Spikeball rules are pretty intuitive. Volley for first serve (hit the ball back and forth until one team drops it), alternate serving between team members, and don't use legs or feet to hit the ball [source: Spikeball]. Unless you want to. "Body shot" allowances tend to vary widely between leagues [source: Adesso, Ruder].
To claim victory, a Spikeball team needs 21 points and to be ahead by at least two. So if one team reaches 21 and the other has 20, the game continues until the two-point separation is met.
To win a point, you have to be serving. It's called side-out scoring. If the receiving team fails to return the ball properly, the round is over and the serving team earns a point. If the serving team fails, the round is over and the receiving team earns the serve.
Finally, the "proper hit": The only hit that counts is the one that bounces off the net and only the net. If the ball bounces off the ground before touching the net, the round is over. If the ball touches the rim, the round is over. If the ball hits the net but doesn't bounce clear of the rim, the round is over.
If the ball hits a "pocket," the space between the net and the rim where the clips join the two, the round is a do-over.
Beyond that, it's all fun and games – or almost all. In the words of Skyler Boles of the Chico Spikeball league in California (whom Chris Ruder considers probably the best player in the U.S.), it's also the ultimate test of "hand-eye coordination, touch, finesse, deception, strategy, [and] mental toughness."
So, what's up next for the fledgling sport that has spawned leagues all over the U.S., national tournaments, and what appears to be a full-fledged counterculture in just a few years?
"A Spikeball thong," Ruder kids.
But seriously, "Community building. Trying to introduce as many players to each other as possible. That's my favorite part of the business ... There seems to be a strange, yet awesome, inherent trust and friendship among Spikeballers."
Maybe it's the endorphins.
Author's Note: How Spikeball Works
This article was one of the most enjoyable ones I've written in a long time. I wrote to two different Spikeball sources and received responses from three, all in a matter of hours. I'm usually happy if I get any response at all. It was odd and uplifting, which I suppose could describe the sport of Spikeball. I didn't play the game with Spikeball Denver, fearing I'd embarrass myself, but who knows. Maybe next week.
- Adesso, Tommy, Denver Spikeball League. E-mail interview. Aug. 1. 2013
- Amazon. "Spikeball." (July 23, 2013) http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=pd_lpo_k2_dp_sr_sq_top?ie=UTF8&index=blended&keywords=spikeball&pf_rd_p=1535523722&pf_rd_s=lpo-top-stripe-1&pf_rd_t=201&pf_rd_i=B002V7A7MQ&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_r=0792492BK979TVKYSJ5Y
- Boles, Skylar, Chico Spikeball League (Calif.). E-mail interview. Aug. 1, 2013
- Nagurski, Mark. "An Interview with SpikeBall Co-founder Chris Ruder." Iddictive.com. (Aug. 1, 2013). http://www.iddictive.com/2010/03/08/an-interview-with-spikeball-co-founder-chris-ruder/
- Osborn, Zach T. "Bad Trend Alert: Spikeball." The Harvard Crimson. Oct. 18, 2012. (July 23, 2013) http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2012/10/18/spikeball-bad-trend/
- Ruder, Chris, president, Spikeball, Inc. E-mail interview. July 23, 2013.
- Spikeball. "ESPN Spikeball 101" (video). (July 23, 2013) http://www.spikeball.com/spikeball-rules/#modal[videos]/1/
- Spikeball. "Spikeball Rules." (July 23, 2013) http://www.spikeball.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/spikeball-instructions.pdf
- Sumitra. "Spikeball: Volleyball's Brilliant Distance Cousin." Feb. 13, 2012. (July 23, 2013) http://www.odditycentral.com/pics/spikeball-volleyballs-brilliant-distant-cousin.html