Brace For Impact
By Julie Inman
It’s a typical scene—two players aggressively sprint across the field towards a ball and each other as fans hold their breath in anticipation. Moments later the players slam into one another. One player tumbles head over heels, and the other player hits the ground sideways. Both roll away gracefully and rise to their feet in a fit of laughter. In a sport like no other, Bubble Ball players can’t help each other up or high five a goal, but there is no lack of camaraderie on the field. Teammates strategize and block in ways soccer has never seen before.
Bubble Ball soccer, one of the freshest extreme sports, is invading parks and recreation fields and centers throughout the nation. During the game, each player enters his or her own “Bubble Ball” that encloses the players’ upper bodies inside a giant, inflatable, extremely durable plastic bubble. Two teams are formed and the referee begins the game. Bubble Ball soccer is played just like traditional soccer, with zero use of hand balls or headers. Throw-ins are replaced by a kick-in. Once teammates realize they cannot beat the opposing team with slick moves and fast feet, their strategy morphs into a combination of basketball, soccer, and football. Players block, tackle, slide, and dive to stop both the ball and the opposing team. They are able to collide and flip without fear of injury. While traditional sports that rely on creativity and gravity take years of training, Bubble Ball soccer can be enjoyed almost immediately.
Climb On In
Each ball is inflated and deflated using a small vacuum cleaner that makes transportation and storage a breeze. Bubble Ball can be played by people ages ten and older. The balls, each weighing approximately 22 to 26 pounds, may be heavy for smaller-framed adults and younger children. There are two different types of bubble balls: PVC (polyvinyl chloride) and TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane). Each type is sold in three sizes, determined by the height of the player: 1.2 mm, 1.5 mm, and 1.7 mm. Most players will use the 1.5 mm size. A player climbs into the ball that looks like a tunnel from the inside. The top of the ball is open for circulation. The ball has harnesses that strap onto the player’s shoulders like a backpack. The referee then checks to make sure the bubble fits properly and the player’s head is not too close to the opening. There are handles on the inside of the ball for the player to hold onto to help brace himself or herself on impact and when running. A player wears either a colored jersey or pennies in the bubble ball, or tinted Bubble Balls designating the colors can be purchased. Some teams choose to wear shin guards as worn in soccer with colored socks.
Bear In Mind
Various games can be played, including soccer, Red Rover, and relay races. Your imagination is the limit. Regardless of the game you choose, be aware of a few things:
- A player’s vision is blurred while peering through the ball. Keep game size limited.
- Three- to six-person teams are recommended.
- Be sure the field is clear and the designated area is clearly marked.
- Balls can pop! A playing area needs to be flat and free of seashells and rocks.
- If playing indoors, players should wear knee pads. Players may lose control during the game and thus should be aware of bleachers and fans.
- With limited visibility, players often lose their footing. A well-maintained field will help avoid twisted ankles or a players rolling out of control down a hill.
- Be aware of a player’s size and ability. Although the bubble is soft and a player will bounce, be sure the weight and strength of the colliding players are evenly matched.
- The inside of a Bubble Ball heats up quickly. Keep players well hydrated and cool. Monitor them closely and keep playing time to short stints, like 10-minute quarters.
- Players with prior neck or back injuries will need to consider their participation carefully as collisions do jar the players.
- A referee is vital to assist any players who get stuck upside down in the Bubble Ball.
- Bubble Balls can be purchased for approximately $200 to $300 each. They do require repairs when they pop, but patches are available.
- Consider partnering or contracting with a local Bubble Ball company that does party rentals, or perhaps a league can be formed at a local park.
- Do research to determine whether additional insurance and liability waivers are required in your community.
- Adding Bubble Ball to a special event, rental, afterschool program, birthday party, or summer camp is guaranteed to turn some heads!
- Bubble Ball is a great marketing tool to gain attention for the local park. Be sure to have your flags flying during the games.
In addition to extreme fun, Bubble Ball is a great cardiovascular workout. Players get caught up in the action and won’t realize how tired they are. Players’ abs will be sore from laughing, and their bodies will be tired from running, flipping, and crashing.
The games and fun are endless when your day at the park begins by climbing inside a giant inflatable ball with your friends!
Julie Inman is the Recreation Facility Manager for the Rigsby Recreation Center in Safety Harbor, Fla. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.