Alex Winning | October 10, 2018
In 1989, Jeff Knurek invented a sport heavily influenced by volleyball, which he called “Roundnet.” The game consists of four players (but can also be played with two or six) making up 2 teams. The teams rally a grapefruit sized ball back and forth, hitting it off of a small circular trampoline laid between players. A team is allowed three hits before they must bounce the ball off the trampoline, or else their opponent scores a point. The same goes for if the ball hits the ground before the team can rally it back.
The new sport struggled to gain a player base, but in 2008, a company called Kankakee Spikeball Inc. began making their own Roundnet sets for purchase. They became the main promoters of the sport, leading to a large majority of players to refer to the sport as “Spikeball”. Over the next five years, Spikeball built a solid following, and accumulated a revenue of $1 million. In 2013, creator of Kankakee Spikeball Inc. Chris Ruder and some of his friends made a pitch on ABC’s Shark Tank. There, they struck a deal with Daymond John in which they got a $500,000 investment in return for 20% stake in their company. The deal eventually fell through, however, as Daymond wanted to market the product as a toy, whereas Spikeball wanted to be known as a sport.
Despite the failed Shark Tank deal, Spikeball caught the eyes of millions of viewers that watched their TV appearance. It’s reaching new heights of popularity, with tournaments going on across the country and a continually expanding fan base. Spikeball has also reached its goal of being recognized as an official sport, as some tournaments have found air time on ESPN 2.
Greenhills has also gotten in on the fun. The senior class has two Spikeball sets, and if you go to the amphitheater outside the senior forum there’s a good chance that you’ll see a game going on. Gameplay is busiest during lunch and right after school, when it’s common to witness two games going on simultaneously and people waiting in line to play next. Greenhills senior Ben Elwell spoke on the appeal of Spikeball, saying, “I get a group of my buds around the Spikeball net, and I get to play with them every single day after school and during free period and during lunch. It’s a great time.” When asked if Spikeball is something he would consider watching on TV, Elwell responded, “I’ve actually seen Spikeball on TV before. It is very interesting.”
With its ever-growing number of players and its screen time on major sports channels, Spikeball is becoming the sport that its creators dreamed it would be back in 2008. Tournaments are being held all across the U.S., and some colleges and universities are even creating Spikeball teams, so you can expect to see more people playing it - be it your friends, peers, or professionals on ESPN.