Balloon volleyball is one of the few sports that are safe to play indoors, is extremely easy and inexpensive to play, can be played by all ages, improves mental and physical agility and (most importantly) has an incredibly flexible set of rules!
It is a team game and needs at least four players to enjoy the maximum benefits, although it is possible to play a singles version with only two players. It can be played outdoors as well, although extra care should be taken not to endanger the local flora and fauna with dangerous feats of daring!
The winner is the first team to reach 21 points or, if teams are tied at 20 points all, to win by two clear points.
Of course, the main aim is to have as much fun as possible!
Bag of round balloons - as they have a strange tendency to pop.
Chairs - arranged into two rows with the chairs facing inwards so that the fronts touch (the 'net'). Ensure that there is ample room for players to move around the chairs.
Referee - but only if the teams find one to be necessary.
Refreshments - for when there are suitable breaks in play.
Basic first-aid equipment - things can get a bit messy when competition heats up!
Prize - anything deemed worthy by both teams.
These rules are only intended as a rough guideline and any that seem unnecessary or that hamper the general enjoyment and creativity of the players involved can be changed whenever it is deemed necessary!
Players should divide into two equal teams if possible. If there are an odd number of players then either one player becomes the referee, audio-visual scoreboard, cheerleader and/or drinks attendant1 or teams decide how to divide up fairly.
Each team has a side of the 'net' (rows of chairs), which they have throughout the match.
Inflate the balloon2.
One of the teams starts by hitting the balloon over the row of chairs onto the opposing side. This is the serve.
If the balloon is served (or falls after being hit) into the centre channel of the chairs, without the receiving team having touched it, the receiving team will be awarded a point and the right to serve.
A team wins a point and the right to serve when the balloon touches the floor on their opponents' side.
The players on the opposing team return the balloon by hitting it over the 'net'.
Players may collaborate by passing the balloon within their own team and then hitting it over the net.
When a point is scored the balloon is given to the team who conceded the point and they then serve to start the next point. No member of a team may serve for consecutive points - every player must have a turn.
The score should be called out after each point to prevent unnecessary confusion and accusations of cheating being made. However, this is optional depending on the tactics of teams involved. If the opposing team doesn't notice a 'minor' change to the score then they should be paying more attention!
A player may hit the balloon as often as they like within their own side apart from the serve, when the server is allowed only one hit.
Players may not carry the balloon but can pass it from one hand to the other. This is known as dribbling.
Players may return the balloon by any means necessary. For example, kicking, heading and blowing at the balloon are permissible.
A 'foul' is committed if a player intentionally pops the balloon, attempts to hit the balloon underneath the chairs, uses anything other than a part of their body to hit the balloon over the net, swaps teams during the course of play, or climbs into the centre channel to prevent the balloon landing there (but see Rule 16, below). In the event of a foul being committed, the opposing team is awarded a point and the player committing the foul is collectively frowned upon3.
It is permissible for players to move beyond the area covered by the net and continue play around the net. However, they then run the risk of leaving their side of the net exposed.
Players are allowed to reach over into the centre channel in an attempt to keep the balloon in the air and not concede a point. Players may also climb onto the chairs forming the centre channel and can, if they wish, actually jump into the channel and continue play. However, it is the prerogative of both teams to decide whether this rule should be left out altogether as it can prove controversial.
Players may take as many breaks as required, as agreed by both teams.
If the validity of a point is questioned, players may decide to replay a point to resolve the issue.
If the score reaches 20-20 then a team must move two points ahead of their opponents to win the game. Play continues until this is achieved.
There are many possible techniques and new adaptations are expected to arise:
This is arguably the most important move of the game, as the game cannot proceed until the balloon is hit over to the opposite side of the net. A serve is normally intended to be as powerful and low as possible in order to win points quickly. Another tactic is to make a great show of tremendous force and effort to strike fear into the opposing team, and then simply paddle the shot over the net. This can prove extremely successful if the team uses a mixture of service types.
The Basic Hit
A player attempts to give the balloon a whack with the palm of their hand or fist, to send the balloon whistling past the opposition straight onto the floor. However, hard hits do not necessarily propel the balloon faster as they tend to ignore the player and spin upwards, blissfully unaware of the steaming players below. Aim is all important, as the more accurate the shot, the faster points can be won! Try to hit the top and side of the balloon to keep it heading downwards and use a cupped hand to focus the force into a particular area. A flat-handed swat will often result in the balloon floating wildly off course.
The Running Dive
This should only be employed in moments of extreme desperation, as it can prove slightly hazardous to your health and that of team-mates. It involves running to retrieve a balloon travelling either extremely rapidly or at a seemingly unreachable angle, and then diving to keep it off the ground and in play. It is important to stay clear of large, stationary objects when attempting the dive.
The Backward Lob
This involves hitting the balloon backwards over your head to keep it in play. It is important to use this move only when facing away from the net otherwise your team-mates will consider this an inexcusable lack of judgement.
Any player particularly gifted4 at football/soccer, kick boxing, ballet or swimming can attempt a version of the kick. This involves making some form of contact with the balloon with your foot to propel the balloon over the net. This also serves to astound the opposing team if successfully achieved and to win the player increased respect from team members. However, ensure that unsuspecting team members are not inadvertently in the way of your kick or acts of a violent and hysterical nature may occur.
A player attempts to make contact with the balloon using his/her head to get it over the net. This works best in combination with a dive to give the balloon maximum force and direction. Ideally, the forehead should be used rather than the top of the head.
This is a move that should only be attempted as a last resort. A player attempts to propel the balloon over the net by blowing at it. The chances of this succeeding are very slim as the force from a puff is not normally large enough to move the balloon the required distance. However, this depends on the particular player as some may prove more adept at this than others!
Once the various methods of attack have been mastered it is vital to then concentrate on defence. A very useful way to defend the net is to have a number of team members standing as close as possible to the net. They can then wave their arms around, jump and form a barrier to the opposing team. This makes the task of scoring a point markedly harder for the opponents. It is perfectly legal to block a serve or hit by returning the ball immediately as it comes over the net.
Taller players may find it easier to block, as their height represents a formidable barrier. Players can increase the size of their barrier by sitting on the shoulders of other team members, although this may hamper the speed of play!
A Loud, Crazed Shout
This serves many purposes including disconcerting the opposition and alerting an inattentive team member to the action taking place.
This covers a huge range of types of interference from screaming hysterically at key moments to having team members run around to the opposing side of the net and trying generally to cause confusion. Inane grins and silly songs about the opposition can also work. Pretending to have mysteriously lost the balloon and then serving whilst everyone is looking for it can prove successful, but can not be used more than once as the opposition will quickly catch on to the subversive tactics!
For a more advanced version of the game, more than one balloon can be used simultaneously, but this can prove a bit confusing depending on the ability and state of inebriation of players.
A version of balloon tennis can also be played using long, straight balloons as 'racquets' to hit the balloon over the net. Normal tennis rules apply but other methods of returning, such as kicking the balloon, are permissible and it may be necessary to pass the balloon within the team before hitting over the net. More than two players per team are also allowed.
Balloon volleyball is a game that is intended to be spontaneous and is not to be taken too seriously. However, tournaments can be arranged for parties or lunch-time entertainment to alleviate the tedium of work. It provides an excellent work-out and is a great stress reliever! Losing a match shouldn't be viewed as utter humiliation, as the core aim of this game is to have as much fun as possible which is often proved as true for the losing team as for the winners.