Cooped up in our Chicago apartment, too poor to buy even skateboards, my friend Rob Ray and I took a soccer ball to the schoolyard down the street and invented a game. Combining the best aspects of soccer and racquetball, the game can be played anywhere there is a high, wide wall and adjacent clearing of (preferably concrete) land. While it probably has been played elsewhere for centuries, Rob and I named our game “wallshot” and created the following rules.
- Play wallshot with one to eight players. Two is best.
- A “stopline” should be drawn one to two feet from the bottom of the wall. Chalk is good for stoplines, although you can usually scratch them in with a rock. Players must kick the ball above the stopline; one who fails gives the opposing player the point and serve.
- A server (player A) kicks the ball to the wall. After hitting the wall, the ball can bounce twice before the opponent (player B) must kick, head, or knee it back to the wall. Players can trap the ball and kick it, or kick it immediately, but only two bounces are allowed. Player A then returns player B’s kick off the wall, and a volley ensues.
- When one player allows more than two bounces on the ground, or fails to return the ball below the stopline or kicks the ball out of bounds (where the wall ends), the play stops and the opposing player receives the point and the serve. Whoever accumulates 21 points first wins.
- Players serve the ball from a mutually determined line (made with chalk or naturally occurring, such as a crack in the concrete) somewhere between five and ten yards from the wall. The server may kick the ball from the ground, or drop it and kick it while it’s bouncing. The server is allowed one fault—a serve that fails to hit the wall above the stopline, or bounces before hitting the wall, or misses the wall, or hits the opposing player. If the second serve is also a fault, the opposing player receives the point and the serve.
- Any part of the body except the arm (below the shoulder) may be used for trapping the ball or returning it to the wall. If a “hand ball” occurs, the opposing player gets the point and the serve.
- Wallshot boundaries are dictated in part by the playing space and must be mutually predetermined by the players.
- In a game of more than two participants, players must rotate their turns at the ball. When one player loses, the immediately preceding player receives the point and the serve.
- For a single player, the goal is to keep the ball in play as long as possible, challenging oneself and having fun.
- Improvise wallshot to suit the environment. We’ve used Dumpsters, roofs, cardboard, windows, signs, vagrants, and parked cars as part of the game. Be creative.
- Equipment is simple: a soccer ball and sneakers. Don’t waste your money on an expensive ball; even the best soccer balls were not intended for brutal concrete play. For sneakers, go for few extraneous decorations that might alter the ball’s course as it leaves your foot.
- For a truly great experience, bring beverages (juice, water, malt liquor) in a cooler, an air pump (to keep the ball springy), and a jam box for tunes. We recommend the Clash, Public Enemy, the Faction, Beastie Boys, Motorhead, N.W.A., the Buzzcocks, Bad Brains, and anything that gets your pistons going.
- If you play alone, wallshot may take on meditative qualities. In the throes of a long, solitary volley, your body and mind focused on nothing but returning the soccer ball to the wall, the contest becomes you against yourself, or against the wall, or the ball—or best, you against nothing at all. Find a wall, get a ball, give it a go.
Part of January/February 2000 cover story section.
From the book-zine Blue Fire Hereafter (Viper Press, 1999).