Spring temperatures bring spikeball back to the outdoors


Amaya Lobato | Staff Photographer

Students play spikeball at Schenley Plaza last week.

By Maria Scanga, Senior Staff Writer

It’s the time of year when the grass becomes visible again, the temperature is just warm enough for short sleeves and one of the more familiar signs of spring in Oakland — the sight of students playing spikeball.

Oakland is no stranger to the game of spikeball — Pitt even has its own spikeball club, called Club Roundnet. Nick Genkinger, a sophomore chemistry major, describes the game as the love child of volleyball and foursquare, if beginners need a visual way to think about it.

“When you get really into the game, it becomes a lot more intricate than that, but when you’re first learning this is the easiest way of thinking about it,” Genkinger said.

The game features a net similar to a small trampoline and three balls. The object of the game is to throw the ball into the net so the opposing team can’t catch and return it, but each team only has three chances to accomplish this before switching off. Genkinger had his first introduction to the game after Harry Yen, the current president of Club Roundnet, introduced it to him and a friend.

We were instantly hooked, even after he destroyed us,” Genkinger said. “We were so shocked to see how good some people were at spikeball because we always played it as more of a casual game, but that’s the great thing about the game, is that it can be played at all competitive levels and be just as fun.”

Sam DeGrace, a senior business major, started playing spikeball while he and his volleyball teammates were waiting for the next game at a volleyball tournament. He said he’s been hooked since then, and his favorite spot to play is Schenley Park.

“I like playing in Schenley when it’s warm out and there aren’t too many people around,” DeGrace said. “That way we don’t bother them too much by possibly hitting them with the ball.”

Both the space and the location of Schenley Park are what make it a favorite for Demitri Magriples, a junior civil engineering major. Magriples, who has played spikeball since starting casually with his friends in between classes in high school, said Schenley Plaza is also great because it gets a lot of sun.

“Schenley Plaza is a great spot to play,” Magriples said. “It’s got a lot of room, granted there isn’t a lot of other students there, and it gets good sunshine to stay warm for most of the day.”

Another favorite spot is the green spaces around the Cathedral of Learning. This is where Genkinger spends most of his time playing, both casually and during Roundnet tournaments.

My favorite spot is easily Cathy Lawn, and you will see the circles of dead grass that is evidence left behind by the people playing spikeball there,” Genkinger said. “Playing in front of a big crowd is definitely super fun when we host tournaments, and everyone in the club is so supportive, and whenever you or someone else makes a good play there is always a lot of cheering and of course some friendly banter.”

Whether a professional or novice at the game, anyone can play  — and anyone can join the club at Pitt, according to Genkinger. He said one of the best things about the sport is how inclusive it can be, as skill level and physical ability have no influence on how well someone can play.

“The great thing about spikeball is that, unlike a lot of other sports, your physical size doesn’t limit your ability to play the game just as well as the person you’re playing against,” Genkinger said.

Students interested in getting some exercise or just getting outside and meeting new people will have plenty of opportunities to do so in the very near future. According to Genkinger, the tournaments will soon start back up, twice a month.

He said the low entry fee of $5 goes toward various local causes. They even were recently able to raise enough money to get spikeball equipment for Pittsburgh’s Big Brothers Big Sisters.

“The entry fees into the tournaments also go towards great causes, and we recently raised enough money to buy spikeball nets for Big Brothers Big Sisters here in Pittsburgh,” Genkinger said. “On April 16 we will be going to donate them and teach the kids how to play in order to support a new generation of spikeballers.”

If the Pitt club sounds too intimidating as a starting point, students will have no problem just finding a net and some pro players willing to help them out, according to Magriples. The game provides a space where friends and strangers alike can enjoy time together, which is why Magriples believes it is so popular on campus.

“If you don’t want to get your own net, you can just walk up to anybody you see playing and ask to join,” Magriples said. “The community of people who play spikeball is very nice and encouraging and always willing to show someone how to play.”