Official Tetherball Rules

By Robert Vaux

Anyone who's ever been on an elementary school playground knows the game of tetherball. Simple, quick to play and loads of fun, it makes an ideal game for recess or similarly brief periods of exercise. Tetherball contains one built-in flaw that can limit enjoyment of the game, however. The best sets of rules acknowledge this flaw and take steps to address it.


Tetherball equipment consists of a single tall pole, firmly embedded in the ground and topped by a length of rope. A ball, similar to a volleyball, is attached to the end of the rope through a ring or metal bar. (Soft balls tend to make the best tetherballs because they're easier on the hands when they are struck.)

Ideally, the pole should be about 12 feet tall, with 2 feet entrenched firmly into the ground. The pole stands in the center of a circle, 20 feet or so in diameter, which constitutes the playing field. The field is divided in half, and each half is relegated to a single player. No player may leave his half while they game is in play.

Basic Rules

The object of tetherball is to wrap the rope entirely around the pole in a single direction by striking the ball with your hand. Your opponent attempts to wrap the ball around the pole in the opposite direction. Neither player may grasp or hold the ball in his hands, nor may he touch the rope or pole in any manner. Double hits--striking the ball more than once before it completes a single rotation--are not allowed.

Serving and Number of Matches

A coin flip can determine who serves the ball first. The other player then has the option of choosing which direction he wishes to wrap the ball. After the first match, the positions switch: the second player serves while the first player gets to decide on the direction. Because each tetherball match takes only a few minutes, it's preferable to set a number of matches required to win the game (similar to tennis or volleyball). A player must win at least two more matches than his opponent to be considered the winner; otherwise, play continues until one player or the other wins two more matches than his opponent.


The single largest problem in tetherball is the propensity of the server to automatically win the match. If either player can touch the ball immediately upon serving, then the server rarely needs to surrender control. In order to resolve that problem, institute a rule requiring the server to wait until either the ball has wrapped around the pole four times or the opponent touches the ball before the server can touch it again. It levels the playing field and gives the game more nuance.

About the Author

I am a first-rate writer with an excellent work ethic and a strong ability to meet deadlines. I have experience with all forms of writing, from journalistic articles to ad copy to fiction to reviews and criticism. I play well with others, and am extremely flexible in delivering what my employer needs. I hope very much to hear from you soon!{{}}