The early years
Joseph G. Sobek (1918 – 1998) was the inventor of racquetball, although he is not credited with coining the name (he called it “paddle rackets”). He developed the sport while working in a rubber manufacturing plant in Bridgeport, CT. A resident of Greenwich, CT, Sobek was also a tennis pro and squash and handball player.
In the 1940’s Sobek was dissatisfied with the indoor court sports available, and it is said that Sobek sought a way to make handball less hard on his hands. He and a partner began playing the sport with paddles, and in 1949, Sobek “invented” a game called “paddle racquets.” This game combined the rules of squash and handball.
Using a platform tennis racket as a pattern, Sobek drew up plans for a new, short, strung racket and had 25 prototypes made in 1950. He began promoting the new sport by selling these prototypes to his fellow members of the Greenwich, CT YMCA.
The game was catching on, but players found fault with the ball, so Sobek set out to find a better ball for his new sport. He found what he was looking for in an inexpensive Spalding rubber ball for children, and bought as many as he could to keep his new sport going. Sobek eventually founded his own company to manufacture balls to his exact specifications.
In 1952, Sobek founded the Paddle Rackets Association. He codified a set of rules and printed them up, sent out promotional kits to YMCAs and other sporting organizations to promote the sport, and provided clinics to teach new players the new sport of racquetball.
The fledgling International Racquetball Association established an organized tournament structure and set of rules for the game. Meanwhile, sporting goods manufacturers developed new equipment that was specifically designed for racquetball.
Organisations and championships
The International Racquetball Federation was established in 1979, the first World Championships were held in 1981. World and European Championships are held bi-anually since the mid-eighties.
The IRF received recognition by the IOC in 1985.
A list of all affiliated countries with the IRF can be found here.