As a business student at Western Washington University, Tim Newell can appreciate holding a local sports monopoly.
He would, however, like to see as many people as possible get interested in playing Spikeball.
"As far as I know, I'm the only person in Bellingham who has Spikeball equipment," the affable, outgoing Newell said.
That means if you want to play Spikeball -- a new type of game with lots of similarities to volleyball and tennis -- you'll have to find Newell and his roommates, Seth Johnson and Kyle Van der Velde, playing Spikeball on the fields on the east side of the Arne Hanna Aquatics Center.
"We love Spikeball. We played just about every non-rainy day we could from September to November," said Newell. "Unfortunately, it really isn't a game you can play in the rain, so we aren't playing often this month."
Van der Velde and Johnson noticed pretty much every time they were out playing Spikeball, they attracted curious spectators of all ages who wondered what the heck they were up to.
It's not, however, like Spikeball is unknown in the East. In fact, a few weeks ago, The Wall Street Journal included Spikeball on a list of 29 sports being played in New York City's Central Park.
"It all started in the East, at Harvard, where Spikeball has become big, and they hold tournaments," said Newell. "People really love it. We're hoping it can get big here, too. You just have to search "Spikeball" to find out how to buy the equipment -- it's just the net and the balls -- and you can use YouTube to see examples of games."
Newell was introduced to the game by a friend who brought a net -- which looks like a small trampoline -- early last summer to Black Hills Bible Camp near Tumwater, where all three roommates hail.
"I was hooked right away. I tried to order a Spikeball net as soon as I could, but the only company that produces them was sold out of stock," Newell said. "My brother and sister had one mailed to me in September as a birthday present."
Newell said it turned out to be just about the best present he ever received. Johnson, a serious Frisbee standout who plays on Western's Ultimate club team, and Van der Velde, wholeheartedly agree.
They usually have no trouble finding a fourth player when they want to play 2-on-2. Singles can also be played, but the boys like the 2-on-2 game.
"Four people is as many people as you can use, since the net is only about 21/2 feet by 21/2 feet," Newell said.
There are no out-of-bounds lines in Spikeball -- it's just a matter of whether one side can either pass the ball to a teammate or bounce the ball back off the net within three hits.
"Just like volleyball, the same person (in 2-on-2) can't hit the ball twice in a row," Van der Velde said.
"And you can't scoop or carry the ball, either," Johnson added. "But you can jump over the net (since it's circular and close to the ground). The game is very fluid and everyone's always changing position to get the best hits and passes."
Newell compared the size of a Spikeball to a lightly larger softball, but the ball is much softer, similar to but "a little squishier" than a volleyball.
Johnson noted that serves, which are bounced off the net, "do not have to be accepted." That means it's up to the server to get the game going in an acceptable way.
Spikeball games are usually played to 11 points, because scoring is similar to the way volleyball once was played, when possession had to be earned before the serving team could score.
There's a lot of diving, leaping and switching possessions in a Spikeball game, meaning it's best played on dirt, grass or sand.
"You can play it on cement or indoors, but it's a lot harder to dive," said Newell, who played basketball and golf at Black Hills High, from which Van der Velde, a versatile musician, also graduated. Johnson was a distance runner at Tumwater High and was a thespian good enough to receive a 5th Avenue Theatre acting nomination.
Johnson said he especially loves Spikeball "because there's a lot of strategy in how fast you strike the ball."
"What I like is the teamwork," said Van der Velde. "It's a great game for that, just like doubles in tennis."
Any disagreements are generally settled by a "re-do" philosophy rather than arguing.
That doesn't mean there's no trash talk.
"Oh yeah, there's trash talk," said Newell. "I'm always big on trash talk. I really like to get in their heads. I trash talk a lot if I'm playing with friends, but not if I'm playing with people I don't know."
All three are active in their churches, Newell and Van der Velde at Cornwall Church and Johnson at Christ Church in Bellingham. They are continuing to look forward to showing Spikeball to young people.
At this point, though, they have more than a monopoly. There's a pretty good chance that not many opponents locally would have a prayer of beating them.