posted May 19, 2006

Hope Korfball Group Headed to Europe

 Last fall the West Michigan community was introduced to the sport of korfball when a European team visited Hope College.  Now it's time for the young Americans to experience the game on the home courts of the Europeans.

Hope professor Karla Wolters will take a group of 16 current and former students to the Netherlands for a series of training sessions and three matches between May 29 and June 2.

The introduction of korfball to the West Michigan sports scene has been spearheaded by Wolters who is also Hope's softball coach.  Korfball caught her fancy when she saw the game played in the early 1990s and after researching the popular European coed game.  She now teaches a class in korfball and recently became a member of the International Korfball Federation. In 2005 Wolters attended a clinic in the Netherlands to learn more about the sport.   Last fall a team of players from Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands demonstrated the game in schools throughout West Michigan and played an exhibition game at HopeCollege.

Members of the Hope korfball group traveling to the Netherlands include Jennifer Diekevers of Hudsonville, Michael Forbes of Lone Tree, Iowa, Erika and Amanda Guijarro of Los Angeles, Calif., Cara Hoekstra of Holland, Seth Kovarik of Traverse City, Gracia Kamps of Hudsonville, Aaron Kenemer of Zeeland, Robert Knight of Hamilton, Lauren Kucera of Dyer, Ind., Katherine Madison of Charlevoix,  Christopher Maybury of Holland, Julie McGowan of Winthrop Harbor, Ill.,  Christopher Olds of Brainerd, Minn., Matthew Simon of Grand Rapids and Antoine Williams of Holland.  

Korfball dates back to 1902 and is billed as the world's only coed team sport.  Korf is a Dutch word for basket and elements of the game are similar to basketball.  There are baskets at each end of the court, but no backboards.  There is no dribbling; only passing.  A team consists of four players, two men and two women.  Each shot is worth one point.

A Brief Overview of Korfball

Korfball traces its origins back to the Dutch teacher Nico Broekhuysen.  Broekhuysen developed the game in 1902 and dubbed it Korfball.  "Korf" is Dutch for basket, so "Korfball" literally means basketball, which the game does mimic in some ways.  Korfball was very progressive for its time as it is a co-ed game where equality and cooperation are the key principles.

Some key components of the game of Korfball include a basket 11 ½ feet above the ground (compared to 10 feet in basketball) - with no backboard - attached to a post.  There are eight players on the field of play (which can be either indoors or outside); four on the offensive zone of the field and four on the defensive side of the field.  A zone is very much comparable to a half-court in basketball.  The co-ed aspect of the game is achieved by having two male and two female athletes make up the four athlete total that the team must have in each zone.

Other key features of the game include a rule that does not allow a player in possession of the ball to move - a rule much like that of Ultimate Frisbee's.  Also, to create better equality, members of the opposite sex may not hinder an opponent trying to pass the ball.  Korfball uses a penalty system much like that of soccer's, with referees giving out yellow cards and red cards, depending on the severity of an athlete's wrong-doing.

Also of interest, the scoring system in Korfball is derived from soccer, with each goal counting as one point.  A match is typically comprised of two thirty-minute halves and final scores are usually in high teens for the winning team and low teens for the losing team depending on the closeness of the match.