Friday, May 9 2014, 02:35 PM EDT
Top of the Game Handball Players In Town
Some of the best amateur handball players in the country are right here in Chattanooga. These are actually older players competing in the "master's" doubles competition.
The constant sound of balls bouncing off the walls fills The Sports Barn downtown, where the tournament is being held.
That's because the 2014 National Masters Doubles Handball tournament is in town. Chattanooga's Scott Kelley is a top player and has been on court for 35 years. "You gotta be strong, you gotta be coordinated. It's kind of a chess game. There's a lot to it and I was attracted to that."
The attraction has pulled in 120 players from all over, including one from Ireland - the country that brought the sport to America.
Several Canadians also made the trek. Tyler Hamel is from Canada, but lives in Houston now. He and other Canadians collectively put Chattanooga on their radar. "We said, 'Hey let's go down and have some fun and have some good competition at the same time.'"
Hamel's been playing for 33 years and is a past world champion.
Like Kelley, his father also played and grew him into the game.
In this tournament format, the teams have to win two out of three for a match and it is a single elimination tournament. Masters competition starts at age 35 and increases by division in five year increments up to 80 years old.
Hamel sees himself playing for many years to come, "It's a lifetime sport, you know. So you can play it for a long time. It's a very good workout because you're using all areas of the body. It's like swimming in a way just it's on a handball court."
The rules are the same as racquetball, but the ball's smaller and harder. But Kelley says handball adds other dimensions,"If you watch racquetball and handball, racquetball's going to look a lot faster, but we actually think handball's a little faster because you gotta move and get to the ball. You've got to anticipate it."
And the players who've come to Chattanooga have waited for this tournament and to take home the titles and trophies that go with it.
Play continues Saturday with the finals wrapping up on Sunday at The Sports Barn downtown.
by John Madewell
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