Hoops is here to help you manage your sport and fitness obligations, and to find new opportunities. To help you do that, we’re going to be investigating activities which are a little off the beaten path.
After discovering VX at GoFest, we talked to founder Paul Hildreth to find out more about a sport described as a mixture of lacrosse, pelota, dodgeball and hockey.
When VX was described as “the best sport you’ve never heard of” by BBC World Service in 2014, it was quite the compliment for a game that had started just eight years earlier in Yorkshire schools.
Three years on and the sport is aiming its sights higher – people are beginning to hear about VX.
Built from “a little lacrosse, a pinch of pelota, a dash of dodgeball and a hint of hockey”, it’s not like anything you’ll have seen before.
But founder Paul Hildreth is confident that his sport has everything needed to make a big impact on the sporting landscape.
First things first though, what does VX mean?
“VX doesn’t stand for anything – it’s symbolic,” Hildreth told Hoops.
“It’s a team game, two teams of five, so V represents five players on each side, and the X represents the total number of players on a court.
“We also have a singles game, played on a squash court, so we call that V2 – two players. And then we have a doubles game, four players on court, that’s V4.
“Now in algebra X can represent any number, so that indicates we have all these different versions, so then V stands for versatility. It’s all symbolic.”
— VX International (@pmhildreth) May 28, 2017
Hildreth insists that VX is “a very easy sport to learn and play” – something which Hoops can vouch for after we gave the sport a go at GoFest South.
Using a VX stick which is roughly comparable to a double-ended lacrosse stick, players propel low-pressure tennis balls at each other’s bodies, with one point gained for a hit and three if you catch an opposition shot in your stick.
Played in an enclosed area – in which players roam anywhere, rather than either side of a boundary as in dodgeball – the sport is fast-paced and fuelled by adrenaline.
But how did such an unusual concept occur to Hildreth?
“It was a misunderstanding, a total misunderstanding,” he said.
“I had a company that helped people bring innovative products to new markets, and one of my clients rang me one day and described something that he was holding, that he had an idea for.
“Now I got the complete wrong end of the stick and imagined people running around throwing tennis balls at each other, like paintball with tennis balls.
“A couple of weeks later when I saw what he’d found it was nothing like that at all, but of course the seed had been planted. So we took what he’d got, stripped it right down, redeveloped it and the sport has formed from there.”
Originally Hildreth pitched VX to schools, recognising both its potential as a sport that is accessible to all, and the positive influence of its values.
But he quickly found that its popularity would swiftly see it grow beyond his expectations.
“It’s got an impact like nothing I’ve ever seen before,” he said.
“When people hear it described they’re interested but when they see it, when they play, oh wow. They’re hooked.
“It’s accessible to anybody, people who aren’t sporty, it’s mixed at every level between genders, it’s accessible to people with physical or cognitive impediments.
“And its four cornerstones are honesty, integrity, sportsmanship and respect. It is a game of honour, and we’re very, very keen on the element of honesty.
“And after all that, the most important thing is it’s fun too.”
Playstation, Xbox? Na, VX!
Those “four cornerstones” form an important part of modern sport.
With young people playing a decreasing amount of sport – and an increasing amount of computer games – traditional life lessons learnt through participation are going amiss.
And Hildreth has seen that, when presented with VX, kids are willing to put technology to one side and get active.
“I met a mother at GoFest who bought two VX sticks for her two boys, they’d tried it out and loved it, and she said ‘this is fantastic, because it means they have something to do other than the Xbox’,” he said.
“The same thing happened all those years ago when I first got the sticks, I couldn’t get my son off his Playstation, but then he was straight out into the garden and he fell in love with it.
“It was at that point I thought ‘yeah, there’s something about this’.”
Ready, steady… #GoFestUK! 🎉
We bigged it up, it did not disappoint.
— Hoops Connect (@hoops_app) June 2, 2017
“We’re on the crest of a wave”
Already the sport has spread from Ripon, Yorkshire, to the US, Australia, Uganda and Hong Kong.
Italy hosted the World Cup last year, while England travelled to India for a Test series earlier this.
Add to that the creation of the first two regional centres – VX South and VX North East – and it’s easy to see that the sport is growing, fast.
“Basically we just need people with vision, and we’re just finding one or two,” he said.
“We’re a very small team and we’re just hanging on by our fingertips. We’re not precious about it, we want to build the family, it’s certainly not a dictatorship or anything like that!
“Because none of us make any money, it’s all voluntary. My wife keeps me and my son afloat.
“But it just feels that we’re right on the crest of a wave that’s just about to break.”
Hoops, Paul and VX will be reunited at GoFest North in Manchester on June 24th and 25th.
Hoops is now available in app stores, so you can use us to find opportunities for any sport or fitness activity you can think of. Simply click here to download the app for Android, and here for iOS – or search for Hoops Connect.
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