Profile: Making the game

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October 26, 2015

10:27 PM

For Blake Erickson ’14, stress about finding a job post-graduation only lasted for a few months before he found his calling. Few people throughout history can say they helped launch an international sport, yet Erickson would be on that hypothetical list.

After graduating from the College of William and Mary with a bachelor’s degree in international relations and with a minor in francophone studies, he soon became the Chief Marketing Officer and a registered co-founder for Futchi, Inc., the United States’ subsidiary of Swedish company Aracne AB. The company created the sport of Futchi, a game that combines elements of soccer and squash and that involves a custom net, a small court, and a ball. Erickson first encountered the sport while coaching a U16 girls’ soccer team from Seattle, his hometown. During a trip to the Gothia Cup, held in Gothenburg, Sweden, he met the three founders of Futchi after entering a tournament held at the Cup’s product exposition.

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Blake Erickson ’14 and several current William and Mary students played a prototype version of Futchi on Barksdale Field last spring. COURTESY PHOTO / BLAKE ERICKSON

“The girls are very good players, and they actually got accepted to the Gothia Cup, which is the world’s largest youth [soccer] tournament that takes place every July,” Erickson said. “It attracts about 500,000 people, and they have lots of expos for new products. Adjacent to one event I was at was the Futchi event … I had some free time and thought it looked fun. My dad and I went up with no idea what Futchi actually was, so we start playing … and I find out there’s a tournament as well.”

The tournament consisted of approximately 2,000 people of all ages. After almost 200 games, as the sport’s scoring system allows games to be wrapped up within 10 minutes, Erickson was declared the inaugural Futchi World Champion, having won all of his games.

“After [being named champion], the three founders invited me out to drinks out in town, and I guess that relationship just became more professional naturally because I had a few ideas for the concept and where they could take it … I officially started working with them right in September,” he said.

After [being named champion], the three founders invited me out to drinks out in town, and I guess that relationship just became more professional naturally because I had a few ideas for the concept and where they could take it … I officially started working with them right in September,” he said.

The journey to joining a team that develops and markets a completely new sport came on the latest stop of his physically active lifestyle, as evidenced during his time at the College, as well as his childhood. According to Erickson, his childhood in Seattle gave him lots of opportunity to try new sports.

“There’s a lot of access to pretty much everything, and that’s something I’m really lucky to have experienced,” he said. “I grew up ski racing, swim racing, soccer, gymnastics … imagine every sport other than basketball and baseball and I’ve spent a long time doing it.”

When he got to the College, Erickson competed on the Division I men’s gymnastics team for two and a half years, participating mainly in all-around competition. He received the Provost Award from the athletics department in 2012.

After leaving the College gymnastics team in his junior year, Erickson walked on to the men’s soccer team, played rugby and was a member of the SMILES Crew, the College’s breakdancing club. For Erickson, joining the Futchi team seemed like a natural step, although he stated that making a sport does not come without its own set of challenges. Erickson worked with a team consisting of himself, two men from Gothenburg and one in Rio di Janiero.

Video: Blake Erickson ’14 and College of William and Mary students play Futchi on campus. COURTESY VIDEO / FUTCHI

“There are a few variables you need to cover, such as making an official rulebook and getting that copyrighted, which we’re in the process of right now,” he said. “Honestly, we didn’t realize it had the potential to be a sport until we started having people play, and it was just exciting to see people enjoy it. We thought we had something special and it’s so simple … that’s the beauty of it. At least at this point in the world, developing a sport that’s complicated as soccer or football would be very difficult.”

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Blake Erickson ’14 and Futchi’s progress since he joined the company. COURTESY GRAPHIC / FUTCHI

Putting his degree in international relations to work, Erickson has been working to make the sport a global phenomenon while traveling to places such as Mount Everest and China. In addition to business and pleasure, Erickson is giving back through charity — specifically the Plant-A-Billion Foundation. Futchi gives the foundation funds to plant two trees every time a net is sold.

Honestly, we didn’t realize it had the potential to be a sport until we started having people play, and it was just exciting to see people enjoy it,” Erickson said. “We thought we had something special and it’s so simple … that’s the beauty of it. At least at this point in the world, developing a sport that’s complicated as soccer or football would be very difficult.”

“One thing that we realized early on is that one thing we need to do is deliver happiness and find a way to give back, and we’re all soccer players, we all love being outdoors, hiking around and so we realized we wanted to give back to nature,” he said. “With the Futchi net, it was really interesting because we made some new mounting solutions after that tournament to make it able to attach to trees, and then we said wait a second, for the net you need two trees to mount it so why not donate to the Plant-A-Billion Foundation.”

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Blake Erickson ’14 ran a marathon on the Great Wall of China and the surrounding area this May after raising money for the Plant-A-Billion Foundation during his training. COURTESY PHOTO / BLAKE ERICKSON

Erickson himself contributes to the same foundation, but in a different way. He ran his first marathon May 16 along the Great Wall of China, and he raised money for the foundation as he trained for the event.

“I had this vision around New Year’s to run a marathon this year, and nothing really inspired me until I saw the one on the Great Wall of China, and I was like ‘that’s a really great opportunity, it’s a challenge, and I don’t know if I can do it’ and that’s what keeps you motivated,” Erickson said. “So I started training, and I quickly realized this was an opportunity to potentially get other people active along with me and also to give back, so I decided if the Plant-A-Billion is meaningful for me, why not do something for that as well.”

I had this vision around New Year’s to run a marathon this year, and nothing really inspired me until I saw the one on the Great Wall of China, and I was like ‘that’s a really great opportunity, it’s a challenge, and I don’t know if I can do it’ and that’s what keeps you motivated,” Erickson said.

Erickson raised money for the planting of 190 trees with his training and completion of the marathon, the running of which he described as an emotional experience.

“The marathon was quite an amazing experience,” Erickson said in an email. “I’d describe it as an emotional journey. Hit the wall a few times but kept pushing. [The temperature] was well over 100, and the last three miles of the race it was incredibly painful to even step lightly, but I made it in around 5.5 hours. I’ve never been this proud of myself for accomplishing something before. I don’t really know how to put it. Tears were shed. I also realized that the more walls we break through in our lives the larger our reservoir of potential becomes.”

I’ve never been this confident about really anything in my life, and I’m really excited to see where it takes me, and hopefully it inspires other students to fulfill their dreams as well because all it takes is working hard and eventually you get lucky,” Erickson said.

With the marathon completed, Erickson’s next moves include the official launch of Futchi on Amazon this winter (instead of a Kickstarter campaign as originally planned), as well as keeping up with an app made to show local Futchi games near the user, which launched in June of this year. Although he is the only College alumnus involved with the company, he encouraged current students to pursue non-traditional paths after graduation and to persevere when it comes to pursuing their goals.

“I’ve never been this confident about really anything in my life, and I’m really excited to see where it takes me, and hopefully it inspires other students to fulfill their dreams as well because all it takes is working hard and eventually you get lucky,” Erickson said.

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About Author

Nick Cipolla

Sports Editor Nick Cipolla '17 is a neuroscience major from Virginia Beach, Va. He was previously Associate Sports Editor.

  • Joey Dino

    Super cool!

  • Joey Dino

    Super Cool!