Reported by Jacks Whitehurst
Photographed by Satoshi Seth
What started out as an obscure late-1980s lawn game grew into what most people are now familiar with as a nationally competitive sport, and it is now offered at George Fox University (GFU) under the banner “Spikeball Club.”
Senior and club president Murray Noble hopes to bring that same level of national excitement to the Newberg area, offering the opportunity for students to get involved with the popular game
among college-age folks. While the club started last October, it was much earlier that Noble and his friend Ben Van Vliet won the regional tournament, giving him the idea for the club on campus.
Last year, Noble and Van Vliet travelled to Salem, Ore., to try their hand at a regional tournament. They won the entire thing and the prize: 10 Spikeball sets, some cash and a promise for a set of team jerseys.
“Why not start a club?” Noble thought at the time. “With all this gear we would have enough to get the thing off the ground and start getting more students involved.” It was a generous move, since the cheapest price for a Spikeball set is $53 and the official tournament set is $99; this price is enough to turn away most first-time players and poor college students.
Noble was lucky enough to be the sole contact for the northwest region when college tournaments were just getting started, so when Spikeball emailed him about hosting one of the nine national tournaments, he could not turn it down. Collegiate tournaments have only been around for about a year.
Back in the ‘90s, when the original game “Roundnet” was abandoned, current owner Chris Ruder took advantage of the situation when he had the chance. After lawyers gave him the go-ahead on the expired patent in 2008, he began the grueling work of designing the new model for the game by night, while keeping a full-time job and raising a family by day.
However, Ruder’s efforts paid off because the mini net and yellow ball duo appeared on Shark Tank in 2015. Apparently there was a $500,000 deal struck between him and one of the investors, Daymond John, that fell out months before the show aired.
Regardless, the television publicity gave Spikeball the boost it needed to launch into a multi-million-dollar business by 2017 and attract thousands more players. The allure of the game is mostly because it is unorthodox, yet seriously fun to play once one gets the hang of it. In this way Spikeball is extremely versatile--it can be a casual lawn game with friends or a competitive sport.
Noble hopes that the club will grow into its paired value on campus and benefit students in both ways.
“We want to give people the opportunity to come out and have fun, but also if they want to get better and show some talent, we can send them off to regional tournaments when they happen,” he said.
Since Noble is leaving in a few months, following graduation, he says that Vice President Daniel Cho will likely succeed him as the GFU Spikeball president.
“We are looking at running a tournament in March for GFU students, but also open
it up to the general public and give away a prize of $100.”
For those interested in joining, or just wishing to come out and smack some little yellow spheres, the club meets every Friday from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the football field. Contact Noble at firstname.lastname@example.org to join the email list, or follow the Facebook page “GFU Spikeball” for upcoming dates and information.