West Branch, the birthplace of Herbert Hoover, hosts the National Hooverball Tournament

Published: Aug. 6, 2022 at 10:53 PM CDT
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WEST BRANCH, Iowa (KCRG) - It involves a volleyball net, six players and a four-pound medicine ball.

Welcome to to the (self-declared) national championship of Hooverball. It’s all part of West Branch’s annual Hoover days, celebrating the birthplace and birth month of President Herbert Hoover.

“This was actually played on the white house lawn in the 20s,” said co-director Tony Senio.

It’s true, the sport was invented by Herbert Hoover’s physician to keep the commander-in-chief, in shape.

It looks like volleyball, but it’s scored like tennis. You score points when the other team misses a catch or throws it out of bounds. It’s a lot harder than it sounds.

“There are a lot of people that come here who are in what appear to be great physical shape with great physiques who are very bad at Hooverball,” Senio said. “(Catchin the ball) it’s like taking rib shots as a boxer body blows to a boxer eventually it’ll wear you out.”

But it hasn’t worn out the players, especially 32 year Hooverball veteran Mike Johnston.

“It’s a West Branch thing. The town loves it,” said Johnston. “That’s what I love most about it getting together with people that we know, playing the game and trying to get it to evolve to a better game.”

The game has evolved and expanded far and wide. West Branch even got visitors from New Mexico. Griffin Burak is part of a local JROTC in Albuquerque. He’s been playing for a year.

“We play it for physical training,” said the 15-year-old Burak. “I definitely plan on coming back (next year).”

But for all the new Hooverball players out there, just remember.

“For one day it’s tougher than hell.”

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