Frisian culture has its own sports. One of these is called kaatsen (which means: bouncing, but is often translated by Frisians as handball although there is another sports called handball). It is played in open air on a 60 by 32 meters grass pitch. The ball has the following characteristics:
Kaatsen is played by teams of three players (called partuur), each consisting of one server and two field players, one of whom must also serve. The object of the game is to accumulate kaatsen (bounces), which is the return strike after serving. The object is to bounce further than the opposing team.
The server has to serve from the one end of the field to the other. The return should be within the lines. If the return strike passes the 60-meter line, the receiving team is awarded two points. If not, the return is undecided and is marked on the place of touching the ground. This is repeated once after which the other team gets to serve (so a game consists of two serves to each team) and the first team tries to return-strike past the marks. All scores are worth 2 points to one or the other team:
- Ace: a serve that can't be dealt with
- Faulty serve
- Kwaadslag (angry strike): striking the ball over the sidelines
- Bovenslag (upper strike): passing the 60-meter line
- Striking the ball further than the other team
Kaatsers themselves are convinced tennis has its origins in kaatsen. The scoring is similar. A match is over after six eersten (firsts), which a team wins at 8 points (so the scoring is 2, 4, 6, game). It's called firsts because the first goes out to the first team that reaches 8 points. The points are hung on a typical scoreboard: a telegraph pole.
A match usually lasts for 40 to 50 minutes. Winning one match doesn't earn you a prize. Kaatsen is usually played in tournaments. To earn victory, players have to collect 4 to 6 wins in one day. The PC (which stands for Permanent Committee) in Franeker is kaatsen's Wimbledon. Winning the PC is the highest achievement for a kaatser. From the victorious team the best player is proclaimed as 'King of the PC'. Each year the PC poet writes a laudatory poem for the king of the PC. The poem is printed on the tournament list of the succeeding year. This poem in Frisian describes the character and heroic deeds of the king of the PC and his playing during the match. The PC is a yearly event originating in the Middle Ages, but results are officially registered since 1854. It is visited by about 10.000 spectators.
There are many international variations to kaatsen. The Basques are proud of their pelota, the Irish play ‘one wall handball’, Tuscany has its Pallone Elastico, France and Belgium call their version jeu de pelote and on the Swedish island Gotland a variation called pärk is played.
The Dutch kaatsen Association has a web location at www.knkb.nl. The PC is present at www.pc-franeker.nl (with an extensive English department).