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A dodgeball player dodging a ball.

Dodgeball is a game in which players on two teams try to throw large balls at each other while avoiding being hit themselves. In the United States, the game is typically played among children 6-12 in elementary school. However, internationally, the sport has also emerged as a popular middle school, high school and college sport. It is also popular in informal settings and is often played on a playground, in a gym, or in organized recreational leagues.

There are many variations of the game, but generally the main objective of each team is to eliminate all members of the opposing team by hitting them with thrown balls, catching a ball thrown by a member of the opposing team, or forcing them to move outside the court boundaries when a ball is thrown at them. The form that is most common in U.S. schools was popularized by the 2004 film Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, which stars Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller. Patches O'Houlihan stated in the movie, "If you're going to become true dodgeballers, then you've got to learn the five d's of dodgeball: dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge!"


Dodgeball originated in Africa as a deadly game with rocks. James H. Carlisle, a missionary brought it to England using a leather ball. Phillip Ferguson brought it to the United States in 1884.1 Increasingly, schools move to restrict dodgeball as too violent.2


The number of dodgeballs used in the game often varies, but three to ten is common. Exceptions are usually made if a court is particularly small or if many people participate. More balls generally adds to the amount of action in a game, but can result in stalemate with many blocks. Six is the minimum number of balls to conduct a game with enforced rules. An odd number is generally favorable as one team will necessarily have a majority of balls in possession and should take the offensive role.

The standard worldwide measurement and material for a dodgeball is a seven inch foam ball; however, most dodgeballs are roughly the size of a volleyball and composed of foam with a thin plastic shell. Some dodgeballs are made of rubber and some more specialized ones have a padded canvas surface. Some leagues allow the use of multiple sizes of dodgeballs in a single match, while others use one standard size for all balls. The size of balls typically used in Canada are 7" to 8.25" in diameter, and are made of a soft foam with an exterior coating. Individual tournaments or leagues may choose to use larger, rubber balls, as well.


An example of a dodgeball court used in the National Dodgeball League

A typical dodgeball game is usually played on a basketball court, volleyball court, fenced area or even an Australian Rules Football oval or soccer pitch. There is no fixed dodgeball court design. The game is picked on the best available surface that is usually one of the above mentioned. Unless it is a variation of dodgeball, the court must have a center line.

Rules of game

Dodgeball players preparing for the opening rush

At the beginning of a dodgeball game, the balls are lined up on the central dividing line (in some versions of the game, the balls are thrown in the air for the players to catch or divided evenly to both the teams pre-match). The players then rush towards the center line simultaneously and try to grab one of the dodgeballs and throw or roll it backwards to their teammates (they cannot pick up a ball and throw it instantly; however, this rule is based on the way people play). This is known as the opening rush. Once the game has commenced, players throw balls at members of the opposing team in an attempt to eliminate the players.

When a player has been hit by a dodgeball "on the full" (i.e., without hitting the roof, the floor, any of the walls, or an outside object and rebounding off) and no one catches it before it becomes dead, that player has been eliminated and must move to his team's designated bench area (players are still out if the ball rebounds off another dodgeball and/or player and hits them on the full). The same rule applies if any number of people try to catch the ball but drop it. Depending on the rules and variation, "headshots" (balls thrown in dodgeball that hit an opposing player in the head) may either result in the thrower being out, or the person being hit being out.

If a player catches a ball thrown by the opposing team on the full, then the player who threw the ball is eliminated, and the team that caught the ball can reinstate the player that has been out the longest (or depending on the rules, the player(s) whom the thrower eliminated, or even the whole team). Some variations change the reinstatement limit. As long as the ball has been caught in any way and is held for two seconds, the thrower is out (i.e., even if the ball is caught between the legs, the thrower is still out). If a dodgeball hits an opposing player but gets caught by one of the hit player's teammates, the thrower is out, a player gets reinstated, and the player who got hit stays in. A variation if the dodgeball game is played on a basketball court is that if a player throws the ball and it goes into the opposing basket and/or it hits the basketball backboard on the full, the whole team gets resurrected. The ball is still counted to have hit the backboard or scored a basket on the full if it rebounded off another dodgeball or it was deflected into the backboard by an opposing player. If the ball hits the backboard supports and/or the ring but fails to hit the backboard or go into the hoop, there is no effect. Players cannot be caught out if the ball hits the backboard, backboard supports, and/or the ring.

