The benefits of Barefoot Hub Ball can be categorized in 8 ways as follows:
- Green exercise
- Barefoot exercise health benefits
- Earthing (grounding) health benefits
- Openness to all – special skills not required for basic level play
- Coed play – very easy to do as well as single gender play
- Low costs
- Aesthetics – freedom from over-aggressive play and other aesthetic issues
Safety Barefoot Hub Ball is designed to have no contact allowed other than slight incidental contact. Unintentional serious contact (such as two players accidentally colliding while running for a ball) could occur but should be infrequent if the game is played as the rules intend. Intentional “illegal” serious contact gets penalized as with other sports, but more severely in that points can be awarded as well as ejections. This adds to the usual disincentives in the game (verbal warnings and temporary 5-minute penalties) to NOT use physical contact against an opponent.
Beyond the rules limiting physical contact and subsequent injuries, the rules are designed to be as close to a “safe brain sport” as possible. Head contact should be rare with this sport. There is far less potential for head injuries, concussions, brain trauma, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) than American football and most other outdoor sports where head contact is common. It is expected that this sport will be comparable to ultimate disc sport in very low brain injury risk. In the rare event that a player accidentally throws the ball into another player’s head, the small size and weight of the inflated ball makes that a less concerning event than if it was a much bigger ball. Also it cannot be kicked into another player’s head. And heading the ball cannot be done either.
So brain risk, while not zero, is as low as can be obtained for an outdoor sport (where a ball is used and players can run freely on an open field). While Barefoot Hub Ball is not claimed to be 100 % brain safe, if played properly and officiated properly, it will be very close to that, and certainly much more brain safe than most other popular outdoor team sports that use a ball.
Also, since scoring will not be very low (e.g. 0-0 or 1-0 games that are common in soccer will be unlikely in this sport), there is little or no incentive for defenders to go all out to prevent scores such as in soccer. Intensive, often desperate, hyper-aggressive defensive play in sports such as soccer to preserve a one goal lead (such as in a 1-0 game) will be pointless in this sport. Further, it will be quickly penalized. So again this should lead to lower risk of injury to players than soccer and than many other sports.
Green Exercise Any sport that not only allows contact with the grass and earth directly but also makes that a part of the sport can be called a green exercise. The value of green exercise is substantial. This form of exercise is becoming more lauded every year with additional studies that show it has many physical and psychological benefits. To quote the book Green Exercise (J. Barton, R. Bragg, C. Wood, & J. Pretty) on page 26, “A strong body of evidence now shows that exposure to nature has positive health and well-being benefits.” That book is full of research results that explain those benefits. More traditional forms of green exercise are immersion in nature such as walks in forest areas, forest immersion or “bathing”, and swimming in lakes and natural areas. They are not the only ones though.
It is also true that even just simple contact with grass and the ground by bare feet is a form of direct nature contact. That makes Barefoot Hub Ball a green exercise. To what extent psychological benefits will be provided has yet to be determined. Stress relief in cases of severe stress is likely if not certain as this sport has elements of green exercise that have been shown to relieve stress. More studies on the benefits of outdoor barefoot exercise will need to be done for sure (the aforementioned book did not cover them). Hopefully research on the green exercise benefits of this sport will someday be done. But it is clear that barefoot outdoor exercise on natural fields (i.e. including this sport) qualify as a form of green exercise as does walking barefoot on grass.
Barefoot Exercise Health Benefits It is becoming increasingly common to find from studies that being barefoot is healthy. For a long list of health benefits of barefoot exercise and living refer to “Barefoot Walking and Living Health Benefits (and 125 Reasons To Go Barefoot)” at www.barefootkc.com. Also refer to the Society of Barefoot Living website and their Medical Research section of the website.
There are plenty other sources of information on barefoot health benefits. Refer to the book by professor Dr. Daniel Howell (PhD) titled “The Barefoot Book” and also to Professor (of Harvard University) Daniel Lieberman’s research on benefits of barefoot running.
The full sensory feeling of bare feet on grass is a delight for most, and this sport not only allows it but requires it. Freedom from hot, sweaty shoes is a very nice side effect. These are things that relieve stress rather than add to it.
