John's (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

At the newly opened Paul Reynolds centre in St. John's, there's a shiny new one-wall handball court.

It's a small gesture, but one that organizers and athletes hope will grow the game to new levels across Newfoundland and Labrador.

To help christen the new court, New York City's Danielle Daskalakis and Ireland's Darragh Daly are in town to train up-and-coming athletes at a national handball camp.

The camp in St. John's has three age categories — for kids under 12, teenagers, and adults — and seasoned handball players and newcomers alike are encouraged to join. 

Easy to pick up

Daskalakis said the key to handball's success is its accessibility: all you need is a hand, a wall, and a ball and you can start playing right away.

"It's kind of like tennis, or racquetball, that's even closer," she said Tuesday.

"You're basically just volleying the ball, you're hitting the ball back and forth to another player and you have to get it before it bounces two times. So if someone can't make that wall within zero to one bounce, then you win the point and the other person doesn't."

Darragh Daly says handball was one of the only accessible sports in the small Irish town where he grew up. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

It's a simple formula that quickly hooked her on the sport.

She fell in love with the game in high school and hasn't looked back. In 2015, she won gold at the world handball championship in Calgary.

Daly had a similar experience with the sport. He first started playing in the small rural town in Ireland where he grew up and has parlayed his aptitude for the game into a career.

"I work for handball in Ireland full time. So my day-to-day job is to go around schools or clubs coaching handball," he said.

"The handball community worldwide, everyone kind of knows everyone, we go to a lot of tournaments together. We're gonna help each other out and grow the game." 

The camp was organized by Handball Association of N.L. and continues until Friday evening.