BOATBALL, a new game!
To explain what boatball is, first understand what
it's not. It's not kayak polo. Although that is what Memphis boaters
called it when they started, it has evolved into a new and very
different paddle sport. Boatball is to kayak polo, as American football
is to soccer... similar, but different. Kayak polo and boatball both
involve kayaks, teams and a ball, but that is the end of the similarity.
not: it's not for your kayaking group, if you live near
whitewater...you just don't need it, and you will have trouble getting
enough people to play regularly. If, however, you are unfortunate enough
to live in a community with an active group of paddlers; and you are
far enough away from the river to get "whitewater horny," you are going
to love this game!
Kayak polo is an "off-season" game usually
played in a swimming pool. There is specialized equipment, a lot of
rules, referees and beyond the reach of the average boater. Boatball,
however, is a warm weather game played on a lake or wide flatwater...it
is too wide and too fast for a pool. It is simple, cheap and
adaptable...the touch football of boating. If you are still reading
because you live some distance from whitewater, you already know that
paddling every other weekend just isn't enough to stay in shape for real
whitewater paddling. Playing boatball, twice a week, will make you a
prince among paddlers and a king of the river!
THE FIELD: The
field is marked simply with two buoys. We use two, anchored, large,
plastic balls. These are the sit on and bounce type balls with handles.
These anchored balls mark the goal lines. The distance between the goals
is variable depending on the number of players...approximately 50-100
yards? The more players, the longer the field. There are no sidelines.
We use a miniature basketball (souvenir type). It is easy to grasp when
wet and easy to throw. These two simple goal markers and the ball are
all the "special equipment" you need to play boatball.
GAME: Two teams are picked in the time-honored tradition of sandlot
football. Two captains are chosen (always different). They pick teams
with alternating "picks" from the group. The captain who got "second
pick" gets the ball and the goal of his choice. The other team goes to
the opposite end. This separation of teams is only necessary at the very
beginning of the game or when new players join the game. The ball is
brought into play from behind the goal line. The object is to advance
the ball down the field to the other goal line, by passing and
dribbling, to score. Once in possession of the ball, a player cannot
paddle, only pass or dribble. A goal is scored by passing to a teammate
beyond the goal line (an imaginary line formed by the buoy). The ball
must be caught "in the air." Once the ball crosses the goal line and
hits the water, the play is "dead," and the ball goes over to the other
team. The ball is always "in play" between the goal lines...there is no
"time out." The exception to this is if a player capsizes. If the player
rolls, the play continues. If not, all play stops to facilitate an
Eskimo rescue or swimmer retrieval. Otherwise, the play stops
momentarily after a successful goal or an unsuccessful attempt at a goal
when the ball is "dead." At these pauses, captains can call for a
"water break" or a "spandex break." A "spandex break" is to admire a fit
jogger or rollerblader on the perimeter trail of our lake. When
everybody is ready to play again, the game continues.
RULES: Remember, we are dealing with kayakers-there are not many.
THE MAIN RULE: No paddling with the ball. Once in possession of the
ball, a player can only pass or "dribble." A dribble is simply throwing
the ball ahead on the water and paddling to it.
2. No "mauling."
Mauling is interpreted by the nature of your particular group. This
would be analogous to "personal fouls." Common sense and good
sportsmanship are the keys here. Boat collisions are inevitable and
blocking a boat with a boat is okay. Paddle blocking a pass or a
reception is okay. However, players should avoid amidships collisions,
which could result in spearing. Blocking should be done on the ball, not
3. No "grabbing". Pushing off another boat or paddle
with the hands is okay...just do not "grab" skirts, loops, paddles etc.
This would be analogous to "holding" in football.
4. No paddle
That's all the rules. The rest is simply common sense.
In deference to my son, the kayak instructor and law student, all
players must wear a PFD and helmet....duh! Players should know and
consider the paddling skill levels of others. Excellent paddlers are
more aggressive with other expert paddlers and lay off beginners. If
another capsizes a player, good sportsmanship would dictate helping him
up and giving him the ball. There are no referees, and violators of the
rules are subject to the "shame" and ridicule of everyone. Repeat
offenders of the rules and poor sports should be taken into the parking
lot and beaten senseless.
THE PLAY: Bringing the ball in and
moving the ball up the field is much like basketball. It is quick
precise passing and fast break paddling. Play can involve familiar
basketball terms such as "fast breaks," "dribbling," "picks," "give and
go," etc. Defenses can be "zones," "man to man," "presses" etc. As the
ball nears the goal, offenses and defenses resemble football pass plays
into the end zone. Boat types have definite advantages and
disadvantages. Long boats have speed, but short boats can turn quickly.
As a rule, players tend to defend boats and boaters with similar
characteristics and abilities. Speed paddling is the norm in this game.
The fact that the ball is always "in play" results in non-stop paddling
where blocks and steals can immediately reverse the direction of the
play. Paddling 40 yards as fast as you can, or trying to out-maneuver a
defender in the end zone 20-30 times, twice a week will give you
paddling power you never knew you possessed. Paddling endurance
increases phenomenally. There are no eddies in boatball. A good boatball
game with 8 -12 players for an hour or two will leave you more
exhausted than any river paddling.
Our season is during Daylight
Savings Time, Tuesday and Thursday, after work, until sundown. Because
there are no expenses, we do not need sponsorship or organization;
therefore, no one is legally liable. An interesting fact is boatball is
the only game played in the Memphis parks where all the players carry
sticks and wear big knives! There are also a few unexpected benefits of
boatball. Our game has become a fixture in a park lake surrounded by
walkers, joggers, bikers and rollerbladers. Our game has been featured
in news and sports stories on all the local TV stations. If you play
boatball in a public place, your game will grow. People, who want to
know about kayaking, make first contact with the boatball players just
because we are out there in plain view. The local outfitter, sponsor of
the largest bicycle race in Tennessee, has included an exhibition
boatball tournament in this year's race events. Who knows? If this
catches on in another city, let me know. Your team can come to Memphis,
eat barbeque, and be in the historic first intercity boatball game.
There is only one small problem for spectators of this game. After
watching the fierce competition and nonstop paddling action, a bystander
will come up after the game and ask, "Who won?"
we've never kept score!"