As stated previously this sport is not designed for contact, so the use of footwear to protect the feet is not relevant. Shoes and boots are often necessary in sports that have a lot of contact between players. In some sports they are essential of course. Barefoot Hub Ball does not allow for routine contact and certainly does not require it as do sports such as soccer, rugby, American football, etc. Separation between the defensive players and offensive players (approximately one meter) is required in this sport. So footwear also has no use to gain a physical advantage in this sport (as well as having no physical protection use). By requiring barefoot-only play and defending-player separation, this reduces greatly the incentive for a player to use their feet to attack another player since the attacker will just as likely get the worst of it.
Footwear deprives everyone, including athletes, from using the toes and getting full use of 100 % of their feet on the ground. Footwear restricts foot movement and encases the feet in rigid or semi-rigid containers that eliminate all of the aforementioned benefits of bare feet. So this sport is to stay footwear free. If this sport ever becomes widely played, and colder weather play is desired that is too cold for most to play in bare feet, the solution will not be footwear. The solution will be to play in enclosed, temperature-controlled natural fields or semi-enclosed natural fields. Or perhaps the solution is simply to have heaters on the sidelines and use substitutions freely.
Earthing (Grounding) Health Benefits The book “Earthing: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever?” by Clinton Ober, Dr. Stephen Sinatra, and Martin Zucker came out in 2010. It is a groundbreaking book. It describes earthing (or grounding) and its health benefits and includes extensive information of research that confirmed the reality of the anti-inflammation effects of earthing and free electrons from the Earth. As stated in the book, the primary way that humans earth themselves is by walking barefoot on the Earth and on electrically conductive surfaces (natural, and also some artificial such as concrete). Historically humans earthed themselves and had free electrons supplied simply by being barefoot. Eventually footwear became more prevalent and the introduction of plastics for soles of footwear (which are insulators, i.e. not conductive to free electrons from the Earth) essentially ended the ability of most humans to routinely earth themselves during the day. The book goes on to show evidence that the lack of earthing has been a contributor to many modern health problems.
The book and the research it documents describes in detail the following benefits of being earthed.
- Reduction of inflammation
- Reduction or elimination of chronic pain
- Dynamic blood flow improvement
- Reduced stress
- Increased energy
- Improved sleep (and deeper sleep)
- Accelerated healing from injuries and surgery
- Several others, such as the reduction of effects from various metabolic disorders
As they state in their book (P.5), “Earthing is among the most natural and safest things you can do to improve health: something simple yet astoundingly profound.”
More information on earthing is available at the Earthing Institute website; www.earthinginstitute.net and several other websites as well. I especially recommend the website and outstanding You Tube videos of Dr. Laura Koniver (MD).
There is no question that bare feet on natural surfaces such as a grass field or dirt field provides earthing. That is certain – bare feet electrically ground the body to the Earth. The free electron flow from the Earth to the body is also verifiable. There are legitimate questions on how much benefits do people get from earthing and how much free electron flow there is when we are earthed. Until more research is done, those questions cannot be definitively answered, but all the research documented in Mr. Ober’s book (refer to pp. 289 – 297 in the 2014 issue) shows that the benefits are verifiable. And there have been many more studies since the 2014 issue of the book.
It is important to note that I (Tom Kutscher) have no connection to any of the above persons in the Earthing community or their organizations and also I am not trying to promote their products or services. But their work it is important enough to encourage people to be aware of it.
Barefoot Hub Ball is (I believe) the first outdoor field sport with a complete set of rules that is specifically designed to provide earthing (grounding) benefits to the participants. If there are indeed major earthing benefits it should be a major plus for the sport. I believe this will be the case. But even if it turns out that the earthing benefits are not so great or are inconsistent (varying widely), it is very likely that some benefits will be obtained by most if not by all. On a personal note I (Tom Kutscher) can vouch for the daytime earthing and night (sleep) earthing benefits, i.e. those that can be verified without any medical tests. These include general better health, inflammation reduction, injury healing, sleep enhancement, and a few others. To make use of those benefits (assuming they are as significant as I believe) makes sense, and this sport does that.
Since there are no negative side effects of earthing or grounding and it is a natural health benefit, there is no risk in having it as part of this sport. There is, to use an investment term, a benefit (“up side”) with no “down side”. At best it is excellent or very good, and at worst it is marginal.
Finally, to be clear about earthing and bare feet vs. shoes, some footwear can also provide earthing. It has been established by earthing experts that that footwear with electrically conductive soles (such as leather soles) provide earthing just as well as bare feet. But as we know, nearly all athletic footwear today use plastic materials for the soles, and they are non-conductive and act as insulators. And they do not provide earthing.
