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Sandoval’s Sports Series: A Column 2

Kayli Sandoval, Editor-in-Chief

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  If you’ve gone to the beach or a park lately, you’ve probably seen the game of Roundnet, or Spikeball, being played.

  Spikeball is a game similar to a mix of Beach Volleyball and Foursquare. The game involves one rubber ball, about the size of a softball, one trampoline-like net, two teams consisting of two players each, and absolutely no boundaries. The net is in a circle shape and is lifted a few inches above the ground– whether it be sand, grass, or just about anything else.

  According to the official Spikeball website, “A player starts a point by serving the ball down onto the Spikeball net so it ricochets up at his opponents. The returning team has up to three hits between them to return the ball back onto the net. The rally continues until a team can’t return the ball onto the net within their three touches” (spikeball.com). Points are gained when the opposing team fails to transfer possession by causing the ball to hit the rim, ground, or if the ball bounces more than once on the net. Games are typically played to a final score of 11, 15, or 21.

  According to an interview from Esquire, a men’s magazine, with Founder and Chief Executive Officer Chris Ruder, Roundnet was actually a toy sold by Toys R’ Us back in the ‘80s. Ruder got the idea to revive the game when he was playing at the beach with his old, unsteady set and a countless amount of strangers stopped to ask what the game was, how it worked, and where they could get one (esquire.com). The original “toy” that Ruder had bought almost four decades before was designed by a “toymaker and cartoonist named Jeff Knurek who didn’t bother to patent his invention,” according to Forbes.

  In May of 2015, sales spiked after being aired on ABC’s famous Shark Tank, a show in which entrepreneurs pitch ideas to a panel of celebrity angel investors. According to Ruder, seven million people tuned in that Friday night that Spikeball was pitched for a deal. The Spikeball pitch received a $500,000 deal with Draymond John for 20 percent of the company. However, the deal never closed. John and Ruder had different intentions for the brand (forbes.com).

  “Spikeball was originally a side business for Ruder, who ran it out of his basement for five years. In 2013, it hit $1 million in annual revenue, and Ruder quit his corporate job to work on Spikeball full time,” according to an article on ESPN. “Today, the game has grown to feature tournaments all over the country. Headquartered in Chicago, Spikeball says it now has more than 4 million players worldwide” (espn.com). The 2018 Spikeball Roundnet Association Tournament Series has toured many large cities, such as Santa Monica, and Hollywood Beach in Florida.

  Many wonder, “Why?” or, “How?” How has this game gained popularity at an exponential rate? Well, the youth do love new trends. Although similar to a mix of a few familiar games, Spikeball has only been on the market for a handful of years.

  This year, at UC High, Seniors Colin Ruthenberg and Jacob Parco started their own club in order to spread their love for the game. Club President Ruthenberg stated, “I discovered Spikeball about two years ago and totally fell in love with it. The sport has grown tremendously throughout San Diego and around the country.”

  Aside from it being a new concept, the sport is also attaining recognition due to the social aspect it lends itself to. Club Vice President Parco said, “Due to the environment it’s played in — typically at a beach or in a park — it is easy to just ask if you can join in with random strangers. It’s a flashy game that draws a lot of attention so people love to be around it.”

Ruthenberg explained, “[By starting the UC Spike Club,] I intend to spread the game across the school, have some tournaments but most importantly just have fun and build relationships between people.”

  The game itself is also fairly easy to get the hang of. Parco added, “Spikeball brings people together, because it is simple to understand, yet very exciting and competitive. The simplicity of the game makes it welcoming to new players and therefore, people aren’t afraid to try playing.”

  In an interview with Forbes, Ruder stated that, originally, there were a total of six people that chipped in for start-up costs, yet not one of them knew the first thing about managing a large company, manufacturing, or marketing. Within the first five years, their initial marketing strategy was giving free sets to church groups, college clubs, and Ultimate Frisbee players (forbes.com).

  Spikeball is continuing to grow in popularity on an exponential scale. There are 190 official college teams. Some of the colleges include the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), the University of Southern California (USC), Arizona State University (ASU), and Brown University. And now, UC High is home to a club too.

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Sandoval’s Sports Series: A Column 2