A self-wetting hockey ball that mimics watered field interactions on a dry surface might offer an affordable solution to hockey clubs at grass roots level that are pursuing an elite-level experience.
The new ball takes a radical new approach to solving the challenge of delivering the watered field playing experience on a non-watered synthetic turf that the international hockey governing body FIH is pursuing. Exactly how difficult this poses to be, was discussed in this article. “The Rewetta ball absorbs water that is released through player interaction or when spinning on the turf and doesn’t compromise the game performance,” explains Stijn Rambour of manufacturer Makinh.
Rambour is also the Technical Coordinator at ERCAT, the FIFA-, World Rugby and FIH accredited Centre for Textile Science and Engineering of the Belgium University of Ghent.
The ball has to be submerged for several minutes before it can be used.
“Depending on the game, a saturated ball will last for two or three minutes, hence we offer dispensers that can be strategically placed around the field. As soon as the game is interrupted a new ball can be obtained from the container.” The container also comes with a filter to clean the water. This is to prevent the transfer of microorganisms like algae onto the field.
According to Rambour, the Rewetta decreases the water consumption for a hockey surface from 12,000 litres per game to just a few litres.
“Some surfaces currently require 2 litre of water per square metre, and fields are watered multiple times during the week.” He estimates that the average hockey club in Belgium waters a wet playing surface eight times per weekend and 15 times during the week. “Water usage for Rewetta balls on non-watered fields is 30 litre per week. It goes without saying that this will save the club a lot of water and money.”
Based on Belgium calculations, using a Rewetta ball could save the club 24,000 to 48,000 euros on the consumption of either tap or ground water. It would also save the environment some 11 million litres of water to be used for recreational purposes.
A piece of the puzzle
The concept has really impressed FIH Quality and Facilities Programme Manager, Alastair Cox,. “They really thought out of the box and came up with a very clever concept, we never contemplated the ball,” he said when asked whether the innovation could deliver a low-budget solution to the challenge the FIH has posed to the synthetic turf industry.
“The feedback we get from elite players playing on dry turf is that they dislike like the stick-surface, shoe-surface or ball-surface interactions. When we trialled the Rewetta ball at our international Hockey5s tournament in Lausanne, last year, the combination of the innovative new non-watered turf by Polytan and the Rewetta ball provided very positive feedback .”
In the absence of regulations regarding hockey balls, clubs and leagues at grass roots level are allowed to use the new ball for games.
Non-watered turf still the goal
Even though the Rewetta is offering part of the s solution, FIH is still aiming for synthetic turf surfaces that perform as elite players desire without water. “We simply have to change our approach and behaviour towards water, as its use is not sustainable. Water is increasingly becoming a scarce resource with millions of people not being able to access it for their necessities in life,” Cox continued.
“The turf industry is currently working hard to solve this challenge and I am confident that we will meet the milestones we have set.”
The FIH will use non-irrigated turfs for the Hockey5s World Cup in Oman in 2024, the FIH Hockey World Cups that is co-hosted by the Netherlands and Belgium in 2026 and the Youth Olympics in Dakar, Senegal, allowing a a known and proven solution to be provided to the 2028 Los Angeles Olympic Games.