H 54° L 50°
Cloudy | 12MPH

Ancient sport enjoyed locally

Aug. 16, 2007

According to Wikipedia, the origins of fistball, a respectable cousin to both tennis and volleyball, date back close to 1,800 years. It remains a popular if under-reported sport in Europe, South America, Africa and Asia with some outlets here in the States.

There's even a hardy band from the Germantown/Jackson area, which represented the United States as the American representatives in the Fistball World Championships in Germany from Aug. 6 to 12. The group finished 11th in the 12-team field.

"It's similar to volleyball and has been played in Wisconsin informally since European immigrants settled this area," said Kathy Schweda, whose son Keith, a former baseball player at Germantown High School, was part of the group that went over to the Bremen area to compete in the Worlds. "It had a resurgence in the 1960s and is now formally played with annual tournaments in Wisconsin and other states."

Germantown graduate Jim Blank is the head of the Wisconsin Fistball Association and fellow 1979 alumnus Reinhard Kindler was the head coach of the International team. The crew prepped for the event by practicing at a park near the intersections of Highways 60 and 45 near Jackson.

And they had to be ready as this sport is not for the faint of heart. The intense all-German International Fistball Association website ( shows players flying through the air, hitting the dirt and competing in a life-or-death manner. Also, the support the 12-team World Championship field received at the primary site of Niedersachsen was amazing as photos showed packed stands.

According to the Wikipedia entry, the earliest known written mention of the game is by Roman Emperor Gordian III in the year 240 AD. Rules for an Italian version were written down in 1555 and in 1786, the great philosopher/writer/social commentator Johann Wolfgang Goethe mentioned fistball games between "four noblemen from Verona and four Venetians" in his diary "An Italian Journey".

Simply put, fistball belongs to the family of games wherein a ball gets hit across a net so as the opponent cannot reach it. It is like volleyball in that the ball can be hit three times (with the fists or the arms, never the open hand) but unlike either tennis or volleyball in that the ball can bounce each time after every contact. There are five players to a side.

It's also a game that can be played indoors as well as outdoors. The court for the men's outdoor game, which the Germantown group competed on, was 20 meters by 50 meters. The net hangs about six feet (two meters) across the center of the field with service lines set up at the back similar to both tennis and volleyball.

The players hit what looks like a cross between a volleyball and a soccer ball. Individual games are referred to as sets and are played to a score of 20 (win by two) with a best two-out-of-three format.

Schweda said that getting invited to the international tournament was a major achievement. The American team struggled to get its footing, losing matches to eventual champion Austria, Denmark, Taiwan and Chile, before pulling off a 20-10, 20-12 victory against Japan in its final match.

Brazil took second and host Germany was third.

Other members of the team included Kurtis Spott (West Bend), Joshua Kindler (Jackson), Manfred Kindler (Jackson), Steve Heinrichs (Jackson), Aaron Wenninger (St. Lawrence), Steve Kucera (Hartford), Eric Kindler (Germantown), Nate Erdman (Germantown), Matt Heinrichs (Jackson), Ken Knapp (Jackson), and Dave Gorzalski (Germantown).

For complete results of the championships including photos, go to

Steven L. Tietz can be reached at (262) 446-6619 or

This site uses Facebook comments to make it easier for you to contribute. If you see a comment you would like to flag for spam or abuse, click the "x" in the upper right of it. By posting, you agree to our Terms of Use.

Suburban News Roundup

E-mail Newsletter

Your link to the biggest stories in the suburbs delivered Thursday mornings.

Enter your e-mail address above and click "Sign Up Now!" to begin receiving your e-mail newsletter
Get the Newsletter!

Login or Register to manage all your newsletter preferences.

Community Watch

» Updated week eight rankings of area prep football teams and players 10/8

» Driver survives hourlong extraction from vehicle near Highway 41 and Friestadt Road 10/6

» Germantown's Sam Siebenaller sets records at big Evanston invite 10/6

» Fall leaf pickup slated to begin mid-October in the Falls 10/6

» Menomonee Falls volleyball team secures invite title with win over Greendale 10/6

» Sport Shorts: Oct. 8, 2015 10/5

» Germantown board sides with residents, does not allow plans for large apartment complex 10/5

» Chipotle in Menomonee Falls to open next month, employees needed 10/5

» Saxony Village proposal discussion to resume in Germantown 10/5

» Reminder: responses needed to Falls School District Community Survey today, Oct. 5 10/5

» Robin's Nest to host Vera Bradley Ambassador Joan Bradley Reedy 10/5

» Menomonee Falls to consider allowing outdoor seating at Tornado Brewery 10/5

» Germantown School District to see small increase in taxes 10/5

» Former professional fighter puts burglar in choke hold, keeps him knocked out until police arrive 10/5

» Menomonee Falls Lions Club hosts open house 10/5

» Milwaukee suburbs trick-or-treat times 2015 10/5

» Initial Reaction Podcast: Is Aaron Rodgers really the best QB in football? 10/1

» Last-second pick denies Germantown win against Bay in football thriller 10/1

» Home sweet home: Falls offense paces Indian football team to 37-13 win 10/1

» Menomonee Falls woman, 81, to be published nationally 9/29

» 3 things you can do to protect your family, pets from coyote attacks Updated:  9/29

» Family ties link Menomonee Falls Hall of Famers 9/29

» Kohl's pilots Kohl's Café at Menomonee Falls, Delafield locations Updated:  9/28

» Menomonee-Falls based manufacturer receives award for health, wellness programs 9/28

» Falls woman charged in heroin death of man just out of rehab 9/28

View All Posts Got a tip? Welcome rss



Local Business Directory



Most Popular