A bubble soccer game in progress. (Photo courtesy: shanepatrickcrews.com)
Five-on-five craziness, human wrecking balls and a combination between soccer and sumo wrestling are just a few of the ways that Richmond Bubble Soccer co-owners Samuel Anderson and Kyle Taylor describe the sport.
A growing alternative sporting activity, bubble soccer has been sprouting up in cities all over the United States, with leagues and special events becoming more common. There’s even a National Association of Bubble Soccer, and Jimmy Fallon played the sport with actors Colin Farrell and Chris Pratt — and musician Frank Knuckles of The Roots — in an episode of The Tonight Show.
Bubble soccer is much like regular soccer, except that each player is inside a giant plastic bubble (somewhat resembling a hamster ball) that covers the person from the head to lower thighs. It’s played by adults as well as children, as long as they’re tall enough to fit inside the ball properly. The object is still the same — try to get the soccer ball into the goal — but there are usually some fast-paced hijinks, with players bouncing into one another.
Despite the goofiness, the sport can be exhausting, in part because the bubble suits weigh about 15 pounds each. “It’s way more taxing than people realize,” Anderson says, recalling a bubble soccer event at Lynchburg College. “Those guys are playing soccer at the collegiate level and they’re exhausted after four or five minutes.”
Anderson and Taylor prevent players from becoming too fatigued by rotating them in and out of the game, calling a half-time for everybody to take a rest period, and even changing up the action to short games such as sharks and minnows where three players (the sharks) start at one end of the field and the object is to knock down the others (the minnows). And while it is a contact sport, the protective bubble helps to prevent injuries, they say.
Richmond Bubble Soccer, which launched in October, offers rentals in which the company supplies the bubble suits, goals, referee and soccer balls. They can even assist clients in finding a place to hold the game. The company is also working with local venues to form bubble soccer leagues, and may partner with gyms to offer fitness classes.
One new convert is Katherine Macomber, who held a bubble soccer party for her 7-year-old son, Colby, and 35 of his friends. “He thought it was his best birthday party ever,” she says. “He thought it was like bumper cars combined with soccer.” Macomber says that she would definitely hold another event — with a few less children the next time.