CRYSTAL LAKE – With only their legs exposed, four teenagers outside Crystal Lake West Elementary earlier this summer strapped into inflatable balls, as passersby slowly drove past to process exactly what they were seeing.
After a whistle sounded, the four teenagers – broken into two teams – mercilessly ran at each other while passing along a soccer ball to score a goal for their team. They often bumped each other, falling to the ground in their clear protective bubbles and trying to control their laughter in the process.
Crystal Lake resident Jeff Ernst, who organized the demonstration, said he hopes one day children throughout McHenry County will want to enjoy his new business venture as much as the four teenagers did.
Ernst recently purchased the equipment to start an entertainment and recreation business called “Flopperball,” a variation of the bubble soccer and football games that have gained popularity in the United States during the last few years.
“I love working with kids. That’s my passion, and I love soccer,” Ernst said. “I’m putting two together. It’s something unique.”
Originating in Norway in 2011, bubble soccer and football leagues have begun in more than 35 cities across the country, including Milwaukee, Boston and New York, according to the National Association of Bubble Soccer. The game combines the contact of football with the finesse of soccer.
Players strap their upper body into inflatable balls and try to score goals with their legs, while they evade contact from opponents who can send them bouncing on the ground.
When he purchased the inflatable equipment, Ernst planned to bring the game’s growing popularity to area residents and community groups.
Although he hasn’t yet fully launched the business, Ernst said he would rent the inflatable balls to up to 10 people, secure playing space and officiate a group’s game. The costs to consumers roughly would amount to $25 per ball each hour, he said.
The business fits perfectly for people wanting a fun recreational activity for family parties, community fundraisers and events, he said.
So far, Ernst is limiting the game to children between the ages of 9 and 14. He said he is reaching out to different organizations about hosting Flopperball leagues.
“It’s all about having fun,” Ernst said.
For more information on Flopperball, contact Ernst at 815-354-6105.