Bend couple capitalizes on trend

By Joseph Ditzler, The Bulletin , @josefditzler
Source: Bend Bulletin

Mike and Julie Yarbrough have the cure for boredom in school, church or the workplace: KnockerBall Bend.

A KnockerBall is a 4- or 5-foot high transparent, inflatable bubble of polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, about 17 pounds, with a space inside that’s large enough to fit a person, yet allows them to run.

A Yarbrough event involves six, eight or 10 people wearing KnockerBalls over their heads and playing soccer, at least for starters. The soccer plan usually doesn’t survive the first impact, Mike Yarbrough said. For instance, he recently put on an event for homecoming at Ridgeview High School.

“They wanted to play soccer, and that lasted about three minutes,” he said Friday. “And then they decided to have a championship of last man standing.”

To get started, the Yarbroughs, of Bend, invested in a supply of KnockerBalls, paid to be affiliated with the KnockerBall USA nationwide franchise and went to work drumming up business. They discovered KnockerBalls at an event attended by their 10-year-old triplets in Portland. This is their first year in business.

This past spring and summer, they held outdoor KnockerBall events at parks for birthday parties, reunions, bachelor parties, corporate gatherings and other events, and at county fairs. This fall and winter, the Yarbroughs are moving inside.

mike

They recently partnered with Butch Roberts, the owner of Cascade Indoor Sports, who said he planned on making time available for weekend KnockerBall events in the otherwise busy indoor soccer and flag football arena in Bend. Mike Yarbrough said he’s also put on sessions in high school gyms.

The KnockerBall affiliation provides $1 million in liability coverage, he said. Participants are asked to sign a liability waiver, but, used properly, the equipment allows little chance of injury, he said. He said no one has been injured using KnockerBall Bend equipment.

“Doing somersaults in them, running into people, playing soccer, we take little kids that can’t wear them and strap them in and roll them around lightly, we’ll let the dad or mom roll them around. They really enjoy it,” Mike Yarbrough said.

KnockerBall Bend has enough KnockerBalls to put six to eight people together at once, depending on the size of the participants. Individuals in large groups typically take turns inside the inflatable balls. Even though the PVC balls are filled with air, they weigh enough to tire even a physically fit teenager in a few minutes, Mike Yarbrough said. He said a session may last up to two hours.

The Yarbroughs see more interest from corporations. KnockerBall is a great way for co-workers to de-stress and get to know one another better, Julie Yarbrough said.

KnockerBall at the Jefferson County Fair & Rodeo in August attracted a group of Madras firefighters who couldn’t get enough of it, she said. She said the fire department booth was adjacent the KnockerBall station, she said.

“Every time those fire department guys got a break, they were out there knockin’ each other down, and they were laughing. Some of these big, burly guys would end up with their feet dangling up in the air,” she said. “The adults become kids again and they just love bumping into each other and seeing who’s the toughest.”

Q: Where do you see the business in two to four years?

A: Mike Yarbrough: It’s just continuing to grow all over the country, and internationally. And now across the country they’re starting to organize soccer leagues and that’s what Butch and I hope we can get going here. We partnered together so I could provide a place indoor during the winter.

Q: What was your outlay to get established in the business?

A: The affiliate, you have to pay for the balls and then it’s just a vacuum cleaner to blow them up, a generator for when we go out to parks and stuff. I’ve just about recovered my outlay. It’s not like when you start a real big business, but it was significant.

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