Doing sport differently: J-ball
J-Ball shows how a sport can be adapted to engage new participants, and give less active people a way to get fit, socialise, have fun and learn new skills.
- Open up the sport to new markets
- Be innovative in overcoming barriers to participation
- Create a sport that is easy to participate in
- Look beyond traditional coaches to deliver the sport
What is J-ball?
J-Ball is a modified version of hockey for adults that runs for no more than 45 minutes. It is fun, easy to play, and not too physically demanding. It comprises two teams of six players, modified hockey sticks and ball, a small field, three zones, two goals and a facilitator (coach). J-Ball rules are so simple they can be learned in a few minutes, even without previous hockey experience.
Hockey Victoria (HV) partnered with VicHealth to develop J-Ball after researching ways to engage new players.
HV supports clubs to deliver J-Ball by providing resources and training for deliverers1.
Since launching in early 2018, more than 450 people have participated across seven Victorian locations, with 82 per cent of players new to hockey and 89 per cent identifying as being less active. HV has now also developed J-Ball competitions.
What are J-ball’s benefits?
Due to J-Ball’s small playing areas, up to three games can be played on a standard hockey field, or one game can be played on a small site. This means more people can play, people don’t have to run as far, and different sites can be used.
J-Ball sticks are lighter and larger, and balls are softer, than normal hockey equipment, making the game safer and easier to play, and removing need for protective gear. Equipment is also easy to use, so people of any ability can play.
The game promotes social interaction in an enjoyable, inclusive sport environment suitable for people who do little to no activity. Therefore, it supports players’ physical, social and mental health, and increases their confidence and skills.
By opening up the sport to new audiences, J-Ball has increased participation in hockey and further growth is expected, which benefits the sport overall.
Why is J-ball successful?
HV adapted hockey to overcome the barriers to participation identified in its research, including safety concerns, level of technical knowledge, fitness and skill required, necessity to purchase a lot of equipment and club membership.
J-ball targets an untapped audience – people who haven’t played sport for a while or at all. To maximise engagement, HV tailored marketing to speak directly to them and removed mention of ‘hockey’, to alleviate any negative perceptions about it.
J-Ball is easy to participate in. Inexperienced and less active people easily learn its simple rules and play. It’s inexpensive and without the need to commit to a whole season. Modified equipment and fields mean anyone can play and in a variety of locations. Plus, anyone with strong social and supportive skills, motivation and ability, can facilitate games. Traditional hockey coaches aren’t needed.
1 ‘Deliverers’ refers to anyone who delivers the program to the participants, e.g. coaches, instructor, volunteers or parents.