An Introduction to Dodgeball

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Dodgeball is a game played by throwing either soft or hard rubber balls in a square court. A similar game originated in Africa more than 200 years ago and was played with large stones and rocks instead of balls and was used as a training for battle. Large rocks gave a good physical workout teaching strength and endurance and thus identified the weaker members of the tribe. The goal was to injure opposing players until they fell down – obviously some players died!


The game was watched by Dr James Carlisle, a missionary working in Africa in the 1800s. He noticed that the game taught players to be agile, quick and strong, while at the same time teaching team building techniques. On his return to England he introduced this game to his students at St Mary’s College in Norfolk, but using a rubber ball, not rocks and stones.


In England dodgeball was played in an outdoor field with few rules until in 1884 Phillip Ferguson from Yale University watched the game. He is credited with taking the game to the USA where, in 1905, he created the official game rules to include two team playing on opposite sides of the field. Today the game is now played on an indoor court, which may be divided into two 9.1m x 9.1m areas with a 1.2m x 9.1m neutral zone in the centre of the court. However, there are other options, as shown in the rules below.


Today’s games are very different as the balls can either be soft or hard. The main objective in dodgeball is to eliminate all members of the opposing team by throwing the ball at them. Plays must dodge the ball to remain in the game and the team who manages to eliminate all of their opponent’s first are deemed the winners.


Rules of Dodgeball

·        The number of players, number of balls, size of court and length of game can be determined by the organisers.

·        Players must remain within the court at all times, unless collecting dead balls.

·        Players are allowed to leave the court to collect balls but they are not allowed to throw the ball until they are back within the court. If a player leaves the court for any other purpose or they throw a ball from outside the court, they are eliminated.

·        The rules regarding headshots can be decided upon personal preference or by order of an official body. Some games will see the throwing player eliminated if an opponent is stuck on the head, some games will see the player struck on the head eliminated.

·        Players struck with a ball that is then caught before it becomes dead are eliminated.

·        When a player catches a ball, the throwing player will be eliminated.


Dodgeball was officially recognised as a sport in 2017 by the Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF) which is the umbrella organisation for all Olympic and non-Olympic sports. The World Dodgeball Association is the official governing body of global dodgeball. Working with 62 national federations and approximately 68 million participants, the organization is vying to get the sport included in the Olympics, aiming for the 2028 Games in Los Angeles.


Dodge, duck, dip and dive are the words to remember when playing!


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