When Tilbert La Haye, CEO of the International Korfball Federation, says that there is “no ruckus” in korfball, it is not because the people who play aren’t passionate about the sport.
“It’s because your sister or your brother might be the ones sitting next to you in the stands or playing in the game; it’s a family event,” he said.
The Netherlands native and one-time coach of the Spanish national korfball team has a point. The makeup of the teams – which features eight players per team – is mandated by the rules of korfball to include an equal number of females and males on the floor at all times.
“It is a bit different,” he said of korfball, noting that players often find the coed nature of the sport to be one of its strengths. And while the sport has a strong following and support in Europe and Asia, it has yet to find the same foothold in the U.S.
But that might be changing, as the sport – like many at The World Games – uses the competition to make a case for inclusion in the Olympics. Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, and other IOC representatives were in Birmingham during the games, watching the competition … and taking notes.
“We’re trying to introduce korfball at universities (in the U.S.),” La Haye added. “People are familiar with the game because it’s so much like basketball.”
The object of the game is to throw the ball into a bottomless basket mounted on an 11.5-foot pole. Each team has four players in each half (zone) of the court, and they cannot switch zones during game play.
Once two goals have been scored, the teams change zones, with offense becoming defense, and vice-versa. Players move the ball up court by passing the ball to one another. Once a ball is caught, a player may not dribble, walk or run with it, but can pivot with one foot remaining on the ground.
As likely the pre-eminent expert on the sport, La Haye made sure to point out his favorite differences from the game invented by James Naismith:
- Korfball and basketball were invented around the same time; Korfball dates from 1905, basketball from 1891.
- If you are being actively guarded in korfball (meaning within about an arm’s length away), you can’t shoot the ball.
- A korfball is similar in size and appearance to a soccer ball but is designed to be held/caught and isn’t slick.
- The goal – a solitary ring – is 11.5 feet tall.
- Because there is no dribbling in korfball, players are constantly moving – to get a clear shot or take/make a pass.
And as someone who fell in love with the game as a boy, La Haye hopes that the experience of seeing some of the best in the world playing in Birmingham will be just as inspiring to a new generation of potential new korfball enthusiasts.