By Dirk Smith, M.Sc, SDL (He/Him)
With the rise in popularity of Spikeball and Roundnet around the world and its debut as a competitive sport in the Sin City Classic, we caught up with Spikeball founder, Nora White to help us learn more about Spikeball and the sport of Roundnet.
Dirk Smith: What exactly is Spikeball/Roundnet?
Nora White: I launched Spikeball Inc in 2008 with no real clue about starting a business, let alone launching a new sport. Yet, here we are with 4+ million players (all over the world), 40 full-time employees, 150+ tournaments every year, and tons of love from Shark Tank, Casey Neistat, Dude Perfect, The Today Show, Inc Magazine, countless professional athletes and celebrities.
Our first ‘warehouse’ was my basement and could fit about 72 sets in my beat up, 1998 Outback (may it rest in peace). 5 years later, in 2013, we hit $1 million in annual revenue with zero full-time employees. We’re headquartered in Chicago but most of our employees live all over the US. We’re firm believers in live where you want just do good work. The mission of the company is to create the next great global sport.
Roundnet is a team sport played by two teams consisting of two players each. Opposing team members line up across from each other with the Spikeball™ roundnet set in the center. A point begins when the server hits the ball off the net towards the opposing player. After the service, there are no sides or boundaries. The object of the game is to hit the ball off the net in such a way that the opposing team cannot successfully return it.
A team is allowed up to three touches to return the ball onto the net. Once the ball is played off the net, possession switches to the opposing team. The rally continues until a team is unable to legally return the ball. Players may move as they wish during a point, so long as they don’t physically impede the opponent’s play on the ball.
Dirk Smith: How did Spikeball/ Roundnet get started?
Nora White: Spikeball: It was originally created in 1989 by Jeff Knurek although the equipment he created for the game became outdated and lost popularity in 1995. It was revived in 2008 by Spikeball Inc. The vision of Spikeball Inc. is to become the next great global sport. With that notion, our CEO Chris Ruder has been passionate about growing the game competitively since the beginning. There were an assortment of roundnet tournaments from 2008-2013 but an official competitive series was launched by Spikeball Inc. in the fall of 2014.
Dirk Smith: Tell me more about how Spikeball/Roundnet has grown nationally and internationally?
Nora White: Spikeball used to be the “trampoline game” you saw at the beach. With an appearance on ABC’s Shark Tank and a few ESPN broadcasts, it is becoming more and more a household name. You will see it on college campuses quads and played in Golden Gate Park on a Sunday afternoon. On the way to global domination!
Dirk Smith: How big is Spikeball/Roundnet internationally?
Nora White: Spikeball: In 2020, Spikeball sets were sold to excited players in over 70 countries.
Roundnet: There are currently national governing bodies in 31 countries across 6 continents and even more countries with general organized play. Currently there are competitive tournament series in many European countries, Canadian provinces and Australian States. Roundnet is growing daily in Asia & South American countries. The first World Championship is planned for Belgium in September 2022.
Dirk Smith: Spikeball/Roundnet has become a competitive sport, including at the Sin City Classic. Can you describe how Spikeball/Roundnet tournaments are organized?
Spikeball Tour Series
The Tour Series provides the highest level of competition in the US. In 2021 we will have 10 tournaments followed by a National Championship in October.
There are over 150 active roundnet clubs on college campuses. The college series consists of 10 sectionals in the fall and the spring culminating in a National Championship in late April. Teams compete head to head for an Individual Championship as well as in squads for a School title.
World Championships Belgium
The World Championship will be held in September 2022 and is hosted by the International Roundnet Federation with Roundnet Belgium. Each country will bring a squad – 5 men’s teams, 3 women’s teams – that will compete against other countries to win “gold.”
International Roundnet Federation – https://www.roundnetfederation.org/ There are currently national governing bodies in 31 countries across 6 continents including USA Roundnet at https://www.usaroundnet.org/
Dirk Smith: How has Spikeball/Roundnet adapted to the Covid pandemic?
Nora White: Spikeball: Being able to “play anywhere” and adaptable for a variety of skill levels, Spikeball sets were extremely popular in the pandemic for families to play at home.
Roundnet: Unfortunately, from the tournament end, our Tour Series was completely cancelled in 2020 and we have had a few postponements in the beginning of 2021.
Dirk Smith: What can we expect to see with Spikeball/Roundnet in the next year?
Nora White: Spikeball Inc. is always growing in fun and creative ways. Looking forward to some awesome new sets and collaborations in the coming months. The 2021 Tour Series will kick off in Florida in late May. These tournaments are open to all ages and skill levels. Check out tournaments.spikeball.com for more information!
Thank you Nora, we look forward to seeing more in the future! To find out more about Spikeball, visit https://spikeball.com/ and to keep up with updates for the Sin City Classic visit https://www.sincityclassic.org/sports/spikeball
Photos by Robert Austin via Spikeball