William "G K" Zhang prepares to return the ball in a ponway match at Thomas Park
March 16, 2016 | by Garrett Ohlmeyer
Ponway: A Lafayette Alternative To Racquetball

Remember the childhood games you would make up and play for a week or so and then drop? A child’s imagination can be an incredible thing until it’s bogged down by the harshness of reality.

However, some people never lose that spark and become the inventors of the world.

University of Louisiana at Lafayette alumni Samuel Perkins and Brett Bordelon have cemented their names in the university’s history by using their all-but-lost imaginative minds to bend the rules of racquetball and create a unique alternative known as ponway.

“We started messing with the rules (of racquetball),” Perkins said. “We started adding slightly larger balls but still playing with rackets and then having a glove in one hand. It eventually evolved into just getting a Wal-Mart ball and having a lot of the same rules as racquetball and just punching and kicking it. It stuck, and we never went back to anything else.”

Perkins, who used to be an avid racquetball player at Bourgeois Hall, said he and Bordelon started toying with the rules of racquetball after getting somewhat bored with the sport. The result was something they would run with and never look back.

“When you play it, you’re just like, ‘This is a better game than a lot of other racket sports because it’s more aggressive while being safe because there is nothing that’s going to put your eye out,’” Perkins said.

Ponway, played in a racquetball court, is essentially racquetball with your body and a ball about the size of a soccer ball. The sport boasts nearly identical rules to the popular racquet sport.

Aside from ditching the racket and using a larger soccer ball-sized ball., the major difference is that ponway is a two-on-two team sport as opposed to the one-on-one style of racquetball. Bordelon said the teamwork adds a completely new aspect to ponway.

“Each player on a team game is allowed to hit it up once,” Bordelon said, “so if you end up in a bad position where you cannot recover it yourself, you can hit it up and pass it to your teammate.”

Ponway has grown at a snail’s pace over the past six years, and Perkins attributes the slow growth to the difficulty of finding a racquetball court to use. Perkins said most people in the Lafayette ponway community play at either Thomas Park or Bourgeois Hall.

Perkins said he expects the sport to continue growing, and ultimately has big dreams for the future of ponway.

“I want to look at a Wikipedia article about famous ponway players,” Perkins said. “It’s a professional caliber sport, so there can definitely be a professional league. You just get athletic people to play it and they will want to keep playing it.”

Perkins said he loves seeing new people playing the game and invites anyone in the Lafayette area interested in joining the ponway community to join the Facebook group.

Dan Boudreaux and the Ponway League Facebook group provided the visual elements of this story.

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I am the sports editor for The Vermilion. I love sports, and while I don't play anything at UL Lafayette, I did play lacrosse and the physically grueling sport of bowling in high school. You can always find me wearing sweet socks and trying to perfect my dad jokes.

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