By Eric Bourque
Aside from popular mainstream sports like basketball, volleyball and soccer, the Finale des Jeux de l’Acadie will feature mini-handball, a game that, at least in some ways, brings to mind the three sports mentioned above.
Saying it’s hard, really, to compare handball to other sports, Basile d’Entremont, coordinator of the mini-handball competition for the 2012 Finale des Jeux de l’Acadie, notes that there are some similarities.
“The ball we use looks very much like a volleyball and we use nets that look the same as soccer nets, but they are much smaller,” he said.
Mini-handball is played indoors – with six players per team, including a goalie, on the floor – and players, as in basketball, are allowed to dribble the ball.
“The idea of handball is not to dribble but to pass, so you just dribble to move,” d’Entremont said. “As in any sport, really, you pass it around to trick the defence and sneak into the goalie … There are parts (of handball) that look like soccer and parts that look like basketball.”
Given that players can receive penalties, the sport can bring to mind hockey too.
Mini-handball, as the name suggests, is handball for younger players. The ball is smaller and softer for mini-handball than it is for regular handball, but most of the rules are the same, says d’Entremont, who recalls when the sport was introduced to the Par-en-Bas region.
“We invited someone from New Brunswick to teach us the game of handball,” he said. “This was at least around 20 years ago … We had a clinic for kids and coaches.”
He remembers a local team being put together and going to the Jeux de l’Acadie on Prince Edward Island where “we lost miserably,” but with practice the Par-en-Bas program got stronger.
“In the beginning we, in this part of Nova Scotia, were the only team,” he said. “Then other parts of Nova Scotia joined, but since we had the advantage over them of having started earlier, for a long time, any time we competed against Nova Scotia teams, we won.”
Most recently, the Par-en-Bas mini-handball contingent came up short in its bid to represent Nova Scotia at this year’s Finale des Jeux de l’Acadie, losing to a Halifax-area squad at the 2012 Acadian Games for Nova Scotia that were held last month.
Asked about the popularity of the sport, d’Entremont say it’s quite big in New Brunswick, with strong teams, leagues, a provincial association and a good number of spectators.
Meanwhile, as the Municipality of Argyle plays host to the 2012 Finale des Jeux de l’Acadie, the mini-handball championship will be decided Monday, July 2, at Meadowfields Community School, where the gold-medal game is scheduled for 1 p.m.