The Sport of Sepak Takraw in the USA
Sepaktakraw is a unique traditional game which originated from Southeast Asia for over 500 years in the present day countries of Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar and India. It began as a cooperative circle game where players would try to keep a small woven ball in the air as long as possible, passing it around to players in a circle form without using their hands or arms. Similar to the American game Hacky Sack, the game is still enjoyed in this traditional form throughout Southeast Asia. In 1965, the circle game adopted a more competitive format by various Southeast Asian countries and caught on as fast-paced action sport into what is officially known today as Sepaktakraw. Sepak is a term used in Malaysia meaning “kick” and Takraw is a Thai word for a “woven ball.” With the combining of the two words, the official name of the net game became Sepaktakraw.
Takraw, for short, is now a widely popular sport in Southeast Asia and is spreading all over the world. Strategy of playing Takraw is similar to volleyball with players using their feet and heads to kick or head the ball instead of hands. Using the same dimensions as a badminton court to play, Takraw is played with 3 on each side with a plastic woven ball little bit bigger than the size of softball. Watching Takraw creates an excitement and enjoyment to spectators who have never seen the game before when they are treated to thrilling rallies with acrobatic spikes where players flip in the air to spike the ball at speeds nearing 80 miles per hour.
Since 1990, here in the United States, the sport has been featured on MTV, Sports Illustrated, CNN, ESPN, and ABC’s Good Morning America among other national media.
USA Takraw’s mission is to promote and administer the sport of Takraw in the United States including grass roots development, organization and sanction of competitions, and the selection of national teams to represent the United States in international competition. We are dedicated to the creation of progressive synergies between the sport of Takraw, youth athletics and corporate sponsors.
The USA TAKRAW ASSOCIATION, formed in 1996, was established by the Takraw players from California to support and buy equipment to train those who are serious in Takraw. We only have about 15-20 members who are dedicated and serious about Takraw but we know there are far more Takraw players than that in the US. Most of our members are members of the US National Team who have been to international tournaments in countries such as in Thailand, Malaysia, Colombia, and Puerto Rico. Our mission is to push the sport even further to reach our youth and schools in throughout in the United State. In the meantime, we are working hard to reach our goals.
The King’s Cup World Championship is the most prestigious event in the sport of Takraw. The first King’s Cup was held in 1985 in Nakon Sawan, Thailand. Since then the King’s Cup has been held consecutively in different major cities in Thailand for the last 21 years without a break. It was originally thought that this sport was only for the men, but in 1997, a major breakthrough in the sport history with added women’s competition to the international King’s Cup event for the first time. All countries such as the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Germany, New Zealand, Australia, France, India, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Japan, Korea, and China were among those were invited to participate.
The United States' history of entering the King’s Cup dates back to the late 80’s when a young all American team from California was the first to go and compete in the new country division for the first time. In 1997, when the women’s competition was added, the United States sent in a group of three world’s best women's foot bag players to represent the U.S. at the 13th King’s Cup. Since then the interest of women has not shown any signs of increased interest. Then in 1998, Hmong Takraw players from Minnesota known as the Minnesota High Fly team mixed with players from California from the Fresno USA team, made their first debut to the 14th King’s Cup after winning the U.S. National Takraw title and were selected to represent the U.S. at international Takraw event. The U.S. National Team going to the 14th King’s Cup in 1998 and surprisingly winning the Gold Medal in Division III demonstrated that the United States had moved up to a new level of playing Takraw. In 1999 again the Minnesota High Fly team was the U.S. National champ and was given the right to represent the U.S. at the 15th King’s Cup, moving to a new higher-level from Division III to Division II. At the 15th King’s Cup and for the first time in U.S. Takraw History, the United States was able to send in three full complete teams to compete in the Team Event. The Team Event is the main event in the King’s Cup if one country wants to win the King’s Cup prestigious trophy. The U.S Takraw Association has also sent players to compete in the King's Cup in 2000, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007,2008 and 2009.
The sport of Sepaktakraw is a new sport for American people but we would like to further promote the sport to those who are not familiar with the sport to make it grow here in the United States. We dream of success in sport, but the dream of being on the national team and representing the United States at the King’s Cup and other international events already is one of the greatest achievement of all for any Takraw player. ISTAF, the International Sepak Takraw Federation, also is aware of the value and attention that the USA teams bring to the sport and works hard to promote USA Takraw’s involvement.
Thank you to Pheng Vang and Tsung Wung for providing this historical information about Takraw in the USA.
For more information, contact USA Takraw Association at info@takrawusa dot com.