By Dr. Raquel S. Barnes World Handball Council President
“Sitting on a couch watching TV isn’t good for your health, unless you happen to be watching the Olympic Games.” -Unknown
The Tokyo Games which will run July 24 to Aug. 9, 2020 will boast five more sports than Rio, taking the total number to 33. Four new sports meant to draw a younger audience because the IOC is committed to keeping sports relevant to young people without discrimination of any kind. The IOC Executive Board, recently approved to showcase urban sports in the upcoming Paris Olympics in 2024 to provide an experience that will attract, “new types of spectators”. This pivot from the traditional format comes from technology influencing youth populations that have caused decreases in Olympic Sport viewership.
The paradigm shift within the IOC’s 2020 Agenda appears to be setting up the perfect window of opportunity for the sport of Wall Ball, (a rebranding of the colloquially named “One-Wall Handball”) to grasp recognition by the IOC as an International Federation (IF). Contributing factors are the characteristics seen in the culture of Millennials, and Generation Z, being an increasingly diverse population, and having digital connections to society from a very young age. The attitudes of IOC members in the next decade may prove promising for Wall Ball’s future if regulatory bodies mobilize to work on a global presence in the near future.
Naturally, people ask, why has Wall Ball taken so long to apply for IOC recognition? The fact is Wall Ball has been around for centuries “with depictions in Egyptian tombs dating to 2000 BC, and has been an integral part of Pre-Hispanic Culture…”, but governing bodies for the sport are still in their infancy working on these goals about 15 years. The birth of the World Wall Ball Association (WWBA) in 2009 was the first federation with a strategic plan to accomplish IOC recognition in Castle Bar, Ireland, but waxed and waned by 2015. WWBA has structure that can prove promising, however, it requires support from international groups to provide a framework to bridge national sporting groups together. These groups can retain their own autonomy and identities while working together synergistically to achieve their net goals.
The IOC vetting process would bring integrity to the sport of Wall Ball. Any international organization with IF status has access to high profiled events. A true federation must demonstrate documented youth development, annual working budgets, and compliance with the Olympic Charter which also requires a vote from their General Assembly of 170 members without conflict. These criteria evade pitfalls pertaining to manipulations of the game for fraudulent gain.
In order to effectively mobilize a coalition of leading associations to actively work under one true international sporting organization there needs to be a unified consensus that Wall Ball should apply for international federation (IF) status in the next decade. Benefits appear to outweigh risks as it pertains to organizing globally such as grass roots recognition to commercialization of elite level competition, and improved Wall Ball marketability.
According to the Global Association of International Sporting Federations (GAISF) which essentially is “the voice” of (Olympic and non Olympic federations), an international sporting umbrella is needed and must be in existence for over 5 years to apply without conflict from IOC’s International Federation (IF) members. This international organization administering Wall Ball must enforce the Olympic Movement’s Anti-Doping Code. Wall Ball must be widely practiced by 40 countries on three continents with recognition from the countries’ government or Minister of Sport.
As of current, 25 countries actively participate on four continents leaving a minimum of 15 countries to be spearheaded. A common sense approach to gain a global presence is with accountability and working regularly towards this goal. However, if momentum to organize stagnates the future can become nebulous, and will indefinitely prolong participation to auspicious sporting events. As a spectator or athlete, galvanizing this cause calls upon your individual actions by volunteering and participating in your countries national tournaments. Action is imperative to imbibing your countries national regulatory bodies (NRG) to expedite international planning. Write letters to your NRG’s to ask questions that facilitate matters and forge accountability.
The advent of the global pandemic with its unprecedented impact has not made things any easier, mitigated travel, and country lockdowns have hindered commerce for most businesses. The IOC’s response to this crisis has been to open a dialogue and begin a strategic assessment for financial support which may have advantageous appeal for the sport of Wall Ball. Their findings have touted the world economy is undergoing a seismic recession that may have ramifications for the next five years. IOC’s General Assembly in the future may become sympathetic to a sport that is practical and economical. In history, during times of adversity, like the Great Depression, Wall Ball proved not only to be cost effective, it was easy for kids to play, entertaining to watch for its pugnacious style, and renown for creating idleness abatement.
Wall Ball is also played in teams which teaches children discipline and to communicate effectively under stress. Educating children with sport is a budding area of research. A study by (Knifing et al). showed that “parents often look to sports to help their children develop leadership skills, self respect, and self confidence which correlated to better outcomes in the workforce. Our goals as a sport are to grow internationally to help serve as a beacon upon the path of young minds that lead to inspiration, passion to play, and positively traject into other aspects of adulthood life. A small rubber ball riquoched off a wall can propel children to becoming refocused to well adapted behaviors which is our mission.
Special thanks to Dr. LeaAnne Martin, President USHA, Romano Sirotto, Technical Director CIJB, Alberto Soldado, President CIJB, and Thierry Dufour , VP CIJB for your review and support.
1Goal of the Olympic Movement. The Olympic Charter updated (7.17.2020)
2”Solemn Appeal by United Nations to Observe Olympic Truce during”. Tokyo 2020. IOC News Press Release . 7.9.21
3”Youth Perceptions of the Olympic Games Attitudes Towards Action Sports at the Youth Olympic Games and Olympic Games” Belinda Wheaton, et al. 2016 University of Waikato, New Zealand. URL: https://Parkour.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Appendix-15-
4 thestadiumbusiness.com (2.4.2020)
5. Sports and Urban Biodiversity: A Framework for Achieving Mutual Benefits for Nature and Sports in Cities
6 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wallball , Wall Ball. edited July 21,2021, at 13: (UTC)
7 Important Insights About Generation Z. Sean McDowell.org. seanmcdowell.org/blog/9- important-insights-about-generation-z#_ftn2
8 History of Handball. Tom O’Connor. ushandball.org
9 Handball The Story of Wales’ First National Sport, Kevin Dicks and Y Lolfa Cyf., 2017
10 International Olympic Congress. Feasibility Assessment Olympic Games Brisbane. 2.2021. stillmedab.olympic.org
11 New York Today: One Ball and a Wall. NY Times, by Jonathan Wolfe, 5.16.2018
12 How Youth Sports Can Lead to a Better Job Later in Life. 1.30.2018, truesport.org, study by Knifing, Wansink and Shimizu. “Sports at Work”. Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, vol 22, no. 2, 2014 pp. 217-230., dot:101177/1548051814538099.