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ACE Summer's Spikeball Subculture

Thursday, June 29, 2017 by Darby Evans, ACE Communications

ACE Summer Spikeball

Four people stand in ready position on South Quad. Their knees are slightly bent, their eyes trained on the yellow ball as it bounces neatly off the circular net in the grass. It’s twilight on Notre Dame’s campus—fireflies have already started to congregate on the lawn—but for these four players, the rest of the world has melted away. For 20 minutes, they are not graduate students or instructors or administrators. All that matters is the net, the ball, and the next move. All that matters is Spikeball.

Spikeball Schoenig High-FiveDuring spare moments between classes, Masses and other events, Spikeball is a common ACE summer pastime. In Spikeball, a sort of four-square-meets-volleyball game, one team of two “spikes” a small yellow ball onto a trampoline-like net. Points are won when the ball is bounced out of the opposing pair’s reach.

ACE 23’s Megan Fink, Nick Denari, and Alison O’Connor are all avid Spikeball players. They say that Spikeball games occur regularly after classes end and dinner begins in South Dining Hall. The games are informal; someone like Nick, who owns his own net, will pull out a Spikeball set and players of all skill levels will follow.

Spikeball is something that is relatively easy to learn,” says Megan. “It’s easy to get to a point where you’re comfortable playing with people, and it’s easy to set up so it’s convenient.”

The games are short, roughly 20 minutes at the most, so it’s a simple, low-stakes way for ACE Teaching Fellows to get to know one another and incorporate some play into their demanding schedules.

Spikeball games draw spectators seeking conversation and sunlight, and sometimes members of the ACE team will join the festivities as well. Alison recalls that Pat Graff, a former member of the pastoral team, used Spikeball as a way to welcome her into the community.

"The stakes may be low, but spirits run high."

“The non-competitive games are all about support,” says Alison. “I still remember playing that first game and just how helpful [Pat] was. I was probably a terrible partner, but he would still set me up for [good shots], and he would say, ‘No, no! You still have to swing away!’”

For those who have moved beyond the novice level, Spikeball match-ups can get intense. Hands fly, arms flail, players will dive upon the grass to save the ball and make the play. The stakes may be low, but spirits run high. There is no shortage of victorious celebration for winning Spikeball teams.

Walk down South Quad in the summer, and you may see a familiar scene outside Alumni Hall—four players, ready position, a ball, a net. For a moment, these players have forgotten they are teachers. For a moment, they think of Spikeball, of laughter and high fives, and little else.