Cuju is an early type of soccer that was played in China.

Cuju is an early type of soccer that was played in China.

Mayan people who lived in Central America made this rubber ball.

Mayan people who lived in Central America made this rubber ball.

This Egyptian wall painting from a tomb appears to depict jugglers.

This Egyptian wall painting from a tomb appears to depict jugglers.

This statue of a ballplayer is from ancient Mexico.

This statue of a ballplayer is from ancient Mexico.

Cestas for playing jai alai are woven from reeds. (AP/J. Pat Carter)

Cestas for playing jai alai are woven from reeds. (AP/J. Pat Carter)

A craftsman stitches a jai alai ball.

A craftsman stitches a jai alai ball.

Play Ball!

Posted: July 1, 2022

Kick, throw, catch, bounce! How long have humans been playing ball games?

People in Central America made balls from the sap of rubber trees 1700 years before the time of Jesus. They bounced a ball off their hips to each other in one game!

The earliest type of soccer is called cuju (tzoo-joo). Chinese players kicked a ball stuffed with feathers toward a net in the middle of a field. No hands could touch the ball!

The first handball games were probably played in Greece. Ancient pottery from that area shows people throwing a ball to team members.

Jai alai got its name around 1875. The Pyrenees (peer-uh-neez) Mountains are on the border of France and Spain. People there bounced balls against church walls during festivals.

Some players used their hands to hit the ball. Others used rackets or wooden bats. We aren’t sure who made the first curved wicker baskets for slinging the ball. The baskets are called cestas (ses-tahs). They have always been handwoven from reeds.

The pelota (Spanish for “ball”) has a rubber core. It is wound with cord, wrapped in goat skin, and stitched. In expert level games, the ball lasts only about 20 minutes before the cover splits open!

The wall players slam the ball against is usually made of granite. Almost no other kind of wall can handle the impact of an object flying that fast!

What kinds of games did people play in Jesus’ days? Old Egyptian drawings show people juggling balls!

God knows we need time to relax. Jesus told His busy disciples to “rest a while.” (Mark 6:31) Games help people rest from work while connecting with others!