How Spikeball is Welcoming Women Into Sport

Most millennial women reading this might be familiar with the specific pain of feeling left out of a playground sport. Or being told that “you’re not good enough” to play with us. Or, that by the simple act of being a girl, you were excluded from the boys’ club of playing basketball or tag at recess.

Rejection—it hurts. And for many women, that fear of being told “no” has stopped us from participating in intramural sports, from trying something new, and from taking up a new hobby. 

But if you can get over that initial fear, you might just find a warm community waiting to welcome you in. That’s exactly what Spikeball is hoping will happen as more women start playing roundnet.

spikeball and women

Remind me what roundnet is again? 

Roundnet, if you’re not totally familiar, is like a cross between foursquare and volleyball. Four players, in teams of two, take turns batting the ball down onto the net, using a max of three passes between teammates to make their hit (just like in volleyball). The rally ends when one team can’t return the ball back onto the net within three touches. (That was a super simplistic explanation, so take a look at the full rules here.)

And to clarify: roundnet is the name of the sport, while Spikeball is the brand name of the gear used to play (kinda like the difference between tissues and Kleenex).

The community aspect of roundnet

With an app that facilitates pick-up games and regular tournaments, the sport is built to bring people together. That way, players get a chance to connect regularly.

“As you get to know people and recognize their names, you can personally invite them and build relationships,” explains Joelle Nguyen, a marketing intern for Spikeball and co-manager of the Women’s Roundnet Instagram account

Nguyen has seen firsthand just how much the roundnet community can add to someone’s life. In fact, she’s currently living with two people she met through Spikeball and is dating another. 

“The community is so welcoming,” she emphasizes. “I don’t know of anyone who’s had a bad experience going to a pickup game even though there’s people they don’t know.” 

Through her work with the Spikeball Ambassadors, Nguyen has seen roundnet’s momentum grow. And the feeling of getting in on the ground floor of a fast-growing sport like roundnet has been exhilarating. With its grass-roots origins and community focus, roundnet is perfectly poised to take off quickly. 

“By nature, the sport is very social,” explains Nguyen. “You have to have a partner and you play against two other people. The whole sport is just so social in general, and it’s so fun to have this niche interest and see other people start to get involved in it.” 

Translation? Don’t be afraid to just show up—you just might make a new best friend. 

Or, as Nguyen perfectly puts it, “Everyone in roundnet has golden retriever energy.”

Who should try playing roundnet?

Besides “everyone,” roundnet is particularly appealing to a few subgroups of people. Former college athletes, for example, have flocked to roundnet as a way to transition back to life as a NARP (how my former-athlete sister lovingly refers to non-athletic regular people). Roundnet lets people still compete and find a new challenge to master. 

If you want to make new friends as an adult, roundnet is also an ideal opportunity. Respond to a call for a pickup game and you’ll instantly meet three new people who, with the aforementioned “golden retriever energy,” are bound to make you feel welcome. 

Finally, as we’ve all taken a closer look at our hobbies over the pandemic, many of us (okay, me) have realized that “Netflix” isn’t exactly a hobby. Roundnet is incredibly beginner-friendly, and players tend to develop skills quickly, so you’re likely to stay engaged and motivated instead of feeling frustrated.  Plus, the simple act of playing and watching others play regularly will help you improve your skills.

“It can be really intimidating for someone to try new things in general,” notes Nguyen. “As women, if you’re insecure about not playing well and you’re with all these people who are better than you, you’re down on yourself. But I think it’s really empowering to be around women who are helping you get better and calling out your talents. That’s why the strategy going forward is to get women to bring in other women.”

How to get started playing roundnet

It’s simple: buy the equipment and start playing. If you need to, you can sign up for the app and list a pick-up game. However, once you start playing and posting about it, you’ll be surprised by how many people emerge as roundnet fans.

“You might feel like you’re the only person playing in your city,” acknowledged Nguyen. “A big part of my responsibility is how do we reach all these people and get them into playing more, because it’s a grassroots company.”

If you want a surefire way to find more friends to play with, Nguyen highly encourages coming to a tournament. Don’t worry—tournaments aren’t death-by-roundnet, all-out bloodbaths. They’re more like a giant festival where Spikeball happens to be the headliner. 

“Tournaments are meant to be a great environment for beginners to more advanced players; they aren’t the end-all, be-all of the sport,” says Nguyen. ”I really started to get competitive with it when I was in college. Cal Poly had a great club that was led by some people who participated in tournaments. The more I said yes to playing and competing, the more I loved it.” 

Today, Spikeball is working to get as many women introduced to the sport as possible

”We want to empower women to play and equip them to lead in their local communities. Seeing that representation is so important,” Nguyen says.

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About Kristen Geil

A native of Lexington, Kentucky, Kristen moved to Chicago in 2011 and received her MA in Writing, Rhetoric, and Discourse from DePaul while trying to maintain her southern accent. Kristen grew up playing sports, and since moving to Chicago, she’s fallen in love with the lakefront running path and the lively group fitness scene. Now, as a currently retired marathoner and sweat junkie, you can usually find her trying new workouts around the city and meticulously crafting Instagram-friendly smoothie bowls. Kristen came on to A Sweat Life full-time in 2018 as Editor-in-Chief, and she spends her days managing writers, building content strategy, and fighting for the Oxford comma.