On July 22, a new Toronto sports league will team up with an Israeli-based international humanitarian organization to host a one-day charity tournament. Although the league is new, the partnership between the Toronto Spikeball League (TSBL) and Save a Child’s Heart (SACH) came about thanks to an old relationship.
“Jonah and I are actually brother and sister,” said Jess Haber, who works as the development co-ordinator for SACH Canada. “I recently started working at Save a Child’s Heart and he’s been promoting his Spikeball league and we were just talking one day and we thought it would be a really good thing to do together … and hopefully raise some funds, as well.”
Jonah Haber is Jess’s brother and a co-founder of the TSBL with Daniel Steinberg. Jonah Haber and Steinberg conceived of the league when they realized there was no way for local enthusiasts to play the summer sport during the winter.
The sport is actually called roundnet, but Spikeball is the brand that made it famous (similar to Ping Pong and table tennis). It’s reminiscent of volleyball, but instead of hitting a big ball over a tall net stationed between the two teams, the players bounce a small ball off a round net in the middle of the playing area. Just like in volleyball, only three passes are permitted between teammates before they have to pass the ball to the other team. But unlike in volleyball, there are no fixed sides – players can move wherever the ball takes them.
“I first heard about it when I actually watched it on Shark Tank,” said Steinberg, speaking of the popular show in which small companies pitch ideas to big investors. “And then, as it grew, (I) purchased the sport for my cottage, to play with friends and family.”
Steinberg and Jonah Haber decided to create the tournament “as a way to showcase our brand, TSBL, but also a way to grow the business, grow the sport and grow the game,” said Steinberg. “Along with adding value to a charity.”
Save a Child’s Heart is best known for providing life-saving cardiac surgery to children in developing countries who would not otherwise be able to afford it, or even access it. But Jess Haber said the organization also goes on missions to developing countries to screen children for heart conditions and brings healthcare professionals from developing countries to Israel, to train them in heart surgery.
The organizers of the tournament expect it to be a success.
“It’s going to be friends and strangers getting together. It’s going to be about the Spikeball, but it’s also going to be about hanging out, listening to music, meeting people,” said Jonah Haber.
“Spikeball is extremely popular right now. It’s a super fun sport to play during the summer, but also it’s always nice to know you’re doing something you like for a good cause,” added Jess Haber.
Sign-ups for the tournament are still open, although slots are filling up fast.
Aside from roundnet – which will be played in a round robin format at first, before transitioning to a bracket for the playoffs – the event will also include perks from the sponsors, such as a massage and stretching table.
“What we’ve done throughout our time during TSBL is all about adding value by creating benefits packages to all our members and players. So for this specific tournament, we’ve partnered with companies like Muskoka Brewery, Red Bull, Panago Pizza and Body and Soul Fitness,” said Steinberg.
After the success of their inaugural season, with over 30 teams and more than 60 participants, Steinberg and Jonah Haber are looking to expand the league. They are considering doing more tournaments and also adding a fall season.