How to Play Dodgeball

By James Holloway ; Updated October 03, 2017
A ball on the floor of a gym.

The squeak of sneakers on the gym floor, the steady drumming of missed shots and the slap of rubber ball on skin bring back memories of dodgeball, a PE class standby. Excelling at dodgeball demands speed, coordination and a little bit of killer instinct.

Setup

A game of dodgeball begins with two teams. The National Amateur Dodgeball Association uses teams of six to 10 players. A typical playing area is about 30 by 60 feet, divided into two 30-foot squares -- the size of a regulation volleyball court. Before the game begins, the referee places six rubber-covered foam balls on the center line of the court, three on either side of the center. Each group of three balls belongs to one team.

Course of Play

When the referee starts the game, the two teams run to collect the balls from the center. The object of the game is to throw a ball at a player on the opposing team. If the ball hits an opposing player below the shoulders without touching the ground or another object first, the target player is "out" and leaves play. However, if the opposing player catches the ball, the player who threw the ball is out instead. Play continues until one team has no players remaining or until a set time limit -- three minutes in NADA play -- expires.

Rule Variations

Variations on the standard rules are common. For example, when a team eliminates an opposing player, the team may be allowed to bring back one of its own players who has been put out. This can make for a longer and potentially more dramatic game. Alternatively, players who have been hit may have to change sides to join the opposing team. Another variation turns players loose on the court to hunt each other, with every player out for himself. Players who are put out continue throwing but are no longer targets. The last person standing is the winner.

Strategy

Dodgeball relies on speed and athleticism, but strategy plays a role as well. Teamwork is key to success. Coordinating teammates to throw at the same member of the opposing team reduces the target's chance of dodging. However, it can leave the throwers open to retaliatory throws from other players. Players tend to specialize in different areas; good catchers can screen accurate throwers for an efficient division of roles. Using the ball to parry incoming balls without letting them touch you can work, especially if your teammates are quick to catch the ball.

About the Author

Dr James Holloway has been writing about games, geek culture and whisky since 1995. A former editor of "Archaeological Review from Cambridge," he has also written for Fortean Times, Fantasy Flight Games and The Unspeakable Oath. A graduate of Cambridge University, Holloway runs the blog Gonzo History Gaming.