Wall Ball is a term used to describe a sport that was once known as Irish / American handball in which players use their hands to hit a small rubber ball against a wall such that their opponent cannot do the same without it touching the ground twice. The three versions are four-wall , three-wall and one-wall. Each version can be played either by two players (singles) or four players (doubles). The U.S. Wall Ball Association Inc. and Wall Ball World LLC is specific to the version played on one-wall.
Games in which a ball is hit or thrown have been referenced as far back as Homer and ancient Egypt. A game similar to wall ball was played by Northern and Central Americans from 1500 BC, most famously by the Aztecs as the Mesoamerican ballgame. However, no references to a rebound game using a wall survive. It is thought that these ancient games more closely resembled a form of hand tennis. Further examples of similar games include the European-originated games of Basque pelota (or Jai-alai), Valencian fronto and International fronton.
The first recorded game of striking a ball against a wall using a hand was in Scotland in 1427, when King James I ordered a cellar window in his palace courtyard to be blocked up, as it was interfering with his game. In Ireland, the earliest written record of a similar game is in the 1527 town statutes of Galway, which forbade the playing of ball games against the walls of the town. The first depiction of an Irish form of handball does not appear until 1785. The sport of handball in Ireland was eventually standardized as Gaelic handball. By the mid-19th century, Australians were playing a similar game, which developed into the modern sport of Australian handball.
In “Treacherous Beauty,” by Mark Jacob and Stephen H. Case about the Arnold-Andre conspiracy, Major John Andre and General Sir Henry Clinton are said to have played a game called handball during the American Revolution. The earliest record of the modern game in the United States mentions two handball courts in San Francisco in 1873. The sport grew over the next few decades. By the early 1900s, four-wall handball was well established and a one-wall game was developed in New York City by beach-goers who hit bald tennis balls with their hands against the sides of the wooden jetties that lined beaches. This led to a rise in one-wall handball at New York beaches and by the 1930s, due to the efforts of the New York City Parks Department thousands of outdoor one-wall courts had been built throughout the city. Wall ball is seen predominantly in parks, beaches, and high school yards in New York, Chicago and other large urban areas.
The United States, together with 26 other nations represent the growing sport of wall ball. The World Wall Ball Championships have been held every three years since 1964 alternating between Canada, Ireland, and the USA. There are over 3,000 wall ball clubs world-wide with players ranging in age from 9-89 years old. Recently, wall ball has piqued the interest of the International Olympic Committee for inclusion in the Olympic Games, hence the name change to “Wall Ball.” There is currently a popular sport included in the Olympic program called “Olympic Handball” which is also referred to as “Team Handball.”