How to design a new sport? Researchers and students from Utrecht University came up with the Qontrol ball

Hockey, tennis, football, athletics … There are countless sports you can practice. But what is it about if you want to design a sport yourself? Quest magazine asked researchers and students in the Master’s program Sports Policy and Sports Management at Utrecht University. Full of enthusiasm, teachers, students and Professor Maarten van Bottenburg set off, resulting in a whole new sport: Qontrol ball.

It all started in April 2021, when Quest magazine asked researchers the question, “What happens when you want to design your own sport?” Quest came with a number of prerequisites: the sport should be attractive to the public, not look like an existing sport, be a physical sport with rules of the game, cultivated as a competition, preferably not be a ball sport (unless it would fundamentally deviate from existing sports) sports), all sections of the population should be able to practice sport, and sport should preferably be gender neutral.

Anyone who thinks that the researchers immediately pulled out their sportswear is mistaken. They started by describing the design processes for a number of sports that largely emerged on the drawing board – such as basketball, volleyball and basketball. In addition, they used ‘design thinking’, a method of finding creative solutions to complex problems from the user’s perspective.

‘Could not you also work with multiple objects?’

“At the first meeting, we mainly discussed what the principles of modern sport are and what happens if you let go of those principles,” says Professor Maarten van Bottenburg. “We found out that it’s almost always one against one, or one team against another team. But why not three against three, or four against four? And if there’s one object, there’s always only one: a ball “For example, would not you also be able to work with multiple objects?”

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Photo: Gaby Baas / Quest

The role of the public was also discussed. “There is always a separation between participants and the audience,” Van Bottenburg says. “But could you also give the audience influence in the match, make it part of the match itself? We also found that there is usually a bit of humor in sports. It’s all so deadly serious. Couldn’t you bring in game changers that cause confusion or surprise? In short: it went in all directions. ”

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Photo: Gaby Baas / Quest

Over time, students and researchers can develop their ideas into a prototype, which was tested in the Olympos sports hall in Utrecht Science Park. “It was so wonderful. We entered the room and really saw something happen that did not yet exist. The people around were also really excited. And: it can just be played like that, it does not require much,” says Van Bottenburg. Qontrol ball was born. “It really only started now,” says Maarten van Bottenburg in the article that Quest wrote about the experiment. “Is it dead or is it being collected? the ball hits. “

Control ball in short

Qontrol ball is played on a court divided into a large triangle and two smaller ones. Each triangle has its own color and a smaller triangle in the middle; the scoring spot.

The sport is practiced with three teams, and each team defends a subject. It is played with a special kind of rubber ball with six dents. Upon delivery, the ball must bounce at least once. It is not allowed to go with the ball, and a player may hold the ball for a maximum of five seconds.

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Photo: Gaby Baas / Quest

Each team consists of three players. If one of them has a foot in an opponent’s scoring circle and catches the ball at that point, a goal is scored. The match is played in sets of ten minutes. Each team starts a set with five points. If a team scores, two points are deducted from it. The team that has to collect a score gets one more point. The one who first reaches zero or has the fewest points left at the end of the set wins the set. The first team to win two sets wins the match.

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Photo: Sven van Pel / Quest

Two teams can further form a temporary ‘coalition’ against the third team. A team calls the term ‘coalition’ and mentions the team for which a coalition is intended. If that team agrees, the coalition is in force. It is canceled again after the next race has been scored. Each team can start a coalition once per. set.

The article ‘Sports from the test tube’ about Qontrol ball is in Quest, number 6, 2022.


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