Speedball Tournament: The Real March Madness

Cameron Stuart, Veritas Sports Editor

It is reasonable to think that E.D. Mitchell, often referred to as the Father of Intramural Sports, had no idea that the game he invented in 1921 at the University of Michigan would evolve into what it has some 94 years later.

That game, of course, is the most interesting sport you’ve never heard of: speedball. It was created as an activity for those who did not play football but still wanted to bask in the beautiful Ann Arbor autumns. Originally played outdoors back then, it was modeled after the game of football.

Speedball, however, combines all the popular sports in America including a little football, soccer, baseball, and even some hockey. A ball can be kicked, tapped or thrown into the net and the main objective of a defender is to tag the ball carrier, resulting in a turnover.

Since its invention the game of speedball has spread across the country as an intramural sport or a gym class activity.

Making its way inside the walls of Rockland High,  it looks like it will be here for quite some time.

During the two-week break between the winter and spring sports season at RHS, some 50 students threw their hat into the speedball ring, participating in the first six-team, round robin tournament for the school championship.

“The [high] school loves the game,” tournament commissioner and senior Matt Clougherty said. “It was a way to bring the school together in some way.”

Clougherty also captained one of the teams, selecting players through a 50-person draft.  Clougherty’s team lost the first game of the round robin and didn’t look back, making it all the way to the final game.

“The intensity and passion of it is incomparable,” senior Eddie Yeadon said, “It isn’t just some gym game.”

All those who signed up for the tournament had one thing in common: they were all male.

Only one girl participated in the tournament, senior Brianna Starkey, and even that was purely by chance.

“One day Matt Bille just came to me at lunch and said they needed a player,” Starkey said. “I told him I’d join if he didn’t mind having a girl on his team.”

While Starkey’s revolutionary presence helped Bille’s team get on the court it did not keep them there very long, as they suffered losses in the first two games by the five-goal slaughter rule each time.

The tournament came to an abrupt end, however, when spring sports season was quickly approaching and time to rent the gym was running out with it.

Team Crawford, captained by senior Leshon Crawford, was unable to play the championship game due to a lack of players from injury and previous commitments. The title game was postponed to a date not yet decided upon.

“We haven’t really set up a date yet,” Commissioner Clougherty said. “I’m hoping we can come on a Saturday or maybe early on an MCAS day and settle this.”

While RHS may still be a basketball school, it seems no one has a bad word to say about the game of speedball.

“It seems like everyone loves it,” senior Pearse McNally said. “I think this  tournament will continue to keep the game as a staple of Rockland for years to come.”

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