Local athlete Emerson Dean is preparing to head to the first ever Roundnet World Championship in Belgium next week.
Roundnet — often called SpikeBall — is sort of like two-person volley ball. Each team has up to three touches before hitting the ball to the other team, but instead of hitting the ball over a net, you hit it onto the round net on the ground.
Dean, 24, was first introduced to the game while on family vacation.
“I got introduced to Roundnet in 2016 while vacationing on the beach. And after that was just instantly hooked,” Dean says.
After a few years of backyard games with friends, the athlete started his competitive career in 2019, playing tournaments across Canada and the United States.
Dean is now partnering up with Etienne Cote of BC for the world championship.
“We played the first time in Montreal for a Team Canada qualifier. And we missed out on the Team Canada bid by one spot,” recalls Dean. “Then we’ve tried out again in Vancouver, and we won the tournament which got us on Team Canada.”
Two hundred teams from 33 different countries will be playing for the chance at the world title. Canada will be sending five men’s teams and three women’s teams.
Dean and his partner recently beat a top European squad and the pair is primed to face the world.
“We’re looking forward to keep going and to do well,” Dean says. “The US is our biggest competition and we think we can take them.”
Dean also founded Windsor RoundNet, a club that now boasts 300 members and meets regularly for pick-up games and tournaments.
Because the sport only requires four people, its popularity grew exponentially during the pandemic, due to gathering limits imposed by the provincial government.
“We like to say like it used to be a game and some people still play it as a game. But for people like us, we play it as true sport,” says Peter Lam, who formed Mississauga Round Net and serves on the Roundnet Ontario board of directors.
He helped organize a Spikeball Tour Series stop where 150 teams came out to play, including people of all age categories and abilities.
“We know that the sport is going to grow and being kind of like the pioneers of this sport, this is a big big deal for everyone in this community,” Lam says, noting it’s starting to become integrated in schools and hope to one day see it become an Olympic sport.
The RoundNet World Championship takes place Sept. 8 to 11.