Sydney and Josh Crockett saw a game that crudely resembled cricket being played in Brazilian favelas while serving there as missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Uncomplicated yet competitive, they thought it was something people elsewhere would enjoy playing. So they brought the idea home to Provo and started tinkering with it.
What they most liked about the game was how it brought people together. What makes it most marketable may be how it keeps them apart.
The Crocketts launched a Kickstarter campaign for the lawn game they call Wakbat on April 28, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. With the weather heating up, summer felt just around the corner. The practice of social distancing, meanwhile, appeared to have no end in sight. So even though they didn’t plan it that way, and even though businesses and individuals nationwide are struggling with solvency, the launch of Wakbat feels like perfect timing.
Wakbat met its goal of $1,500 within 18 hours. It has since nearly doubled that goal, drawing 38 backers, with two days to go. The campaign ends Tuesday.
“We were super excited,” Sydney said. “We had reached out to a lot of people and tried to get different ads and things out. Everyone is getting stir crazy and wanting things to do.”
The Crocketts, both 22, didn’t plan for Wakbat to be a solution to stir-crazy coronavirus captives. It was actually just one of at least two ideas Josh, a sophomore studying industrial design at BYU, brought back from Sao Paulo, Brazil.
An entrepreneur at heart, Josh was designing and selling T-shirts in middle school. He owned his own window-washing business by the time he graduated from Maple Mountain High in Spanish Fork, where he met Sydney.
“He already has that mindset,” Sydney, a sophomore at Utah Valley University, said. “Sometimes I would be like, ‘OK, this is enough.’ But in the end it really has been fun and I’ve been learning a lot of things.”
While serving his mission in Brazil, Josh found himself with nearly as many ugly neckties as downtime. So, he set to work sewing himself new ones, constructing the first out of an old pillowcase. The Crocketts turned that into a business called Blessed Ties in 2018. Realizing the market was already saturated, though, they sold it a year later.
Then it was time for the next project. In July, with the help of entrepreneur and BYU adjunct professor Daniel Blake, who has helped mentor them throughout the process, they selected Wakbat out of at least 60 business ideas Josh keeps in a notebook.
“He told us we need to play the game with as many people as possible and see what they thought,” Josh said. “People would ask questions and we would write them down until we improved upon the instructions. We played with tons of people.”
Here is the gist of the game. Two teams form, a pitching team and a batting team (they switch roles during the game, similar to baseball). They are split so two opposing players are stationed at each goal, which are positioned 30 feet apart. A pitcher throws to the batter on the other side of the field. If the ball goes into the goal, the pitchers get 10 points and become the batters. If the batter connects with the ball, the two batters run toward the center of the field and touch bats while the pitchers field the ball. Each time the batters touch bats and return to their respective goals, they gain five points. However, they lose all their points and the pitchers gain five points if the batters aren’t safely back to their goal by the time the ball returns and one of the pitchers is able to tag a batter or — more in line with social distancing — the goal. The game is usually played to 50 points.
The Crocketts’ first versions were nearly as rudimentary as those played in the Brazilian favelas. Josh said that game was played with two 2x4s for bats, two bricks for goals and a couple of old tennis balls. The Crocketts started with Amazon boxes for goals, baseball bats and some whiffle balls. It took them until March to find the sweet spot between utility and affordability. The game now comes with two flat wooden paddles, two pop-up nylon goals and two baseball-size plastic balls.
“We’ve come a long way for sure,” Sydney said. “It’s kind of fun to look back.”
It’s also fun for them to look ahead. They designed Wakbat with an eye on similar lawn games such as Kan Jam and Spikeball. Like what has happened with the latter, a game modeled after volleyball but centered around a small trampoline, they’d like to see leagues and tournaments sprout up around Wakbat.
“We thought it would be awesome to do something like that in the future, to take to beaches and parks and build competitiveness and fun,” Josh said. “It’s great family fun, but it can be competitive, too.”
The Crocketts were unsure what the next step would be toward that future. They said they may run another fundraising campaign on Kickstarter or Indiegogo or start a website and sell them directly. Backers of Wakbat on Kickstarter will get a game for $55. The Crocketts said they expect the game to retail for slightly more than that on their website, wakbat.com.