When Randy Carlson, 39, and Jake Sibely, 43, want to feel like kids again, instead of soccer, they play bubble soccer.
“We can all remember when we were 5, 6, 7, 8 years old and just having that physical freedom,” said Sibely, co-founder of the U.S. Bubble Soccer Association. “But as you get older and more stiff, and maybe more frail, you lose that. What’s amazing about bubble soccer is that you become a kid again.”
Bubble soccer was invented in Norway in 2011 by two Norwegian comedians, Henrik Elvestad and Johan Golden. It came to prominence in the United States in early 2014 after being featured on the Jimmy Fallon Show.
But Carlson said the sport really boomed in popularity in this country because of viral YouTube videos. He said whoever watched the videos saw the “absurdity” of the sport.
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“Bubble soccer is pretty much: bumper cars meets sumo wrestling meets soccer,” said Carlson, co-founder of the USBSA. “I love people’s initial reactions [to the sport] because they just get blown away.”
Carlson and Sibely decided to start the USBSA when they realized bubble soccer was becoming a household name in the country.
The USBSA, which isn’t an official governing body for the sport in the United States but an alliance among bubble soccer operators nationwide, strives to standardize the rules and promote a safe practice.
After bubble soccer made an appearance on national television and went viral on the Internet, operators opened in nearly every state in the country.
In Miami-Dade County, people can play through Bubble Strike Miami, Weekend P.E., and Miami BubbleBall.
Evan Liebowitz, 32, founder of Weekend P.E., uses bubble soccer to get both children and adults outside and exercising.
“I saw bubble soccer as a great opportunity for kids and adults,” he said. “I’ve even had moms and dads go against their kids, or even couples go against each other. I joke and say we can do marriage counseling.”
Parents may question the safety of the sport, but Liebowitz said bubble soccer is safe.
“If it’s monitored and everyone follows the rules and precautions, then it’s just like every other sport,” Liebowitz said.
Bubble operators, like Weekend P.E., make sure the practice of the sport is safe by working closely with the USBSA. The organization works with more than 100 bubble soccer operators throughout the nation to establish the same set of rules everywhere.
“You can ride a bike safely, or you can ride it X Games style,” Carlson said. “It’s the same with bubble soccer. You have to set rules to make it safe, so nobody gets hurt.”
Bubble soccer is commonly played during birthday parties, military events and corporate team building exercises.
William Torres, 30, senior client onboarder for Meltwater, a media monitoring company, said bubble soccer was a unique way to spend time with his coworkers and get to know one another a bit better.
“Some foreign colleagues were visiting, so we wanted to do something different and fun. Everyone was sort of enjoying knocking everyone around,” Torres said. “Most of us had never even seen each other before, but by the end of the match, we went out and got some food, thanks to bubble soccer.”
Carlson said bubble soccer is the only sport where players can knock friends or coworkers around and have a laugh afterward.
“Where else can the boss knock the employee off their feet and the employee knock the boss off their feet?” asked Carlson.
Bubble Strike Miami
Where: Multiple locations at different parks in Miami-Dade County.
When: By appointment Monday-Sunday
Price: Varies. On average, $300 for a one-hour field rental and 10 bubble suits.