Lawson writes . . . sharing thoughts and memories

August 30, 2010

Jai alai

Filed under: Uncategorized — lawsonjolly @ 5:00 am

Strange word, jai alai!  It is a word unknown to many Americans!  But it exists in America and has since 1904.  Jai alai is considered “the fastest sport in the world.”  That should be defined, however.  It has to be interpreted in a non-mechanical (i.e. race cars) sport.

This fantastic and exciting game originated in Spain where it is called pelota vasca.  When the sport was introduced in Cuba, it was named jai alai. It is popular today in Spain, Mexico, Brazil, Italy, Indonesia, China,  Egypt, and other countries.

The sport was introduced in America at the World’s Fair in 1904 in St. Louis, MO.  However, it was not popular, and the building erected for it closed within 2 months.  Miami became the next city to begin the sport. In 1924, a fronton (the arena) was built, and the popularity of the sport grew rapidly to many other cities in Florida.  There are other frontons in other states, but in recent years the sport has declined.

My first experience at this sport is unforgettable. There was an unusal atmosphere. I soon learned that it was primarily for para-mutual betting.  However, that did not overshadow the game for me.  I realized why it was called the fastest sport in the world.  I watched as these skilled players would send the ball bouncing off one of the three walls at speeds in excess of 170 mph.  The ball was blasted off the walls at such an extreme velocity that rarely would a ball last more than twenty minutes.  New balls were constantly needed.

The players would catch the ball in a long wicker scoop.  It was much like wearing a baseball glove.  This glove was strapped to the hand and wrist to prevent it flying off the hand of the player.  Players would catch the ball, and with one moving swing throw the ball immediately against a wall.  Hopefully it would ricochet in such a way that the opponent could not catch it.

The sound from the ball and the speed of the ball was almost frightening.  Yet, what fascinated me most were the players.  I watched with admiration the swift movement and reaction of the players.  The lightning fast players would literally climb those walls to heights I thought impossible.  The athletes are some of the most conditioned men in any sport.

I learned something of the training of these players.  They begin training for this sport between the ages of 8 and 10 years.  It takes years to master the sport, and those with the ability choose early that this will be their career.  They begin early disciplining themselves for a professional life as a jai alai player.

It behooves me to suggest a lesson here.  These players begin a discipline at a very early age.  They are training everyday for a life of choice.  When they are in their early teens, there is a pattern so developed in them that can never be escaped. There are certain religious groups who believe that if they can have the influence over a child until the child is ten years old, that child will always be committed to that religion.

Oh, what that says about children and the Christian faith.  Like a jai alai player, if children are disciplined in the things of God at that early age, there will be an inescapable commitment.  Thus, the importance of a faith-centered home, the study of the Bible, and the involvement in a church.

Yet, as those young jai alai players need coaches, children need a mentor.  And I believe it begins with parents!

” . . . bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”  (Ephesians 6:4)  “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”  (Proverbs 22:6)




  1. Thank you for writing this article, and I hope that you will continue to write articles like this about the sport of Jai alai.

    I think that more articles need to written on Amateur Jai alai. There are a lot of Amateur Programs going on around the country and it doesn’t get the exposure that it should.

    Once again thanks, and looking to read the next one.

    Comment by Michael — September 1, 2010 @ 10:55 pm | Reply

  2. A good share. I hope you will write more about Jai alai.

    Comment by Multiple News — September 2, 2010 @ 7:30 am | Reply

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