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Idaho Falls spike ball league hosting national tournament in Utah

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Kids playing spike ball at Tautphaus Park in Idaho Falls. See what it’s like in the video above. | Courtesy photo and video

IDAHO FALLS – A group of local teens are headed to Utah next month to participate in a national spike ball tournament.

The competition is sponsored by the American Youth Spikers League, which has teams in Rexburg, Idaho Falls, Pocatello and in other parts of the state. The national competition is happening June 10 and 11 in Salt Lake City.

Alex Hart is the league’s co-founder and coach of the Idaho Falls teams. He tells EastIdahoNews.com spike ball, or roundnet as it’s officially known, has been a trend in Utah for years and he’s looking forward to squaring off with other teams across the country.

“They have a lot of youth that play in Utah,” Hart says. “We’re hoping to see 20-30 teams there this year.”

Spike ball is a combination of volleyball and foursquare. Each team gets three hits. The goal is to spike the ball over a round net on the ground while the opposing team works to keep it in the air. The ball is only allowed to hit the ground twice. Unlike volleyball, there is no “out of bounds.” The round is over once an error is made.

“You can make an error by spiking it into the rim, letting it bounce twice or touching it four times,” says Hart. “Everybody gets two serves like in racquetball.”

Spike ball was first invented by Jeff Knurek in 1989, according to Standuppaddleboardworld.com. It was popular for several years but eventually faded away. It was revived in 2008 when Chris Ruder acquired the trademark and began marketing it.

The show “Shark Tank” put the sport in the national spotlight in 2015.

“There have always been tournaments in college and they have professionals that play this sport for a national title,” Hart explains.

Reinventing the game

Hart was inspired to form a local league after attending a professional tournament in Philadelphia last year. The first local season was held last fall and it’s since grown to become one of the fastest-growing sports in the country.

But the game Hart and his teams play is slightly different than traditional spike ball.

“We reinvented the way you play spike ball, which is (not typically) a team sport. It’s two on two. We recreated it so now, there are … six players on the field at a time on three nets and you play six rounds of it,” Hart says.

The players rotate from net to net and “whoever has the most wins at the end of the match, wins the game.” Hart says his changes to the game have been a hit with players.

“One of the things that got me interested in doing this was playing time. I’d go to (my son’s soccer game) and watch these kids sit on the bench. If they’re not ‘the chosen’ or they haven’t yet chosen their sport, they don’t get the benefits of (playing as much),” says Hart. “We’re probably the only sport in the world where you have to play everybody on the team before you can sub someone twice.”

That component of getting playing time is one thing that Hart says makes it so appealing to kids, regardless of athletic ability, and being able to provide that is what he finds most rewarding.

Over the last year, he’s traveled a lot to try and promote the sport in hopes of other leagues being formed and that’s how the national tournament in Utah came about.

“Idaho Falls is now getting this reputation of being an elite (team) and that’s exciting,” says Hart. “If you’re from Idaho and playing spike ball tournaments now, let’s go.”

Hart and his team host a free community night at Tautphaus Park every Thursday from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. The event is open to anyone.

An adult league is coming this summer and the youth league begins its season on July 7. Visit the website to learn more.

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