Volleyball + table tennis + trampoline = unique sport

Spikeball demo

Check out some action from a Spikeball game in Boise, Idaho.
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Check out some action from a Spikeball game in Boise, Idaho.

The group of Spikeball players barely could run their demonstration last week at Ann Morrison Park without a child interrupting.

First, they wanted to jump on the mini-trampoline. Then, they wanted to throw the ball.

And once they figured out what was going on, they wanted to play.

“We feel like pioneers of the sport almost every time we play,” Collin Lapp of Boise said. “There’s always someone walking up saying, ‘What is this? How do you play this? What’s going on here?’

“It’s fun to be able to explain it.”

If you frequent Camel’s Back or Ann Morrison parks in Boise, there’s a good chance you’ve seen the game and asked those same questions.

Spikeball, which received a publicity bump when the product was featured on the entrepreneur TV show “Shark Tank” last year, is a growing park sport in Boise. A tournament Saturday at Ann Morrison is expected to draw 25-30 two-person teams.

The game is played two-on-two with rules similar to volleyball, except possession changes when the ball hits a mini-trampoline rather than crossing a net. Each team gets two passes (but isn’t required to use them) before hitting the ball off the trampoline.

There are no lines and no sides, creating a free-wheeling style of play that is unlike its cousin sports of volleyball and table tennis. Spikeball began as a beach sport but fits well on grass, too.

“With volleyball, everything has been figured out,” said Eric Pedersen of Boise, who made the transition from volleyball to Spikeball about a year ago. “(Volleyball) comes down to your athleticism and ball control. There’s very little thought in it, because everybody already knows what everybody else knows. But with Spikeball, you can come up with strategies nobody has even thought of before. That’s the fun part.”

Lapp and Pedersen are part of a group of friends who play at 3 p.m. Sundays at Camel’s Back. They welcome new players.

“What we do there is we try to teach people,” Austin Townend of Boise said.

The game is easy to start playing but difficult to master.

Among the challenges:

▪ The serve and spike: “The idea is to have the strongest offense that you can,” Townend said. “The game is more about having the best serve and the best spike so they can’t get to the ball.” Brendan Nefzger of Boise says serving is the hardest part of the game. “ If you serve too soft, it gets ripped right back at you,” he said.

▪ The pass: You don’t necessarily want to aim for your teammate. “If you hit it toward the net, they have more options,” Matt Townend, Austin’s brother, said.

▪ The lack of boundaries: It’s disorienting not having a side and can get confusing at first trying to locate your teammate. “The whole field is your side, so you could be anywhere,” Austin Townend said.

The game has spread friend to friend. Lapp played the game because a family friend brought the game to a park outing. Lapp enjoyed it, so his parents bought him a set for his birthday. He shared the game with several members of the Camel’s Back group.

Pedersen is one of the group’s newer — and, at 36, older — members.

“I just tell (people) if you like volleyball or tennis or ping-pong, you’ll probably like it, because it’s kind of similar,” Pedersen said. “It’s super fun. I’m always talking it up.”

Want to play Spikeball?

  • Key rules: It’s two-on-two. Players surround the mini-trampoline and hit the ball barehanded. Players line up across the trampoline from an opponent. The server must be at least 6 feet from the trampoline and can take one pivot step on the serve. The serve can’t bounce above the receiving opponent’s outstretched arm but can go as far left or right as possible. Each team gets up to two passes before hitting the ball off the trampoline to change possession. It’s rally scoring, played to 21.
  • Open play on Sundays: A group of local Spikeball enthusiasts plays at 3 p.m. Sundays at Camel’s Back Park. They welcome new players. They’ll teach you the basics. Follow them on Facebook at Boise Spikeball Club.
  • Where to buy it: Dick’s Sporting Goods and REI carry game sets. They’re also available through Spikeball.com. The most common set retails for about $60.
  • First-timer’s take: Spikeball is a game I could play all afternoon at a barbecue. Within minutes of taking my first shot, I was diving for loose balls, trying to strategically set up my partner for the kill and laughing at my own inability to hit shots that seem so simple until you’re in the heat of the action. It’s a game of short, quick movements — a little like table tennis — that requires crisp hand-eye coordination and quick reflexes to excel. The only downside: You need to round up three other people to play.

Chadd Cripe