Putting Utah Roundnet on the Map
In the past couple of years roundnet clubs have popped up all over the world and are really helping the sport grow and prosper. Each year boasts more premier players and greater numbers of tournaments and increased numbers at tour stops. It’s honestly exciting to be part of something we love at its genesis. Imagine being around when peach baskets became metal rims with nylon nets. Imagine playing baseball when Jackie Robinson was changing the game. Spikeball is still a fringe sport of course, but regardless we are all part of history and it’s a beautiful thing to be a part of.
In the last year alone, Utah has made some unbelievable strides. But first let’s consider some of the other major Spikeball hubs and why they have been so successful. Of course you have Chicago, the birthplace, where independent tournaments have been happening since 2008 and the biggest roundnet club in the world exists in Origin. Then you have Lancaster, home of some of the top men and women players in the world. It seems to almost be a Mecca for the sport, a place where any player worth his salt must go at some point. Then naturally you have southern California, which you could argue is its own country. Chico State helped get the ball moving in the early years, and endless beachfront also helped get athletes from all over the state into the sport. Year round temperatures conducive to barefoot play and aspiring tans helps California remain a powerhouse. Other large hubs exist with concentrations of deeply talented players and growing clubs. But let us stop and spotlight our own state.
Utah arrived on the scene slowly in 2015-2016 with a handful of tournaments being hosted in Provo, Salt Lake, and Ogden, with Gucci Swag all but dominating the early days along with Jeffrey Coon and whoever he was playing with. After Gucci Swag left for their LDS missions, the mantel was taken over by Taylor Church who ransacked local tournaments with his first partner Shane Rothman for team Baja. In 2017 Utah threw a handful of tournaments with 20-30 teams, and even had it’s first team qualify for premier with Taylor Church and Royce Plowman getting 2nd in Advanced at Nationals as Church Da 5’9”. The only other Utah player to go to nationals that year was Anthony Oliver and the members of Stormin Momons.
In 2018, things changed. A few tour stops in we had qualified 6 players for premier. Taylor Sanford came on the scene and started doing things for the community that had never been done before, as he founded the Utah Roundnet Association. Before Sanford, we had strong pickup on lockdown, and steady growth, but we lacked organization and the ability for true expansion. He quickly organized Utah’s first league in South Jordan, then set up a legitimate Utah Tour Series and began hosting tournaments left and right with prizes, sponsors, and trophies. Each tournament looked better than the last, and in just the 3rd tournament put on, in Provo, even boasted 65 teams (nearly the size of a lesser tour stop).
After regionals, Utah had another 3 premier players and by nationals it had a litany of teams playing in Women’s, Intermediate, Advance, Premier, and the Pro Division. After the year ended Utah had the #13 and #22 teams in the world, with 9 premier players, the third officially recognized SRA club (1 of only 8), and a Tour Stop announced in Salt Lake City for the 2019 season. Sanford was awarded the 2018 Growth of The Sport Award, proving that finally Utah was truly on the map.
Now with the 2019 season ahead of us, Utah’s advanced players will be battling, hoping to add to the amount of premier players in the state. Sanford is wheeling and dealing, setting up tournaments and securing locations and sponsorships. With at least 3 teams gunning for the Pro Division, and at least one team gunning for Elite, 2019 proves to be a historic year for the Beehive State. In addition to was done last year, Sanford is expanding the Utah series and adding player rankings and cash prizes along with Utah Roundnet that will contain player bios and tournament updates.
Putting an emphasis on the next generation of ‘ballers, Sanford taught Spikeball to 6 high schools and Church taught at one middle school in 2018. And Utah Roundnet will be hosting Utah’s first High School Spikeball™ series! The URA is bringing the sport to new schools for endless teaching and spreading. Here’s to the next great year in spike!