posted September 28, 2007

Korfball World Championships Await Hope Students

What started as a Hope College professor's idea to introduce a coed sport unique to America has turned into a dream come true for several Hope students who will be part of the USA team in the Korfball World Championship when they are held in Brno, The Czech Republic, in late October and early November.

Korfball is the world's only coed team sport and resembles the game of basketball. Korf is a Dutch word for basket.  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 successful shot is worth one point.

Longtime Hope physical educator and softball coach Karla Wolters introduced Korfball to the West Michigan sports scene in 2005 when she began teaching a class in it.  In the fall of 2005 Hope entertained a Korfball team from Europe.  The next summer a team comprised of Hope students and recent alumni traveled to Europe for a series of games.  Last fall Hope hosted the tryouts for the USA team that will compete in the World Championships.  Wolters serves on the governing board of USA Korfball.

" Our Hope Korfball players are thrilled to be part of the USA Korfball team that will be competing in Brno," said Wolters. "It is a dream come true to be able to compete with the world's best Korfball teams for the World Cup. We are also looking forward to learning about Brno and the surrounding area as none of us have ever been in the Czech Republic before. We aspire to play with passion, enjoy the entire experience and represent Hope College and the USA well in our travels."

The World Championships will bring together players from 16 countries for games between October 30 and November 10.  The USA team will embark on October 27.

Countries represented in the championships are Australia, Belgium, Catalonia, China, Chinese Taipei, Czech Republic, England, Germany, Hungary, India, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Russia, South Africa and USA.

The tournament will begin with pool play.  The USA squad will be matched against teams from Chinese Taipei, Germany and Russia.  Play will continue in a championship and consolation bracket. Some of the games will be televised by Czech Television.

Members on the USA team affiliated with Hope include sisters Amanda and Erika Guijarro, seniors from Los Angeles, Calif.; Kate Madison, a senior from Charlevoix, Mich.; Stephen Malvitz, a senior from Ada, Mich.; Chris Olds, a senior from Brainerd, Minn.; Gerry Ruffino, senior from Holland, Mich.; Mark Slotman, a junior from Cedar Grove, Wisc.; Effie Van Dyke, a senior from Spruce, Mich.; Aaron Kenemer, a 2007 grad from Zeeland, Mich.; Allison Watchorn, a junior from Sault Sainte Marie, Mich.; and Antoine Williams, a 2007 grad from Holland, Mich.  Wolters will accompany the group as an assistant coach and team manager.

The first Korfball World Championships were held in 1978 in the Netherlands.  They are held every four years.  The Netherlands has won six of the previous seven World Championships, including 2003.  The International Korfball Federation is headquarter in The Netherlands.

The USA will be competing in the World Championships for the first time since 1991 when the team ended seventh.

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.

World Championship website