Spikeball: A Groton Tradition

At Groton, the sight of Spikeball nets littering the Circle is the first major sign that spring has arrived. For those who have not seen the game, a small circular net sits parallel to the ground and teams of two aim to win points by bouncing a squishy ball off the trampoline-like net, placing it strategically so that the opposition cannot reach their shot. Teams are allowed three hits between their two players, often consisting of one or two sets and a smash back onto the net. Games are played to 11, and points are only won when serving. The game’s electric pace is fashioned through high levels of intensity, total commitment, and precision when spiking the ball. The game is a local favorite at Groton and probably my single favorite thing to play on the Circle.

Smack! Thwump!

 “I got it”

“Here you go John!”

“Rotate, Rotate!”

“Nice point guys!”

Laughter fills the air, smiles cover faces, and sweat drips down brows. We have just finished lunch and are engaged in yet another intense game of Spikeball. My roommate John and I form one team, and we are currently locked in a tight battle with our friends Alex Schade and Teddy Carlin. We smack the ball back and forth, combining delicate sets to our teammates with immense displays of brute force that crash off the net and land 15 feet away in the grass. While the game may seem to be devoid of strategy, there is a science to rotating your opponent around the net before finishing them off with a perfectly placed spike. John and I have also experimented with formations off opponents’ serves and come to significant conclusions as to when it is better to have both close to the net, both standing back, one and one, or even the unorthodox setup of both members facing each other directly across the net. Typically, I play on the right side because I am a lefty, enabling us to set and spike more accurately, and I am a firm believer in the advantage that is gained by having partners of opposite hand dominance.

The chapel bell strikes once, meaning we now have five minutes until our next class begins. We quickly throw on our shoes, grab our backpacks, and briskly walk to the Schoolhouse. The net remains, alone, waiting to brighten more Grotonians’ Tuesday afternoons.