“Keep your eye on the ball,” coaches often say to their young players.
But in the sport that’s coming to the Cathedral High School gym for a tournament from May 30-June 1, it’s virtually impossible for fans and participants to lose sight of the ball.
That’s because it’s so big. The darn thing is about 1.2 metres in diameter.
Cathedral will be playing host to the third edition of the Canadian Open of Kin-ball. And organizers say 41 co-ed teams from Quebec and Ontario are scheduled to compete in four divisions. Hamilton will be represented by nine high school entries from Cathedral plus elementary school age groups from St. Patrick, St. Ann, St. Brigid, St. Clare, St. Matthew, Holy Name of Jesus, and St. Vincent de Paul.
Kin-ball originated in 1986 by a physical education teacher in Quebec. It emphasizes teamwork, co-operation, sportsmanship and good health. There are three opposing teams on the court at once, four players per side.
‘Kin-ball has really taken off in our Hamilton Catholic school board,” said Andrea McCabe who, along with Jeff Toole, coaches the sport at Cathedral. “It has become very popular. Last year, we brought 14 students from our feeder schools as well as 30 of our Cathedral students to the Open in Gatineau, Que. We won a bronze medal, which I think really shocked the Quebec teams. They did not expect that at all from an upstart team from Hamilton, Ontario.
“This will be our third Canadian Open. It’s a great event.”
The objective of the game is to serve to an opposing team so its members will not be able to catch the ball before it touches the ground. On the defensive end, the objective is to receive the ball before it hits the ground. There are no nets or goals.
Games have three periods lasting between seven to 15 minutes each, depending on the age level of the participants, with a one-minute intermission between each period. At the beginning of each period, the ball is put into play from the centre of the gym by the team with the fewest points. The team with the most points at the end of the three periods wins the game.
Each team wears a jersey or pinny of a different colour.
When the game starts, the player at the centre throws the ball up while yelling the word “Omnikin” and the corresponding colour of a team. The named team must catch the ball before it touches the floor. The catching team must have three players holding the ball from below, each player with one leg bent and with both hands on the ball. The remaining player may stand, then hit the ball with his/her hands while clearly yelling “Omnikin” and the colour of another team which will then run and catch the ball. If the named team does not prevent the ball from hitting the floor, the other two teams are each awarded two points. The ball then goes to the team which failed to score. If a player mistakenly yells the colour of his/her own team when hitting the ball, the other teams are awarded points and play restarts.
McCabe, who also coaches volleyball at Cathedral, says the team concept of Kin-ball makes it a particularly satisfying and enjoyable activity for her to be involved in.
“It encourages sportsmanship and communication,” she said. “You have to work together and you have to anticipate. There’s a strategy involved. They say if you play Kin-ball for an hour it’s the equivalent of doing 300 squats. To play it at a high level you have to be agile and extremely fit.
“That being said, kids of all abilities and fitness levels play. That’s very cool. I like that.”
Cathedral recently ran a feeder school league for seven weeks. It involved 50 kids from four different elementary schools.
“Kin-ball can be as competitive as you want it to be,” McCabe added. “It can be ‘let’s go out and have fun’ or it can be ‘let’s get serious and win this.’ Our approach (at Cathedral) is to include as many kids as possible. Everyone who tries out, makes the team. We just want them to be active and have something to connect them with their high school years.”
According to McCabe, many of the experienced Quebec senior men’s and women’s teams display outstanding finesse on the court.
There will be six preliminary games at the Canadian Open to determine rankings for semifinals and finals.
Spectators will be admitted free of charge.
Internationally, the sport is played by several million people in over a dozen countries.