Huge Spikeball tournament in Murray shows this sport's here to stay
Jul 18, 2019 03:47PM
● By Carl Fauver
Utah Roundnet Association President Taylor Sanford (R) enjoys a Spikeball rally with a friend. (Carl Fauver/City Journals)
By Carl Fauver | [email protected]
You know a sport has a little swagger when some of the two-person teams are named Norwegian Ninjas, Count Your Spankings, Smack n Cheese and Gucci Swagball 1000.
Those were just four of the 72 teams — from seven different states — participating in a one day Spikeball tournament earlier this summer at Murray’s Willow Pond Park (6059 Murray Parkway Ave.).
Moreover, the President of the Utah Roundnet Association, Taylor Sanford, 31, is expecting more than twice that many teams when his organization hosts possibly the most prestigious Spikeball tournament ever in Utah, Aug. 17, at Salt Lake’s Sugar House Park.
“This will be one of five officially-sanctioned Spikeball tournaments in our west region,” Sanford said. “It will be the first-ever Utah tour stop. We’re expecting about 150 (two-person) teams.”
Translation: In this participation sport world you have never heard about, this tournament is a “big deal.”
But let’s back up a step — back to where most of us are now: “What the heck is Spikeball?” you ask.
“Some say that if volleyball and foursquare had a baby, it’d be named Spikeball.” That’s how the sport’s leading equipment manufacturer, named Spikeball, described its sport.
It’s kind of like those round things we throw are flying discs, but everyone calls them Frisbees. The official name of the sport is roundnet, but everyone calls it Spikeball.
Spikeball typically has two teams of two people competing against each other, standing around a 3-foot diameter net, raised off the ground about 6 inches on four short legs.
The inflated ball is about the size of a softball, but much softer, and is “tapped” or “hit” onto the net. Catching and throwing the ball is against the rules.
“There are no designated sides for Spikeball opponents to stand on either,” Sanford said. “After the ball hits the net, a team is allowed three hits, just like volleyball. The third hit goes back to the roundnet, where the other team must keep it alive.”
The Founder/CEO of Spikeball, Chris Ruder, explained the history of the sport a bit more on the company’s website.
“I launched Spikeball Inc. in 2008… Here we are with 4+ million players (all over the world) … I ran it for five years as a side business… In 2013, we hit $1 million in annual revenue with zero full-time employees. I called up the (regular job) boss, said ‘I’m out!’ and went full-time,” Ruder wrote. “We’re headquartered in Chicago; but most of our employees (now 24 full-time) live all over the U.S.”
The company also enjoyed a boost with appearances on the NBC morning show “Today” and “Shark Tank,” along with an article in the business publication, “Inc.”
Ruder makes no claims of inventing the game, saying he discovered it as an adolescent in the 1980s. But he’s the one rapidly turning Spikeball into a household name now.
“I think I first saw Spikeball on social media and have been playing it since buying my first set in 2012,” said the 2006 Murray High School graduate Sanford. “My goal is to formalize a Spikeball community here in Utah. At this point, we are leading the charge nationally here in our state.”
To help grow the sport, Sanford has traveled the state demonstrating Spikeball at high schools. Down in St. George, that’s where Bryant Karratti first learned about the game. He was not able to attend the Willow Pond Park tournament in Murray, because he and three fellow Utah Spikeball players were instead driving to Grand Rapids, Michigan that same weekend to compete in a larger tournament.
“I began playing in 2015 and quickly fell in love with it,” Karratti said. “It’s just a fun thing to do with friends.”
Sanford has also worked to coordinate a Utah high school Spikeball league. This year’s state championship team was from Taylorsville High. Jessie Marchant, who just graduated from there two months ago, was a member of that team.
“I just love competing and Spikeball is a fun way to do that,” Marchant said. “I’m going to Utah State in the fall and may start a Spikeball club up there.”
Sanford said Spikeball sets cost $60 to $100 dollars, complete with the net, two balls and an air pump.
Those interested in watching or playing the game before purchasing their own set are invited to the Sugar House Park tournament on Aug. 17. More information is available at www.utahroundnet.com/tour-stop, or you can email [email protected].