Volleyball with a kick makes debut at Immaculata

Takraw website

Takraw website

Takraw, a kind of no-hands volleyball, is being introduced at Ottawa high dchools.

It has the net, the court, and the ball. But while takraw might look like volleyball, it’s more like a high-speed combination of hacky sack and martial arts.

The game from Southeast Asia is being played at Immaculata High School where students are getting to put their takraw skills to the test.

“A lot of things in life are ho-hum, same old, same old,” says Bob Thomas, the physical education and athletics consultant for the Ottawa Catholic School Board (OCSB).

“That’s why we introduce different sports, buy equipment and run workshops, so the kids can appreciate sports from around the world.”

Sepak takraw, as it is commonly referred to, involves two teams of three players, a rattan ball and excellent foot co-ordination. Players have three chances to get the ball over the net using only their feet, knees and head.

The sport has been introduced in Ottawa Catholic schools, and while traditional rules are used, some modifications have been made for younger players, says Thomas.

Grade 7 and 8 teams use a plastic ball, are allowed one bounce and have an extra player on the court.

Thomas’ inspiration to bring takraw to Ottawa five years ago grew from watching youth play hacky sack in a high school parking lot.

“I thought ‘Look, you know what, those kids are good at that,’” he says. “‘Kids who are good with their feet and who like to play Hacky Sack might like this game,’ so we introduced takraw.”

Takraw isn’t the only international sport the school board has introduced. Middle-school students play 19 sports throughout the school year, including floorball from Sweden, and tchoukball from Switzerland, a sport similar to handball.

But January-February is takraw season, and 10 Ottawa teams put their skills to the test in a Feb. 5th competition at Immaculata High School.

Grade 7 student Jeffrey McKeen competed for Immaculata in the tournament.

He says he enjoys learning about different sports from around the world.

“I think it’s great for the experience. It’s really fun,” he says, emphasizing how much skill the game requires.

“It’s pretty hard, you have to develop the right touch on the ball to get it over.”

Dino Vigliotti has been the coach of takraw at Immaculata for two years and says the sport appeals to soccer players because it requires foot coordination.

“It is a learning experience, and the kids are starting to get the sense of what the sport is like,” says Vigliotti. “I’ve seen improvement at Immaculata in one year alone.”

The sport is becoming more popular across Canada, and a national men’s team competed overseas in China and Malaysia late last year.

They advanced to the quarter-finals, before losing to Indonesia.

“Interest is growing. There are now well over 1,500 schools across Canada that have the equipment and that play at one level or another,” says Rick Engle, president of the Sepak Takraw Association of Canada.

Takraw has the potential to become a mainstream sport in Canada, says Engle.

It is already expanding, with Saskatchewan currently establishing a governing body for the sport, a model Engle says can serve as a template for other provinces to follow.