Ben Landes and the Bulldogs are killing it in the collegiate roundnet scene. Their massive club allows for a ton of competitive games going at once, which makes it easy to see why the University of Georgia (UGA) is destined to be a powerhouse for a while. We interviewed Ben and learned some pretty awesome things about his club, the players in it, and what they've done to stay competitive.
What is your Spikeball™ story?
I was introduced to roundnet by my freshman year roommate Connor. Connor and I never lost a game on campus that fall. Hungry for competition, we signed up for our first tournament, 2014 Southeast Regionals, as the "Quad Gods". Needless to say we got manhandled, but getting rounded in our first tournament motivated us to start a club to develop a community of players on campus who we could coach up to be our training partners. Our desire for a challenge at home was the origin of the Spike Dawgs® Roundnet Club.
What makes your club awesome?
Our club is awesome because we are the largest, deepest, most competitive college club in the nation. Our organization is recognized by our university as a club sport, which means we are sponsored by the competitive sports department to officially represent our great university in intercollegiate competition. We boast a roster of 27 dedicated members. We sent 11 teams to fall sectionals and 10 to spring, and will have 11 teams at college nationals. We host Mon/Wed practices, two hours each, which are formal, structured practices that include warm-ups, lessons, focused drills, conditioning, scrimmaging, and even film review. We have break out sessions on top of this called "practice pods", we have pickup open to the campus community each Friday, and we've sent teams to 9 tournaments this school year earning and our college club finishes include three second place finishes, one fourth place, and one sectional championship. Our players are very close; we eat together, go on hikes together, study together, and we even took a spring break beach trip together!
Ben Landes, Patric Chu, Addison Powers, and Kyle Chapman pose on the summit of Mt. Yonah during a team hike.
Do any club members have weird talents?
Christian can eat anything in 60 seconds, Kobe has the Guinness World Record for fastest rendition of "Happy Birthday" by a group of guys in a Mercedes, Connor does a good grandpa impression and gets good touches, Addison is plays the piano "a little bit", Brandon is 6 foot 5 and can make a squealing noise that breaks the sound barrier, Bryant can bellow the Halo theme song in perfect pitch in a racquetball court, Big Ben was an U.S. Olympian for flat-water canoeing, Noah has a chest like Iron Man, Rakestraw can match anyone to their cartoon doppelganger, Trey can make his own whiskey, and Zach and Tyler are both straight savages.
List some of your roundnet Pet Peeves.
Losing to the Mercer twins, Connor getting "good touches", losing balls, breaking spikeball sets, going on two when its not a winner, having so many teams that we knock each other out in every bracket, getting kicked out of gymnasiums because we're desperate to play even when the weather is bad.
How did you grow your club?
It started off slow. Four then 6 then 8 then 16 then 27. The most effective tools for us was patience, word of mouth, flyers, social media, becoming a student organization (publicity), and then becoming a club sport (publicity plus authenticity). Once the college format was introduced and we gain club sports status, we built a strong culture. Our group is competitive, we have goals, we have a mission (win nationals), we have strong leadership, we have structure and organization, we have motivation and we have each other. Having a strong culture is imperative and it is set by the figurehead/s of the group. Our players have bought into the system; they've put in the work and made the sacrifices and investments, and for that reason our club is not going anywhere and will continue to grow and be successful in competition.
Patric Chu, Noah Luskus, Brandon Hodges, and Ben Landes playing on the team's spring break beach trip.
Why should someone go to UGA and be a part of your club?
Academics should always be your first priority, but if you do find yourself at UGA ,the Spike Dawgs® Roundnet Club is the premiere organization for collegiate roundnet. Not only will you be a part of a successful team that values every player's contribution and strives to develop each player to be better than the best, but you will also make friends that will last you throughout your whole college career and maybe even beyond that. There is nothing more comforting in college than a group to belong to, and as a SpikeDawg, you are family. Nothing has made my college experience more meaningful than my experience building and being a part of this club.
What is your favorite UGA roundnet club memory?
My favorite memory was winning the semi-finals of our team's first college sectional last fall at UTC. Our UGA Black team played Mercer's top 3 and it all came down to a game 3 between each club's #2 seed. Our team was made of two freshmen who had, like all our freshmen, joined the team and the competitive roundnet scene only a month ago. These guys went to extra points and finally pulled out a break point with a hard fought defensive conversion to conquer a veteran Mercer team and send UGA to the finals. The team rushed the field and from that moment on we were a team and understood that we competed for each other.
What is your most cherished club accomplishment?
Fall Tropic South Sectional Champions.
What is one piece of knowledge you want to share with high school and college players?
If you your school doesn't have a club like we have, don't be complacent, grab some friends and go out and create it. It will take patience and a lot of work to do it well, but the payoff is huge and it might just be the best thing you've ever done. If you have any questions along the way or have concerns about taking the first steps, reach out to us at email@example.com
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