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Fistball: The best sport you've never heard of

There is a new sport on the recreation scene in southeastern Wisconsin. Fistball.

“Once I played it, I knew the kids would like it, too.” says Lucas Nieman, Youth Sports Director at the Kettle Moraine YMCA in West Bend.

Fistball has been described as “a combination of tennis and volleyball” (Sue Bliese, Unit Director for the Jackson Boys & Girls Club) and “volleyball with a bounce” (Jim Blank, President of the United States Fistball Association (USFA)).

Volleyball With A Bounce

Fistball consists of two teams of five players each. Like volleyball, each team has three hits to return the ball. Players may only use the arm or fist to strike the ball, which is allowed one bounce before being struck or taken out of the air. Play starts with a serve and ends with a fault. A fault occurs when the ball is not returned to the opposing team’s field, bounces two or more times, touches the ground out of bounds, hits the net, or goes under the net. The game may be played indoors or outdoors. Adult Fistball is played outdoors on a field 20 meters by 50 meters.  The net is 2 meters high. Although the game resembles volleyball in many ways, the court is six times the size of a volleyball court, hence the need for a bounce.

Historically, the sport is played worldwide, but predominantly in Europe. In the U.S., it is played in areas with heavy German influence. Adult teams play in Wisconsin, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. The U.S. national team plays in the Fistball World Cup, most recently held in Austria.

Nieman adds that Kettle Moraine Y offers winter and spring programs for kids in grades 3 through 7 and teenagers. “Fistball appeals to kids because it is something new and

different, a change of pace from the traditional football, basketball, baseball programs.” The facility also offers open adult Fistball on Sundays.

Bliese says 15 to 20 kids play in the Jackson program during the school year. In the summer, they play on an outdoor field. A competitive program is available for kids 12 and older while younger kids concentrate on skills training.

Getting Started

For those interested in starting a similar program, both Bliese and Nieman suggest calling the USFA to teach the game and offer advice on coaching, equipment, and venues. The organization also will conduct a demo with four or five players, and provide videos showing competitive play.

It is suggested that new players begin indoors learning basic skills and playing a few games before moving outdoors.  Since Fistballs are purchased from Germany or Brazil and are a little pricey, Blank suggests starting with volleyballs to teach the game to young players.

Fistball is definitely a growing sport. This year, the USFA constructed three full-sized fields at the Jackson Town Hall Park. Julie Oliver, town clerk, says the agency is excited to see the fields going in and is looking forward to hosting regional, national, and international tournaments. Oliver adds, “This gives people another recreational opportunity. It’s new and exciting!”

For more information, visit http://usFistball.com/ , or reach Blank at 262-623-0227 or via email at blankjim4@yahoo.com .

Dean Paynter is the president of the Rock Trail Coalition, a non-profit devoted to building hiking and biking trails in Rock County, Wis. Reach him at djpaynter@charter.net .

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