Spikeball bounces onto UW-River Falls campus

Posted October 15, 2019

Two years ago, the game of spikeball didn’t have an official presence on the UW-River Falls campus, but now it’s a recognized student organization and has doubled in size.

The Spikeball Club owes much of its success to a founding member and the current president, Philip Herder, who is a senior majoring in exercise and sport science.

“We didn’t even have a team here when I was first here,” Herder said. “In fact, it was just last year that me and some friends, we had been talking about it for a year or two, and it was just, like, all right, let’s start a club and see how far we can take it.”

Herder followed the university’s procedures and established the Spikeball Club as a recognized student organization. Now he is in the process of getting the Spikeball Club named as an official sport club. At UWRF, sport clubs are a different entity and have different oversight compared to typical student organizations. Sport clubs usually compete against similar clubs at other universities.

Herder has been working with the Assistant Director of Campus Recreation Ryan Rudesill throughout the semester on the transition of spikeball from a student organization to a sport club.

“It’s a good limbo sport right now,” Rudesill said of the Spikeball Club. “They are a probationary sport club. We oversee what they’re doing, we help them get practice space and practice time. They don’t have a budget through us, whereas all the other clubs have a budget through us.”

Following the 2019-2020 school year, Herder and the rest of the Spikeball Club expect to earn sport club status.

Spikeball is a simple game that doesn’t require much equipment to play — just a ball and a trampoline. Herder described spikeball as a variation of the game of volleyball.

“Volleyball in the sense that you’re with a partner and you and your partner have three hits to try to get it back on a round trampoline that’s on the ground,” Herder said. “You have three hits to get it back, and once you get it onto the trampoline then it switches possessions to the other team. So, it’s a team of two playing a team of two.”

As possession switches the goal of each team is to hit a shot off of the trampoline that the other team can’t return, thus giving the hitting team a point.

While he’s not in class or playing spikeball, Herder said, he dedicates time to growing the club’s membership. During the 2018 season, the Spikeball Club had 15 members who regularly showed up to weekly practices and attended tournaments. Membership now is up to about 30 members. Herder has promoted the club by playing games in front of residence halls, marketing through social media, and the Involvement Fair held earlier this semester on campus.

Spikeball isn’t only growing on the UWRF campus, but across the United States. According to the official Spikeball website, the Chicago-based company was started as a side job by Chris Ruder, the CEO who goes by the handle “SpikeballChris.” The company’s first warehouse was the basement of his house. Now, Spikeball has been featured on television shows such as “Shark Tank” and “The Today Show.”

The passion for spikeball has grown enough for the game to be recognized as a participant in the annual fall sports tournament. According to Herder, 10 teams showed up to play the spikeball portion of the tournament on Sept. 20.

“I would say for the first one, that was pretty good attendance,” Herder said. “It seemed like all of the teams were friendly and passionate about the sport and that was really cool.”