It’s been almost 80 years since Herbert Hoover held America’s highest political office, but “hooverball,” a sport made famous by the former president, is alive and well in the halls of Burnsville High School.
In fact, the BHS Hooverball Club recently concluded its inaugural season by competing at the 25th Annual National Hooverball Championships in West Branch, IA.
“It surprised me, initially,” said BHS social studies teacher Carla Staffa, whose advanced placement U.S. history students took an interest in the game earlier this year.
In February, Staffa screened a 10-minute video about Hoover for her A.P. classes. The clip mentioned hooverball, a game invented by the president’s physician to help Hoover lose weight. Staffa’s pupils were instantly intrigued.
One student in particular, Peter Dudziak, took a specific interest in playing hooverball. Dudziak compiled a proposal, requesting the class be allowed to play the game and discussing the historic learning opportunity hooverball provided.
“We just really wanted to play it,” said the rising BHS senior.
The class faced off in their first hooverball competition in mid-May. The game was digitally recorded, posted on Youtube and forwarded by Staffa to the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in West Branch.
The organization was thrilled to see the student’s passion for the game and invited the group to the national hooverball championships. Staffa reorganized her summer travel plans, returning early from a seasonal teaching job in Poland to attend the tournament. On Aug. 4, two BHS teams, one boys and one girls, competed against players from across the country.
“The hooverball people in West Branch, IA, were just the nicest,” said Dudziak.
The national championships, which were coordinated by the presidential library, were held in conjunction with West Branch’s Herbert Hoover Hometown Days. The tournament consisted of five initial rounds, followed by double elimination rounds.
Unfortunately, this year’s tournament was delayed by a significant rainstorm, causing the BHS team to forfeit the competition, rather than miss a scheduled private tour of the presidential library.
According to Staffa, the rules of hooverball are similar to those of volleyball. The game is played with a medicine ball and is scored like tennis. There are two or three members on each team.
While in office, Hoover played the game from 7-7:30 a.m. every morning, except Sundays. His teammates sometimes included Supreme Court justices, cabinet members and other high-ranking officials.
“The overarching message, to me, is there’s so much more to history than we’re able to cover in class,” said Staffa.
However, starting in September, BHS students will be able to explore historic pursuits after class. The BHS Hooverball Club, which is open to all students, will begin preparing for the 2013 national championships next month, with Staffa serving as the coach.
Students who would like to participate in the hooverball club or companies with an interest in serving as the club’s corporate sponsor are invited to email Staffa at email@example.com.