Players battle for possession while playing bubble soccer at Drake Sports Park in West Bloomfield. The Parks and Recreation Commission is launching a bubble soccer league, with games scheduled to begin Sept. 12. It is believed to be the first league of its kind in Michigan. (Photo courtesy of Civic Center TV)
Soccer traditionally requires a ball, some cleats and shin pads. In West Bloomfield this fall, players also will need a giant, protective bubble.
The Parks and Recreation Commission is launching a bubble soccer league, with games scheduled to begin Sept. 12 at Drake Sports Park. It is believed to be the first league of its kind in Michigan.
“It’s a combination of a gerbil ball and a sumo suit,” said Ted Davis, recreation superintendent of the commission. “But you’re playing soccer in it.”
While played like traditional soccer, this version of the game borrows hip checks from hockey. Protected by the bubbles, players can bump opponents off the soccer ball, sending them tumbling to the ground and away from the action.
“It’s like when you were a kid and played bumper cars,” Davis said. “You wanted to run into everything that was out there.”
The clear, plastic bubbles are almost five feet in diameter with handles and adjustable shoulder straps inside. The inflatable cocoons weigh about 25 pounds, Davis said.
“It’s kind of surprising because you don’t think it’s going to be heavy, but you do feel it,” he said. “It’s going to be a great workout.”
Once players are suited up in their bubbles, let the games begin.
Coed teams of up to eight people ages 21 and up will face off in five-on-five play on a field measuring 60-by-40 yards, with at least two women from each team on the field at all times. Games will be broken into 12-minute halves, with a five-minute halftime. There are no goalies.
The first step will be overcoming the fear of collision, Davis said.
“When people get out there and get that first hit out of the way, they’re going to have a blast,” he said. “It’s getting over the initial fear of the unknown.”
Meredith Dimick of Farmington Hills heard about the league at work and put together an eight-person team within a week. After a team vote, the group was christened “The Burstyer Bubbles.”
“We were almost ‘Bangers and Mash,’ ” said Dimick, 27.
The team got an idea of what to expect by watching videos of the sport on the parks and recreation commission’s website.
“You flip completely over sometimes if you get hit hard enough,” Dimick said. “I have to get mentally prepared for it.”
With safety in mind, fallen players are declared off-limits. They can’t be touched and can’t touch anything until they get up.
Davis said he first heard of bubble soccer through social media, and the idea quickly spread through his office.
“We just thought it looked hilarious and we all really wanted to play,” he said. “It came down to (the fact that) there was nothing stopping us from offering it.”
Davis researched bubble soccer leagues throughout the country, including groups in San Diego, New York City, Boston and Chicago, gathering tips and rules to help create the West Bloomfield league.
“It’s crazy, it’s off the wall (and) it looks completely ridiculous,” Davis said. “I’m playing in the league and can’t wait.”