What is Nerfball? Former NFL star helps develop compelling new sport

The first official Nerf sport is here. What exactly is it?

Jada Williams and Donald Driver compete in the NERFBALL – Battle in the Bubble exhibition game on Sept. 22, 2023 at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL
Jada Williams and Donald Driver compete in the NERFBALL – Battle in the Bubble exhibition game on Sept. 22, 2023 at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL / Photo by Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images for NERF

Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines. In 3, 2, 1...

As Nerf ventures into the arena of official and professional sports for the first time, the engines revving will not be car engines, but the small motors concealed within the new Pro Stryfe X semi-automatic dart blaster, which forms the foundation of 'Nerfball.'

Nerfball is the brand's first official sport, with Hasbro looking to gradually build a loyal following from new and old Nerf fans alike. The sport was developed over the course of four years, undergoing rigorous testing and rulebook formulation spearheaded, in part, by former Green Bay Packers star Donald Driver.

Driver helped test and develop the game at his sports facility, a process which started about 2.5 years ago. Driver was the captain of Team IMPACT — one of two seven-person groups that competed in 'Battle in the Bubble,' the first official match and the launching point for what the company claims is the "future of active play."

What is Nerfball?

Well, Nerfball is exactly what it sounds like. It's the first official Nerf sport, centered (in part) on a Nerfball — the game's uniquely designed centerpiece. The ball is circular, comparable in size to a soccer ball, but specially grooved to allow flexible one-hand carrying and accurate shooting.

How do you score a goal in Nerfball?

In this case, shooting refers to the basketball-esque side of the sport. A team, in a five-on-five sport, receives six points when the ball is advanced downfield and successfully shot through a large hoop. The ball can be moved by virtually any means necessary — carrying, passing, kicking, even dribbling — and shots can be taken from anywhere inbounds. There is no extra advantage to shooting from closer or further away, except for strategic or dart-evasive reasons.

How many points do blasters count for in Nerfball?

That's where the other 'shooting,' or more accurately, 'blasting' comes into play. Each player is equipped with a Pro Styfe X, Nerf's first pro-level blaster. The half-length darts exit the chamber at roughly 150 feet per second, which means every player is equipped with protective eyewear.

When a player is hit with a dart, it registers as one point for the other team (only body shots are allowed; head shots, hand shots, feet shots, blaster shots do not count). Players are able to hide behind barriers and advance strategically up the field, with game plans often revolving around defensive blasting or aggressively pushing the ball on offense.

How long are Nerfball games?

The game takes place in four four-minute quarters. Each player gets four 15-dart magazines per quarter. That's 60 darts per quarter, per player, multiplied by four. A lot of darts.

What is a respawn in Nerfball?

Once a player has been hit, he or she must raise their hand and report back to their team's 'Respawn' zone, which is behind a set of barriers on one end of the field. That person then taps an electric bracelet on a podium that effectively allows them back into the game. If a team has more than five players, a substitute will enter the game while that player respawns. A sub cannot enter the game until the impacted player respawns, however, which means a quick hustle up the sideline is crucial.

Those are the only scoring elements — one point for a successful dart strike, or six points for a made goal. As the game develops, it is important to maintain an awareness of your dart count, where the ball in placed, and where your teammates are positioned on the field of play (relative to the opponent).

One of the game's better traits is its adaptability. While the 'Battle in the Bubble' featured dart-detecting suits, electronic podiums, inflatable barriers, and professional hoops, not every backyard kid will have — or require — access to every element. All it really takes is a playing surface, a hoop, a ball, and some Nerf blasters. The game is scalable based on field size, age group, and a number of other factors. That adaptability is no doubt a driving force behind Nerf's commerical aspirations. This is the first official and professional Nerf sport, but it's suitable to all age groups old enough to work the blaster (the box recommends 14+ as the age group).