RI Roundnet has high hopes for sport's future
Most people that know the sport of roundnet usually see it as just a backyard cookout activity, or something that you bring to the beach when hanging out with friends.
Although it fits into each of those categories … there is a group of locals that see it as much more.
Three years ago, and handful of Warwick friends picked up a Spike Ball roundnet set and began playing regularly, and Rhode Island Roundnet was established.
With over 60 members, Rhode Island Roundnet has continued to grow since its inception, and many teams within the group have gone on to compete in national tournaments, some even taking home first place.
“It all started with me and a few of my friends about three years ago. We picked up a (roundnet) set at Eastern Mountain Sports and started from there. We started playing three or four times and week and got really addicted to it. We started to bring more of our friends into it in the first year, second year we started going to tournaments. Our first tournament was in Milford, Connecticut and that’s where we really developed a love for the sport. It took off from there,” said Zack Haskins, one of the founding members of Rhode Island Roundnet.
“We all hung out together and got pretty into it … it got pretty competitive. When we first started we were actually playing by a completely wrong set of rules. It started with a few of us and then it spread throughout our friend group. Once we went to our first tournament it really opened our eyes to what we have to do and how good people were at spike ball at that point,” added fellow founder Nick Sullivan.
Since then, members of Rhode Island Roundnet have gone on to compete in tournaments in places like New Jersey, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Coney Island, Philadelphia, and Nashville. The top division in competitive roundnet is called premier, and in order to reach that division each team must rank high enough in the advanced group, which sits just below.
Haskins and Sullivan, among others in RI Roundnet, began competing in the advanced division this year and have already began climbing the ladder in the group.
“We are now in the middle tier of the advanced division. We’ve begun seeing some of our teams winning in the advanced division, we all only started competing there this year. But we’re on the upswing now and we hope to start seeing some of our guys qualify for that top group. The sport is in its formative years and our group is shaping it for years to come,” said Haskins.
Roundnet was originally created back in 1989, but has began to catch on in many states over the past decade. Roundnet leagues are becoming more common each passing year, and has even began being televised on ESPN2.
“I can only see it growing from here. I can see it becoming an Olympic sport. It has the building blocks to be a lifelong (sport),” said Haskins. “It will be years before that but its recent exposure on ESPN and seeing some of these professional sports teams … like the San Francisco 49ers use it in training and are posting it on social media. To get that exposure with professional athletes, it’s only going to grow from here. It’s a very exciting time to be involved in roundnet.”
“It’s been cool to see it grow, we have some pretty dedicated players. Places like Massachusetts already have a big roundnet community. Seeing it on ESPN already, it’s been six or seven years since it’s taken off and there are now a lot of premier players. It’s evolving which is really cool. It has got even more growth potential, it’s already grown an incredible amount,” added Sullivan.
Although RI Roundnet looks to grow, and sees bigger and better goals for the future, Sullivan still loves the game for one reason: fun.
“One thing that I love about it is just being able to hang with the guys. You’re at a party, you can grab a beer and play, that’s what it is really for,” said Sullivan. “It’s a party game, a cookout game, and now you have guys like us that are establishing it (as a sport).”
RI Roundnet will be hosting a tournament on Oct. 28 at the Bend Street fields in Warwick.