Across the exterior of Wiggin Street Coffee hangs a series of posters reading, in boldface type, “Mount Vernon Roundnet Club.” The club, founded by Mount Vernon resident Nick Hartley, aims to foster a community of people who love the game of roundnet — colloquially referred to as Spikeball (the company who produces the equipment for the sport)—with hopes of competing at a tournament level.
Roundnet was created in the late 1980s and skyrocketed in popularity close to a decade ago with the emergence of the company Spikeball.
“I’d say one of the things that is super great about [roundnet] is just…the accessibility of playing the game. First of all, you only need four people to play. So that’s not a big requirement. And then the game — to buy a Spikeball set is going to run you like less than $100.” said Richie Carchia, a former Kenyon student who now attends the College of Charleston, and is one of the founding members of the College of Charleston Spikeball Club. “So it’s not really a big cost … It’s super easy to get into. You can kind of just hop in a game without really knowing how to play and pick it up, and just have a good time.”
The sport, as it is played competitively, is centered around a net with a three-foot diameter, eight-inch height and trampoline-like consistency.
Four players, in teams of two, stand around the net opposite one another and attempt to bounce a small rubber ball off of it, with the goal of hitting the ball in such a way that the opponent is unable to return the shot. The first team to 21 points is victorious.
Hartley, a graduate of Centerburg High School and registered nurse at the Knox Community Hospital, began playing roundnet in 2015 with people he knew from the area. However, as time went on, he became more serious and passionate about the sport.
“I went in with my brother, and we played in a tournament [in 2015]. And then we tried another tournament the year after … just for fun and to be with other people that liked the sport,” Hartley recalled. “And as I realized that the sport was growing, I kind of got more into it. So by the end of last year, I tossed around the idea in my head, to see if I could … run a club and meet people in the area that actually liked it enough to play on a weekly basis.”
The club’s meeting time, as listed on the poster, is on Wednesdays from 5:30 to 9:00 p.m. However, according to Hartley, the group often plays late into the night.
“As we’ve gone on from the start of spring, [when] the weather’s first started hold out for us, we were able to play for almost two hours [a night].” Hartley said. “In the middle of summer, it was four hours of play time before we had to call it for the night.”
The Mount Vernon Roundnet Club accepts players of all varying skills and experience, and usually practices on the Mount Vernon Nazarene University (MVNU) soccer practice fields. For more advanced players, the club is hosting a tournament on October 19 at MVNU, where half of the proceeds will go to a local charity.
As Hartley continues to build a dedicated community, he envisions a bright future for the club and the sport.
“My hope would be to basically help continue to grow the sport,” Hartley said. “I’m hoping to spread out to basically gather people who want to come and participate, to play and represent the Knox County area in roundnet.”