American handball vs. Racquetball: Which One is Your Favorite Sport?

Comparing American handball and racquetball can easily give you a headache. The two games are similar in their rules and just about everything else. 

In fact, the most distinctive difference between the two games is that in racquetball you use a racket to hit the ball while in handball, you use your hand.

Nevertheless, the two games are played on the same court following the same rules. 

Let’s have a look at some of the similarities and differences between the two sports.

handball vs. racquetball

Image sources: and


American handball is believed to have a lot of influence in most racket games such as racquetball, paddleball, and squash. An American called Joe Sobek takes credit for inventing racquetball in the 1940s in Greenwich, Connecticut. However, American handball can be traced to ancient Egypt and in America back in 1500 BC. There is a game that was similar to handball played in central and northern America in 1500 BC. It can also be said that American handball could have some influence from hand tennis and rackets, a game played with bare hands against the wall.

Basic Rules

The basic rules of the two games are similar. However, there are a few differences which mainly involve the type of game being played. For instance, you can have four-walled courts in American handball, a single wall, and a three-walled court. However, in racquetball, the court always has four walls which means that some rules in racquetball aren’t necessary for handball such as where the ball needs to hit before bouncing off.

The concept is simple for both games. One person hits the ball against the front wall, and the opponent is supposed to return the hit without allowing the ball to bounce twice on their court. Moreover, the opponent needs to ensure that the volley hits the front wall first.

Equipment (Racket, Shoes, Ball)

When it comes to equipment, it’s the ball that makes the biggest difference. In American handball, opponents play using their bare hands which means that they need gloves. On the other hand, racquetball players require a unique teardrop-shaped racquetball racket to play. In most cases, the racket is made of light materials such as graphite, about 22 inches tall and have a wide head made of strung synthetic.

In American handball, players are required to wear goggles, special gloves, sneakers and athletic shorts. In professional handball, eye protection and gloves are a necessity. In racquetball, only eye protection is mandatory in formal tournaments. However, in street handball, players rarely wear gloves and goggles. In American handball, you can use your hand to hit the ball using your fingers, palm and the back of your hand.

In American handball, players can use a hollow racquetball which is typically bigger, heavier and slower than the original American handball. There are two types of small balls which are named depending on the gender playing the game. In women games, the small ball is called white ace while in men games it’s called red ace. They are harder and bounce higher than the bigger balls. On the other hand, the bigger balls are usually hollower and bounce slower. The big balls are exclusively used in four-walled formal handball games.

Nevertheless, three-walled and one walled game can use small or big balls. It should, however, be noted that this applies to regular games such as tournaments. In fact, in street games, the bigger balls are normally used to play all the games. In racquetball, there are different balls categorized by their colors and used in various tournaments.


When it comes to the court, the concept is the same for both games. However, the number of walls in American handball varies depending on the number of players and the type of game being played. The typical American handball court is rectangular measuring 40 x 20’. In American handball, the court might be one walled, 3 Walled or a 4 Walled. 4 Walled Court is usually enclosed entirely with a ceiling while the other courts might have ceilings or not.

In racquetball, the court is the same in size, but the markings might vary depending on the number of players. However, one walled American handball court has different dimensions measuring 20 x 16’.


In American handball, there are three different formal versions which are mentioned above. In these various versions, they can either be played by two players, three players or four players. On the other hand, in racquetball, they do not allow for a three-player game. In both games, there are no gender restrictions. Some of the most popular players in American handball include Albert Apuzzi, Paul Brady, and David Chapman. On the other hand, the most notable players in racquetball are Kane Waselenchuk, Monchik Sudsy, and Mannino Jason.


When it comes to serving, both sports use the same concept whereby players are required to hit the ball against the wall from a service zone. There are lines in both racquetball and American handball that guide the players on where to stand while serving.

In racquetball, you can get two serves like in tennis. In both games, the ball needs to hit the front wall first. The opponent, on the other hand, is supposed to get the ball back ensuring that it does not bounce twice on their court. However, in American handball, a player has to bounce the ball first before hitting it with his own bare hands towards the front wall.


In both games, the concept is again the same and players compete to see who accumulates 21 points the fastest. There are three sets, and often an extra set called the tiebreaker in case both opponents gather the same number of points. Points are collected when the opponent makes mistakes such as allowing the ball to bounce twice on their court before returning it. You can also earn points when your opponent is unable to return your serves. In this regard, many players spend countless hours mastering the art of serving unique serves.


In both American handball and racquetball, since the rules are similar, officiating is also similar. In this regard, both games require trained and certified referees to officiate the games. In both games, we have a single referee who calls all the shots, and their decision is final. However, in street gaming, the referees can be hand-picked depending on the experience and knowledge of the game.


As we have learned, American handball and racquetball are two similar games yet offer distinctively unique feelings when playing them. The rules are the same, and most of the equipment used is the same including the court. However, there is an unending debate as to which one of the games is better. In fact, the debate escalated very fast prompting even the two stars in both games to hold a street match to even out things.

Regardless of the outcome of the match, both sports are unique in their ways and exciting in equal measure. However, you should note that American handball has other variations of the game such as prison handball, Chinese handball, Frisian handball, Picigin and Wallball, a name given to any street game played by children on the streets using a tennis ball.

You may like these:

Peter S. Harper

I am Peter, a 39-year-old friendly being from the United States. I love playing a lot of sports such as tennis, table tennis, volleyball, softball, and badminton... I have created this blog to help you find information on different types of sports equipment and finding the right one to enhance your skills at the game.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 0 comments