fives court company

Fives can be played by everybody from the ages of seven to seventy

About the Game: The best game in the world.

Fives is in essence one of the oldest, simplest & most natural games in the world. It consists of hitting a ball up against a wall. Leather gloves are usually worn, and a hard ball used, but the game can be played bare handed with a tennis ball or other soft balls.

There are three codes of fives:

  • One walled handball is played against a simple single wall. It is one of the best games for developing hand eye coordination and cardiovascular fitness. It is played worldwide, and principally in New York City where there are some thousands of courts. Courts are very simple & cheap & require only a smooth vertical wall and flooring with the appropriate markings. It is a perfect entry sport for all players, as it develops the skills co-ordination and reactions required for many other ball games.

  • Rugby Fives is a handball variation of squash, with a nearly identical court but no racquet to hit the ball with and a much harder ball, so you have to run further, and be much fitter. Singles Rugby Fives is probably one of the most physically gruelling sports played.

  • Eton Fives is slower in some respects with a three walled court that has added features of ledges on the walls, a step across the middle, and a buttress on the left hand side of the court. It is a game of hazards, where in the irregular court, the ball bounces around like a pinball against its features, but you learn how it behaves so rallies can last for 30 to 40 shots. Grown men & women will laugh in delight at how the ball is kept in play thanks to judgement, quick reflexes, good technique & luck.

    These hazards make it a game of both skill & chance & require lightning fast reflexes to hit the ball when it has bounced in an unexpected way off either the buttress or one of the ledges. It is the supreme game for developing fast reflexes & excellent balance & hand eye coordination. There is a greater premium on skill & ingenuity than strength enabling people of all sizes and ages to play together on more equal terms than most other games. Recently the ladies game has expanded and nearly 20% of all Eton Fives is now played by women. It is huge fun, keeps you fit & even civilizes you. Eton fives like one-wall handball, is also an excellent gateway sport to develop the skills needed in other games & will make your cricketers, tennis & hockey players better at their respective sports.

Above all fives is fun. There is a basic joy in hitting a ball against a wall with your hands & most societies have a version of handball.

A game of honesty.

The defining ethos of the games of Rugby & Eton Fives is that there is no referee or umpire. This is because only the players can tell if the ball has bounced twice, they have hit the ball cleanly, if they have been significantly baulked by another player or if they would have returned the ball if they hadn't been. Players themselves have to admit foul shots, and have to decide for themselves if they are entitled to a let.

Another reason why there is no role for a referee is that much of the play is hidden from spectators' view.

As a result, the game encourages honesty with yourself and your opponents. Disputes have to be settled between the players on court. Even the highest level of the game is played without a referee. This is very significant - many games rely on a referee to call foul play so the players themselves are robbed of the need to be honest

Fives, Eton Fives especially, therefore promotes conflict resolution - players are taught from the beginning that they have to see things from their opponents' point of view, and to judge themselves from a neutral standpoint. The game requires courtesy; the need to help your opposition is built into the game. Each rally starts with the server throwing the ball up for his opponent to strike. The server must serve to the returner's requirements. And yet it is very rarely a problem: servers learn to throw it to their opponents' satisfaction. No other game has this peculiarity.
The game encourages a sense of humour and a philosophical attitude to failure: its irregular playing surface means even the most well-placed shot can fly out of court.

The perfect inner city sport

Fives is the perfect urban sport, as it takes up very little space and is very cheap to play. One wall handball requires only a smooth vertical wall. Rugby Fives courts are almost the size of a squash court. Eton Fives courts are smaller. A bank of 8 Eton Fives courts can be fitted onto the area of a tennis court, thus enabling 32 people to be exercised in an area previously used by two or four. Courts may often be fitted into areas which would not accommodate other games. It is particularly suited to schools that need to exercise their pupils but have relatively little space in which to do so. Courts are covered & the game may be played in all seasons & weathers. 

The game costs practically nothing to play. Equipment required is minimal, a ball & pair of gloves ( £25 ) which usually lasts four or five years.

Fives is also good for keeping young people active at break time, as just two can play a casual form of the game and it takes no time to pull gloves on or off. And because it's a sport that students will want to play in their own time, fives can help schools meet government targets of getting students to spend five hours in physical activity a week.