Volleyball played with a twist

Sri Lankan group brings a sport called overgame to Centretown streets

By Jason Ramey

Perhaps you have seen them playing it before. If you have, you’ve probably wondered what they’re doing.
They play at the corner of Kent and Catherine streets across from the bus terminal.

The game looks like volleyball, it sounds like volleyball, but it’s not volleyball. There’s something slightly different about this sport.

“It’s called overgame,” explains Sam Antony, a Carleton University student. “It’s a form of volleyball we’ve brought from Sri Lanka.”

“The object of the game is the same, but we don’t play the ‘set-up’ game, meaning ‘bump-set-spike’ style,” adds Antony.

In overgame you’re only allowed to hit the ball by clenching your fists together and striking it, not with your knuckles, but with the outside of your hands. It’s illegal to hit the ball with your palm.

“There are a couple of other conditions,” says Carleton student Niranjan Chelliah. “For example, only the person closest to the net can smash the ball, and they must be in the air.”

There are seven players per team, and the first team to 14 points is the winner.

The serve is the same as in volleyball, and you are allowed three hits to get the ball back over to the other side.

“I like our game better because it is a bit faster. The ball usually goes back over the net after one hit, as opposed to three in the set-up game,” says fellow Carleton student Derick Thurairajah.

A group of them get together and play every day during the summer right through until the end of October.

The players are either students at Carleton or the University of Ottawa.

“We play for fun, and also to get out and enjoy the weather and get to know each other,” says Chelliah.
Playing overgame is an opportunity for them to relate to their Sri Lankan culture.

“We’re all from Sri Lanka, and most of us met through the cultural club at school,” says Thurairajah. “We’ve taken it (Carleton’s cultural club) further and connected it to sports.”

The core group has been playing at the same court for three years. They have been able to organize tournaments among themselves in the summer when they have the most players.

“In the summer we get over 30 guys out. But the numbers drop off in the fall because we have more school work and the weather isn’t as nice,” says Chelliah.

He adds that they only play a couple of times through the winter in a gym.

The overgame season is now coming to an end as winter fast approaches. But, expect to see them back at it again when spring rolls around.