By, Hannah Lickley | Writer
March 10, 2016
It’s taken me four years to work up the courage to go over and ask these students if I could play.
A lack of understanding, mixed with anxiety, mixed with other students’ opinions, all worked against me, retroactively clouding my perception. For four years I was unsure and unaware, but once I did walk across into “their world” I was beyond surprised with what I found.
Before school, during lunch, and after school, about 20-40 San Clemente High School students of predominantly Latino ethnicity, play handball.
A version of traditional indoor/outdoor handball played with paddles, the basic rules of this game are easy to learn. Two teams of two square off with a tiny handball, about the size of a tennis ball. Using your bare hand, you wack the ball against the wall to serve and return, but can only let the ball bounce once. If the ball bounces more than once, or you miss the wall completely, you’ve lost the point. One game is typically best to five or seven points. Once you win, you move up to the next court, but if you lose, you move down a court.
“It’s like our own little world over here and it can be weird but it’s really the only thing I like about coming to school,” said freshman Fabian Esquivel, who is considered amongst his peers as one of the best handball players at SCHS. “All of my friends play, it’s really fun, and pretty simple, to be honest.”
It does seem to be pretty simple, and really fun – so why is it that it isn’t more popular with students of other ethnicities? Why is there a perceived weird cultural barrier there?
“It seems like they all feel more comfortable over there and playing,” said sophomore Cameron Ray. “I don’t think they’re trying to separate themselves, they’re just doing what makes them happy I guess.”
From just a few short experiences hanging out and playing with the handball crew, I found myself having a lot of fun, getting a lot of exercise, and feeling like I was a part of their close-knit community. In reality, they’re students just like me, spending time with the social group they feel comfortable with, regardless of their ethnicity.
Think you might like to play handball sometime? Go down there and give it a try as I know you will find just how warm and welcoming they can be, but be ready to play!