On a daily basis, Princeton students face all sorts of stressors from academics to social life. But on a campus where, according to The Daily Princetonian’s Frosh Survey, 52.5 percent of the incoming Class of 2027 participated in a high school varsity sport, sports are a natural break for many students.
Princeton Campus Recreation offers 13 intramural sports spanning anything from inner tube water polo to sand volleyball. Spikeball emerged as one of the most popular intramural sports this fall with 30 teams and over 120 participants.
Spikeball itself has boomed in recent years, thanks in part to an appearance on ABC’s “Shark Tank” and viral clips on social media. Today, the company that owns the trademark says they have over four million players across the country, and they host professional tournaments in major cities. Additionally, the ease and format of the game have popularized it as a party game.
The social aspect of spikeball has drawn many to Dillon on Tuesday nights, including team Blue Steel. “It’s really just a team-bonding experience. We’re buddies from OA [Outdoor Action], from physics class, from everywhere,” first-year Jonah Johnson said. “Spikeball is like a social magnet, it really brings us all together.”
Students at Princeton playing spike-ball at Dillon Gymnasium. Hosted and sponsored by @PUCampusRec , intramural sports bring students together in the fall or spring semester to compete in one of 13 sports.— Daily Princetonian Sports (@PrinceSports) December 8, 2023
Video courtesy of Ryan Kirby pic.twitter.com/iUzBKunlrJ
As with most intramural sports, there are the typical residential college teams, eating club teams, and club teams. However, the small scale of spikeball makes it easy for many friend groups to join together and form teams. “I’ve made some of my closest friends through spikeball,” first-year David Wang said.
“No, his closest friends became his spikeball team,” first-year Ryan Kirby corrected him.
Kirby is a Sports contributor for the ‘Prince.’
Intramural sports aren’t high-stakes by design, and Campus Recreation states on their website, “whether you are an experienced athlete or if you are trying out a new sport for the first time, we have a place for all to be involved!” While there is certainly room to casually play, as with anything involving Princeton students, things get intense in pursuit of the coveted Intramural Sports Champion t-shirts.
Each team plays four regular-season games, and the top 12 advance into a single-elimination bracket. From there, they play out the bracket to get one final champion.
“It gets surprisingly competitive, but it’s super fun,” said sophomore Luke Miller, member of The Nut Free Table team, before their quarterfinal match. “Like a good, healthy kind of competitive.”
While competitive, spikeball has succeeded in drawing people out week after week. “It’s definitely something I look forward to every Tuesday night, it’s a great way to meet new people, and now as sophomores, we’re still seeing some of the same people. It’s a very low-stress way to stay active,” Miller added. It’s no surprise that with the community and low commitment, people consistently show up.
Spikeball has been one of the most popular intramurals, but some teams compete in all 13 intramural sports that Campus Rec offers. Austen Mazenko ’24 spearheads intramural organization for Whitman Residential College, which isn’t always easy. “The hard thing about organizing for a [residential] college is that you don’t always have a small group so it can be tough to get the same people reliably week after week,” Mazenko said.
That being said, communities form across all of the different intramural sports. With the residential colleges, students can easily join a team and meet others. “One of the best things is to see how different sports bring out different people, it’s super cool to see and meet new people,” Mazenko said.
After about 70 games played in the season, spikeball will wrap up with the final game on Thursday at 8 p.m. between teams Lawrence Wang and The Nut Free Table. While spikeball will be finished for the year, registration for the first round of spring sports will open up after winter break and the intramural cycle will continue.
Tate Hutchins is a contributor to the Sports section of the ‘Prince.’
Please send corrections to corrections[at]princeton.edu.