Openness To All This sport is purposely designed to be low in skill intensity to play at a basic level. (Some examples of a moderate-to-high skill sport to play at a basic level would be volleyball, soccer, or baseball. Even disc ultimate requires fairly decent disc-throwing skills to play at a basic level – one reason I was never much good at it!). Many sports require a fair bit of skills work to play at a beginner level and much more skill work to get “good” at the sport.
But Barefoot Hub Ball is mainly a simple throw and catch sport with tosses in the end zone for hub shot scores. Since the majority of people can throw and catch a round ball it should usually be easy to play at a beginner level. This makes it especially good as a sport for the very young to get into it and not get too frustrated. The ball is smaller for younger players to make it easy to play and is not heavy or non-rounded (e.g. a pigskin football). For older players the regulation ball is similar in size to an indoor handball but smaller, again making it easy to adapt to quickly.
If more advanced play requires higher skills it is not anticipated that they will be that much different from the basic skills. There are no “dramatic” (TV-highlight type) skills that are likely to emerge such as a backwards bicycle kick in soccer, dunking the ball in basketball, or throwing a perfect spiral 60 yards for a touchdown in American football. Barefoot Hub Ball is a sport designed for (1) easy entry, (2) high levels of inclusion, and (3) a fairly wide range of body types are okay for the participants.
It is of course possible that this sport is too easy. If so, rule changes by me (Tom Kutscher) will be made to correct that situation. It is designed intentionally that way to maximize participation. We have all when we were young, or at least perhaps most of us, been not picked for a team in a pickup game (in one or more sports). This sport makes it less likely to not be included since there fewer reasons to not include someone. I would rather have 10 million people play this sport, most of them not very well, than have it be skill intensive but only 10,000 people playing it. And ultimately I would like far more than 10 million people to be playing this sport !
So I hope that it is not too simple to play, but I believe if I have erred it is to the side of inclusion and not to the side of exclusion.
Coed Play – Very Easy To Do Barefoot Hub Ball is fine for coed play (i.e. males and females on a team in fairly balanced numbers). The primary form of the sport is one gender (all male or all female), but modifications for coed play are in the rules. Some sports are too ill-suited for the genders to play mixed at the highest levels (e.g. an extreme example is American football but there are many others). Special coed rules that are included take into account the most common physical differences of the genders, but there is not much modification needed in this sport (refer to the coed rules section for more detail.)
While it is anticipated the all-male and all-female teams (and leagues of those teams) will be the official mode of play, it is also likely that coed teams and leagues will become popular. The non-contact aspect of the sport makes it very suitable for coed play.
Low Costs This is a low cost sport relative to most other team sports. Once a soccer field or similarly maintained grass field is found, and is available and free to play on, it only takes a short time to mark off the field of play and the end zones. After that the hubs are marked and the field is essentially ready. (An inspection is advisable to assure the field has no potential hazards to the feet such as a sprinkler spout that is extended above grade or any other hazard). This makes setting up a match easy relative to most other outdoor sports.
Costs for individuals are for all practical purposes zero for a pickup match. No equipment is needed. For league play or official play, the primary costs are the jerseys or uniforms. Referee costs may also occur if they are not volunteers. The cost of the balls are low – they are very inexpensive mini soccer balls. No footwear is needed so there is no need for expensive athletic footwear (or any footwear for that matter). Shirts or jerseys do require matching colors and individual numerals, so there are costs required for that.
Barefoot Hub Ball could possibly be the least expensive team sport for outdoor team matches. The intent that I have is to keep it that way. Potential modifications of the sport over time, such as the inclusion of shoulder tassels (refer to the rules for this), will not change these inexpensive advantages.
Aesthetics and Freedom From Over-Aggressive Play The vision for Barefoot Hub Ball is a sport that is aesthetically pleasing and one in which over-aggressive and vicious play is non-existent. It is a sport that is fairly graceful such as disc sports and one that promotes excellent sportsmanship. Overly aggressive play is penalized and vicious play even more so. The aesthetics of this sport should be one of (1) fun, (2) relaxation, (3) good sportsmanship, and (4) fair play with no over-emphasis on winning at any cost.
It is my experience the people who are barefoot on a grass field tend to be less stressed and more relaxed than those who are shod and on an artificial surface. Grass and bare feet are a great fit for calming the nerves. So it is envisioned that the environment, the sport’s rules, and the freedom from shoes will help to keep it fun, fair, clean (staying within the rules), and not too intense.