The Backyard Game That Took Wheaton By Storm

Spikeball has had a growing presence on campus including its very own club.

Spikeball — you’ve probably heard of it by now. The trampoline-and-ball sport has taken over fields and beaches across the country. Including Wheaton’s football stadium, and grassy spots surrounding dorms where you can find groups of four hitting the signature yellow ball the size of a cantaloupe against the net.

Concurrent spike ball games are a frequent sight on campus and at the field. Photo submitted by Ken Byrd.

Junior David Jorgensen and sophomore Ken Byrd met last year for the first time during an orientation session for international students. Soon after, they discovered their shared interest in roundnet, the official name of the sport.

Jorgensen took up the sport six years ago and began playing local tournaments during quarantine with a group of friends. Byrd, hailing from Japan, began playing competitively in his junior year of high school, later winning the second All Japan Tournament with his younger brother. Their mutual love for the sport began a friendship and a club in the fall of last year for like-minded roundnet enthusiasts. 

Wheaton Roundnet, as the new club is known, has grown significantly since last fall, when there were only about eight people gathering regularly. Now they have a GroupMe exceeding 100 people with meetings gathering around 30 individuals. 

 “We didn’t have a ton of interest because it was starting to get cold and we didn’t know how to run it super well, so we didn’t do a ton of posters or a bunch of advertising” said Jorgensen. A slow start to a club is not uncommon, but Jorgensen noted that people were interested. They just didn’t know the club existed. 

That was, until this year’s Mastodon March. It was the club’s first time to participate in the orientation-week parade, where student groups troop through campus on floats in front of freshmen. They also had a table at the club fair on Aug. 30. Jorgensen said that about 30 people came to their first Saturday pickup of the year. Now there are over 100 people on the club GroupMe. 

The game of roundnet has been around since 1989 but was not commercially successful until 2007. In that year, Spikeball, a roundnet brand, was founded in Chicago; within a few years the sport began to show up at backyard barbecues across the world. 

Spikeball and other roundnet brands are typically played with two teams of two. Each player stands across from their partner over a round trampoline pulled taught across a circular perch creating a trampoline. One player starts as the server, striking the ball with their hand onto the net. After net contact, possession of the ball changes and the other team has three touches to bounce the ball back onto the net. Players can only hit the ball to their teammate or return it to the other team. The rally continues until one team fails to return the ball to the net with their three touches, and points are awarded accordingly. The first team to 21 points wins the game, but they must win by at least two points.

A few players from Wheaton Roundnet represent the club in nearby tournaments. Byrd and sophomore player Jeremy Oyer took second place in the Midwest Major Tournament intermediate division last year. Jorgensen and Oyer took first place in another nearby tournament this past year, nearly going undefeated against big schools like Notre Dame and Northwestern.

One of the more curious parts of the niche club is their mascot. Wheaton Roundnet’s posters feature a mysterious figure who wears a bright yellow mask, matching curly wig and a dark bodysuit.

“The mascot is going to represent the Wheatie Roundnet spirit, and will continue to bless the school with its charming presence,” said Byrd. The mascot’s identity is publicly unknown, according to Oyer, but is referred to as the Spikeball. 

The Spikeball could not be reached for comment.

Seth Jogan

Seth Jogan

Seth Jogan is a sociology major from Cleveland, OH, his interests include birdwatching, social sciences, and anthropological history.

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