Hoover-Ball is a combination of volleyball, tennis and medicine ball. The sport was invented by President Herbert Hoover’s personal White House physician Admiral Joel T. Boone to keep President Hoover physically fit. It was once the most popular sport at the White House played by the President, Cabinet members, Court justices and high government officials. Now a national championship each year is co-hosted by the Hoover Presidential Library Association and the city of West Branch, Iowa.
“It required less skill than tennis, was faster and more vigorous, and therefore gave more exercise in a short time.”
Each morning, four to eighteen VIPs would show up for the games around the south yard of the White House. Players were then known to be the Medicine Ball Cabinet, but not all the members were part of the Official Cabinet.
Hoover-ball was developed from a game the navy played while they were on ships. It was called bull-in-the-ring. Their ball was soft and weighed 9 lbs (4 kg) and the net was 8 to 9 ft high and 30 ft wide.
Generally, the game is held in a volleyball-type grass or sand court where players throw a heavy-weight medicine ball over the net. But in Hoover-ball, the medicine ball has a total 6 lbs (2.7 kg) and is thrown over to an 8 ft (2.4 m) volleyball-type net. The scoring is similar to tennis and is played in similar fashion. The server throws the ball – opponent catches it on the fly and immediately returns it, trying to put it where it can’t be reached or returned. When the other player loses the ball or throws it out of the bounds, he loses a point.
There are four types of throws; body twist is a quick off the hip throw; over the head is a whole body throw; trebuchet is an advanced throw, keeping the elbow straight then steps forward, twists and throws the ball; spike is when the player jump so high and throw the ball to the opponent’s side.
- A similar sport called newcomb ball is an early variation of volleyball in which teams throw a ball back and forth until it hits the floor or is mishandled.
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