Peculiar Play: Bossaball

Peculiar Indeed. It’s part volleyball, part soccer, with a dash of funky music and the spring of a trampoline. The beauty of the game is the priority on play!

February 2, 2018 | by
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With six billion people roaming the planet, you might not be surprised to find out that we’ve invented some rather strange ways of playing. For every soccer or basketball, there is a niche sport like bossaball played by devoted fans who will proudly extol the virtues of the game they love. And, quite frankly, more power to them. Because at the end of the day, the reason for sport isn’t to win or to make millions. (LeBron James, we are not.) It’s to enjoy yourself and your surroundings, to feel alive and in the moment, to play to your heart’s content.

Welcome to Peculiar Play, an occasional series about our favorite strange games. First up: Bossaball.

To found an unusual sport, it helps to have an inventive mind and varied life experience. Filip Eyckmans has both.

The Belgian worked his way up the youth tennis ranks, eventually reaching number one for his age group in his native country. But the formal training and strict organizational structures of high-level competition wore thin in adulthood and Eyckmans had other ideas about how to live life and have fun. And so, abandoning tennis, he spent time wandering the world, learning to DJ and enjoying life.

Eventually, he found himself in the Brazilian city of Recife where he encountered Capoeira, a mix of dance, acrobatics, and martial arts. He also noticed the popularity of two sports: soccer and beach volleyball.

A proverbial light bulb went off. What if he could combine his love of sport, acrobatics, and music into one spectacular game? Bossaball, “the ultimate mix of soccer, volley and gymnastics topped with an exotic, groovy sauce,” was born.

This is how it works: teams of three, four, or five each take one side of a volleyball net. The playing surface is an inflatable pad with a trampoline in the middle. It’s similar to volleyball, each team gets up to six hits to get the ball over to the other side. They score if it hits the ground on the opponent’s turf: three points (if the last touch was with an arm or hand) or five points (if the last touch was with feet or head) if the ball lands in the trampoline area, and one or three if it lands on the inflatable pads. The objective is to be as creative as possible with your movement.

“The mix of various disciplines fused into a new sport attracts interest both from individuals but as well from investors due to its novelty,” Flemming Sörensen, a member of Bossaball International, says. “Furthermore, the inflatable court as a playground allows a whole new range of movements while playing on an injury-friendly and thus safe area. New players will experience from the very beginning a captivating mix on a fun underground—like in their youth, when playing on a jumping castle—while combining this with a serious and competitive ball sport and activity.”

Players run, jump, dive, and sweat—throwing themselves around the playing surface in an effort to keep the ball in the air for as long as possible. It’s serious competition with an Eyckmans-inspired twist. The point is to play, not to win.

And then there’s the music. Bossaball derives its name from Bossa Nova, a distinctly Brazilian musical genre with a groovy beat. In Bossaball, the music is infused into the fun, an essential part of the game that enlivens and inspires the players.

“In many other sports, music is only used in the breaks,” Sörensen says. “At Bossaball though, we have the music going on at the full time, being confident that the beats of the music lifts the level of play and competition.”

The referee is also the DJ. How’s that for double duty? The music keeps the momentum going, churning out high beats per minute and matching the intensity of the bouncing ball. The players and the fans dance in their own rhythms, competing together. It’s about as far from the staid world of Wimbledon as one could be.

Want to get involved? There are tournaments all over the world. More bossa, more fun. You have to think Eyckmans wouldn’t want it any other way.

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