Soccer is as popular as ever in the United States, but do you ever wish there was a little more contact involved? Thanks to a startup from a Boston-bred entrepreneur, you can have all the fun of soccer and the roughhousing that goes with it.
John Anthony Radosta is headed to Shark Tank next week representing the National Association of Bubble Soccer (NABS), the official organization for a game of soccer in which all players wear a giant inflatable bubble called a WreckingBall.
The perfect cross between soccer and bumper cars, the sport is currently available through NABS in more than 43 locations across North America. Radosta, who grew up in Norwood and graduated from Northeastern, is the founder and CEO of parent company Advanced Sports Technology. The company contains two divisions, one of which is the AquaArm — a hands-free hydration system for runners. (The other is the National Association of Bubble Soccer.)
While Radosta doesn’t take credit for inventing bubble soccer, he said that his organization is popularizing the sport in the U.S. and making it more accessible for those who wish to participate.
“About two years ago, I had seen it in videos from the United Kingdom and Australia,’’ Radosta said. “It looked like such a great time, the videos were going viral.’’
Radosta, who is now based in Ft. Lauderdale, was looking for a way to play with his friends, but found that it was not yet prevalent in the United States.
“Nobody was really offering it anywhere because there was no equipment and you couldn’t find them [at a regular sports store],’’ he said. “Essentially I started setting up a company. We manufacture all the equipment, set people up with it, give them a handbook with everything they need to know about how to operate the business, and the official rules of how to run a game.’’
NABS now partners with entrepreneurs and sports clubs in different cities throughout North America, setting up franchises and launching regional leagues and event services. In Boston, there is an affiliate called New England Bubble Soccer, which is open for league play or private events. One thing that Radosta sees as a priority as the sport and company expands is it’s safety, which to this point, he sees as a great success.
“The interesting thing about bubble soccer is that in our entire year and a half of operating, we haven’t had any concussion related injuries at all,’’ Radosta said. “We’ve had twisted knees and twisted ankles, you pretty much run that risk in any sport. The equipment that we’re manufacturing is very safe, very durable, it provides a very good player experience, and our administrators are very well trained on how to promote player safety above all else.’’
Radosta will appear on Shark Tank on Friday in hopes of acquiring a first round of funding to NABS. He also hopes to seek the help of one of the sharks in launching a sponsorship program, as he sees tremendous potential in putting advertising on the WreckingBalls.
Ultimately, though, he hopes that bubble soccer can become a nationwide competitive league. Radosta said that he has gotten interest from Telemundo and ESPN for event coverage and hopes to organize a national championship in Las Vegas. Someday, he hopes, the sport will be as big as any recreational or spectator sport in the U.S.