--> History of Racquetball

Welcome the Wonderful World of Racquetball

In the United States

Joe Sobek Joe Sobek is credited with inventing the sport of racquetball in the Greenwich YMCA, though not with naming it. A professional tennis and handball player, Sobek sought a fast-paced sport that was easy to learn and play. He designed the first strung paddle, devised a set of rules, based on those of squash, handball, and paddleball, and named his game paddle rackets.

In February 1952 Sobek founded the National Paddle Rackets Association (NPRA), codified the rules, and had them printed as a booklet. The new sport was rapidly adopted and became popular through Sobek's continual promotion of it; he was aided by the existence of some 40,000 handball courts in the country's YMCAs and JCCs, wherein racquetball could be played.

In 1969, aided by Robert W. Kendler, the president-founder of the U.S. Handball Association (USHA), the International Racquetball Association (IRA) was founded using the name coined by Bob McInerney, a professional tennis player. That same year, the IRA assumed the national championship from the National Paddle Rackets Association (NPRA). In 1973, after a dispute with the IRA board of directors, Kendler formed two other racquetball organizations, yet the IRA remains the sport's dominant organization, recognized by the United States Olympic Committee as the American national racquetball governing body.

In 1974, the IRA organized the first professional tournament, and is a founding member of the International Racquetball Federation (IRF). Eventually, the IRA became the American Amateur Racquetball Association (AARA); in late 1995, it renamed itself as the United States Racquetball Association (USRA). In 2003, the USRA again renamed itself to USA Racquetball (USAR), to mirror other Olympic sports associations.

Kendler used his publication ACE to promote both handball and racquetball. Starting in the 1970s, and aided by the fitness boom of that decade, the sport's popularity increased to an estimated 3.1 million players by 1974. Consequent to increased demand, racquetball clubs and courts were founded and built, and sporting goods manufacturers began producing racquetball-specific equipment. This growth continued until the early 1980s, and declining in the decade's latter part when racquet clubs converted to physical fitness clubs, in service to a wider clientele, adding aerobics exercise classes and physical fitness and bodybuilding machines. Since then, the number of racquetball players has remained steady, an estimated 5.6 million players.

In the United Kingdom

Ian D. W. Wright In 1976, Ian D.W. Wright created the sport of racketball based on U.S. racquetball. British racketball is played in a 32-foot (9.8 m) long by 21-foot (6.4 m) wide squash court (8 feet (2.4 m) shorter and 1 foot (0.30 m) wider than the U.S. racquetball court), using a smaller, less dynamic ball than the American racquetball. In racketball, the ceiling is out-of-bounds. The racketball is served after a bounce on the floor then struck into play with the racket. Scoring is like squash with point-a-rally scoring of up to 11 points. Full rules can be found at England Squash and Racketball. The British Racketball Association was formed on 13 February 1984, and confirmed by the English Sports Council as the sport's governing body on 30 October 1984. The first National Racketball Championship was held in London on 1 December 1984. The sport is now played in countries where squash is played, Australia, Bermuda, France, Germany, Malaysia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina, Ireland and Sweden. Currently, racketball also is played in parts of North America.

In 1988, the British Racketball Association merged with the English Squash Rackets Association. England Squash & Racketball is now recognized by Sport England as the English national governing body of the sports of squash and racketball. There is now an established UK Racketball Tournament Series consisting of 8 events around the UK, which forms the basis of the national rankings along with the National Racketball championships held annually at The Edgebaston Priory Club.