Ever look at the game of soccer and think, "I could do better"?
That epiphany has driven Marine Corps retiree Mark Wilmot for the past four years.
The Massachusetts resident, who retired from the reserves in July after three decades of service, said he wakes each morning with a black cup of coffee and begins work on a sports and fitness invention that is his answer to soccer.
It’s a project that Wilmot believes will be the "biggest garage business success story since Hewlett-Packard and Apple Computer."
The name is Super Scoreball and, according to Wilmot, it’s headed to a gymnasium near you.
The game is a mix of soccer, basketball and tug of war. While its chance of gaining widespread acceptance is still a long shot, organizers have held Super Scoreball events at gyms and charity events in Massachusetts with hopes of expanding to a wider audience.
Wilmot said the idea sprouted one day while he and a friend marveled at international soccer fans’ excitement over low-scoring games — spectators sometimes riot over 1-0 games — while Americans remained aloof.
"The questions loomed. Why is soccer the biggest sport in the world but not in the United States?" Wilmot said. "Then boom — I realized Americans did not like soccer as much as other cultures not because it is just boring, but because scoring matters in a psychological sense."
Wilmot believes soccer has a simple defect, a lack of scoring opportunities.
In Scoreball, players can score points by either kicking a soccer-style goal or shooting the ball basketball-style through a hole in a goal tower.
The game is played with a soccer ball that is kicked up and down a field or court. The players move the ball into the Hex, a hexagonal area with a wide net and two towers, to score points.
While the sport’s ambitions are lofty, its purpose is more practical — teach leadership and camaraderie to players and fight childhood obesity, according to the World Super Scoreball Federation, which is the sport’s sanctioning body.
The federation, created by Wilmot, hosts "public awareness" events to spread the word on Super Scoreball in Massachusetts, said Daniel Hartwell, who helped Wilmot conceive the game and who publicizes the events.
Everyone is allowed to play in the public events and the sport is finding a niche among those with special needs, Hartwell said.
"We discovered the community of special-needs children is underserved in fitness activities because many times those children are left out of the typical organized sports," he said.
Overall, the reaction has been positive and Scoreball appears to be catching on, Hartwell said.
James W. Lowry Jr., a father of three in Bellingham, Mass., said he and his children have been playing the game since it was invented.
"The first time my children and I played Super Scoreball, it took me a little bit of time to get the rules down," Lowry said. "My kids, on the other hand, picked up the rules and the concept of the game right off the bat."
For the Lowry family, the game offers an alternative to traditional sports and time together, he said.
Meanwhile, despite the odds and the limited scope of the sport so far, Wilmot and Hartwell said they are optimistic that Scoreball can break out of Massachusetts.
"There is room for another team sport in high schools and colleges. Plus, Americans love new fitness activities," Hartwell said.
Besides, once upon a time, a little-known sport called basketball was invented not far away in Springfield, Mass.
"If it happened once before, it can happen again … a new sport can indeed be created in Massachusetts," Wilmot said.
Super Scoreball basics
Playing surface: Super Scoreball may be played on outdoor athletic fields, in indoor arenas or in gyms.
Team size: Each team has eight to 16 players and is led by a coach called a field commander.
Officials: A certified "senior chief" officiates the game.
Length of game: Games are divided into three equal campaigns of 15 or 20 minutes each. The timeout interval between each campaign is not to be less than five minutes or more than 10 minutes.
Start of the game: At the start, players race to a tug-of-war match at the center of the field, decided when two players from the opposition are pulled over the center field line. The tower watch, or goalie, for the winning team takes the first shot on the tower.
Scoring and ball handling: Two points are awarded when a team kicks the ball into the net. Three points are awarded when the ball is thrown into a tower opening. When the ball is passed with a kick, head or chest pass, it may be dribbled.
Scoring strategy: Teams try to earn bonus scoring opportunities by scoring on the left tower, the right tower and then the net in subsequent trips down the field. When a team makes the three shots in order, it is given a chance to make free-throw shots at the towers and goal, a total of eight points.
For specifics, see www.superscoreball.org
Source: The World Super Scoreball Federation