OBJECTIVE OF DODGEBALL: Eliminate all members of the opposing team by hitting them with thrown balls.
NUMBER OF PLAYERS: 6+ players, even numbers only
TYPE OF GAME: Sport
OVERVIEW OF DODGEBALL
Dodgeball is a popular recreational game that is commonly played in elementary school gym classes. Dodgeball involves two teams of players throwing balls at each other in an attempt to knock their opponents out of the game. This extremely well-known and polarizing sport is either loved or hated.
Let’s go back to the roots of the modern-day dodgeball we all know. Historically, dodgeball began as an extremely violent sport played among African tribes. Participants would hurl hard rocks and other objects at their opponents, attempting to gravely injure them. Used as preparation for war, the aim of this game was to literally kill the opponents while defending any teammates who may have been knocked to the ground. Simply put, the original purpose of dodgeball was to weed out the weak.
While in Africa sometime during the 1800s, English missionary Dr. James Carlisle observed the game and was fascinated by the agility, strength, and teamwork skills it required. After returning to England to teach at St. Mary’s College, Dr. Carlisle introduced a much less-deadly version of the game he observed in Africa.
Instead of using rocks, Dr. Carlisle had his students use rubber balls. Unlike modern dodgeball, however, there were no boundaries, and players weren’t out until they were knocked to the ground by a volley of balls.
While on a trip to St. Mary’s College with other Yale University students and faculty, American Philip Ferguson was intrigued by the newly discovered game of dodgeball. Taking what he had observed back to the United States with him in 1905, Ferguson drafted a list of rules and started organizing matches with other colleges. The version of dodgeball Ferguson popularized in this time period is still largely the version played today.
So, this common PE class sport that many children play actually originated as a brutal war preparation game. That gives you something to think about…
Today dodgeball is played both recreationally and professionally, with the National Dodgeball League (NDL) being the only pro league in the USA.
- Dodgeballs: Dodgeball can be played with any medium-sized balls that can be comfortably thrown. The most common ball used for dodgeball is a rubber ball measuring 8.5 inches in diameter, although softer foam balls have been increasingly popular as they’re less likely to cause pain or injury.
Dodgeball can be played on any rectangular court or field. Traditionally, however, dodgeball is best played on indoor courts where the surrounding walls can be used to speed up the pace of play.
A professional dodgeball court measures 60 feet in length and 30 feet in width. A midcourt line separates the court into two 30×30-foot halves. On each side of the court, an “attack line” should sit 10 feet from the midcourt line.
Dodgeball is frequently played until a team wins a pre-determined number of games. This is always an odd number, with most dodgeball matches being a best-of-three, best-of-five, or best-of-seven.
A dodgeball match begins with several balls lined up on the midcourt line. Then, at the sound of a whistle, both teams run for the opening rush from their ends of the court to the middle to secure a ball for themselves.
Players then take turns throwing the balls at their opponents on the other half of the court. If a player gets hit with a live ball thrown, they’re eliminated and must leave the court. And if a player catches a ball that was thrown at them, the player who threw the ball is out.
This action continues until only one team remains or another win condition is met.
Dodgeball is most commonly played with an elimination objective—whichever team is the last one standing wins the game.
However, dodgeball can also be played in a few other ways:
- Time-Based: With a limited amount of time per game, a team can win by eliminating all of their opponents or by having the most remaining players when the clock expires.
- Scoring-Based: Played with a clock or in a traditional elimination format, the winning team is awarded points for every member left standing. This would mean the winner of an entire match is not always the team that won the most games but rather the team that was most dominant in their wins.
The rules of dodgeball are fairly straightforward. However, it is common for some schools and organizations to follow rules that are not recognized by others. Therefore, not all of the following rules are necessary to include in a dodgeball match unless they’re fundamental to the game.
- Players are not allowed to leave the confines of the court or step out with any part of their body. Doing so will result in being eliminated from the match.
- A player is allowed to block a thrown ball by using their own ball, also called a blocking ball. The player must retain control of the ball they’re using to block (otherwise, they’re eliminated).
- If a player catches a ball thrown by an opponent, an eliminated teammate can rejoin the game.
- If a player throws a ball at a player’s head, they are eliminated, and the hit opposing player remains in the game. However, a headshot is allowed if the opposing players hit are actively lowering their head or ducking.
- After a set amount of time has passed or a pre-determined number of players remain, the midcourt line is removed, and players can move up the opponent’s attacking line. This rule helps prevent games from stalling out too long.
- If a ball is thrown and hit the ground/walls of the court, it is a dead ball. the other team is free to use it and anyone hit by it after becoming a dead ball is not eliminated.
END OF GAME
The team that wins the most games by fully eliminating their opponents is the winner of a dodgeball match.
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