On Salvadoran Independence Day, September 15th, my IB Year 1 juniors faced off against veteran IB Year 2 seniors in Lowcountry Preparatory School’s 2nd Annual Handball Tournament. In this particular picture, a senior is making the case to me, en español of course, that they should start with the ball because they won last year. 😆
I played outdoor team handball all throughout high school in El Salvador. A popular sport that is played even at the Olympics, team handball is largely unknown in the United States. It’s a fairly rough contact sport played with a ball that fits, well, in your hand, on a court a little bigger than a basketball court. There’s a circle around the goal like in field hockey, you dribble like basketball, and you take a characteristic three-step running jump to shoot on goal (there’s a handball emoji of a player in this position-check it out!).
In the past, I had told my students about playing handball in high school and some of the more athletically inclined had always asked to play. I demurred, thinking, I can’t teach handball! As a senior, I had so many injuries from handball my superlative was “Team Ouch.” So, no handball en la clase and two years went by.
My first year of teaching was a blur because there was no plan B. Everything was plan A, and if it didn’t work, which happened often, we just had to struggle through. Year 2 I finally had a backup plan, and sometimes I even had a plan C or D. Everyone said year 2 would be easier and I thought, well, duh. But it was so. much. easier.
Year 3 was the year that I lost my inhibitions, so to speak: if it was something I had thought about doing but didn’t, either because I was nervous it wouldn’t work, or I was worried I didn’t have the right resources, I said screw it, and just tried it. So that’s how “Team Ouch” and two-time Most Improved (what does that mean??) ended up teaching high school juniors and seniors how to play handball en español.
Handball dovetails nicely with an IB unit on Ethics in Sports. We talk about good sportsmanship, sports-related vocabulary, and sports as a source of cultural identity, and come game-day I can comfortably give them the rules en español:
With that, we’re off! It’s a little tricky to be referee, coach, and Spanish teacher all at the same time, but it’s my favorite kind of chaos if I’m surrounded by a bunch of high schoolers hablando en español and trying something new with a great attitude. Highlights from this year include being told “¡Tú necesitas ojos!” (You need eyes!) by a senior when I made a bad call about a goal, and watching a normally silent junior girl beg to be put back in after the half. An awesome quince (Salvadoran independence) all around. 🇸🇻
Below: Seniors celebrating their 9-3 win over the juniors, the coveted trophy I may or may not have bought at Goodwill and retrofitted, a referee selfie, and, from the Facebook vault, a pic from high school handball in El Sal.