Players can pick up dead balls and throw them back at the other team. Players are allowed to leave the confines of the court to gather balls that have rolled out of bounds, but cannot throw the ball until they are back inside the court. A ball thrown from outside the court cannot eliminate an opponent who is hit. It only succeeds in getting the thrower automatically eliminated. If that ball however is caught on the full, the opposition can reinstate the player that has been out the longest from their team. A player who moves completely out of bounds when a ball is thrown at them and does not catch that ball is also eliminated. If a player moves into the opponent's zone or picks up a ball from inside the opponent's zone without it fully rolling inside their zone, that player is out. Players can also get eliminated if their throw hits an opponent on the head (Directly on purpose), displays bad sportsmanship, or cheats. Kicking the balls is prohibited.

Depending on the rules of a particular game, a ball in the possession of a player can be used to block incoming balls thrown by the opposing team. If the ball is knocked out of his hand by another thrower, however, the player that had been holding the ball is then considered 'out'. Many games end this way when there are only 2 players left. If there are two players left, and one throws a ball at the other who then catches it, the player who threw the ball is out and the game is over. Once all players except one on one team is eliminated, the game is over.

Another alternate rule is ‘No Lines’ or open court. This rule is used at a point in the game when there are few players left and it was too easy to dodge the ball with all the extra room. When ‘No Lines’ is declared, all boundary lines no longer count and the players can go anywhere to get a better shot at their opponent. 3

A Dodgeball being thrown

In popular culture

  • The 2004 movie Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story is generally credited with reviving interest in the sport, especially among young adults, despite referencing the sport as being about "violence, exclusion and degradation".4
  • The South Park episode "Conjoined Fetus Lady" and Season 1 of Freaks and Geeks depict dodgeball as a potentially violent sport.
  • In The Simpsons episode "My Fair Laddy", the new gym teacher Coach Krupt has the students play "Bombardment", a variant of dodgeball where Krupt throws balls at students while screaming "Bombardment".
  • In TV sitcom According to Jim, Jim, the main character, while a child, hits Pierson with a dodgeball during a game. Pierson calls for a timeout, but Jim argues that dodgeball does not have timeouts. Pierson never forgives Jim for that hit even after 30 years, when he becomes a vicar.
  • In the movie Chicken Little during gym class, the little animals appear to be playing dodgeball.
  • The TV show Warehouse 13 featured a Baylor Dodgeball, stored in the Warehouse for causing the deaths of 5 military cadets during training. It can launch itself at high speeds and multiplies upon contact. Reverts to a single ball if one is caught.
  • In the game Bully at sportive hours in gym.
  • In the Total Drama Island episode "Dodgebrawl", the campers compete in a game of dodgeball.
  • In the series Ed, Edd n Eddy, the character Edd never removes his hat from his head due to what he calls the "dodgeball incident."
  • In the 2006 movie Jackass: Number Two, one of the skits involves playing dodgeball both in the dark and using medicine balls rather than traditional dodgeballs.
  • In the Discovery Channel series Wreckreation Nation, host Dave Mordal competes in a WASA Dodgeball tournament in Denver, Colorado.
  • In Greek, the ZBZs take on the IKIs in an all-girl match, resulting in a winning blow by Jordan to Frannie.
  • In Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters, Percy and his friend Tyson must play a dodgeball game to the death against cannibal giants who want to eat him.
  • The film Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium has a magical closet with a knob that turns to change rooms like the room of balls, where the three boys are amazed to see. It has every kind of ball including the red gigantic dodgeball standing as a curious boy named Jason (played by Isaac Durnford) opens the curtains by pulling the elegant rope. The ball bigger than him has the black letter "M" (which stands for Magorium) on it and when he touches it with his pointing fingertip, it rolls amongst him and when the door is sealed, he gets squished by the ball he touched. Mr. Edward Magorium opens the door and describes the giant ball as "impossible to dodge".
  • In Episode S1E2 of Dexter's Laboratory, the protagonist is forced to play dodgeball in P.E., resulting in him being bullied in the process. He eventually takes revenge on his bullies with the help of a freshly invented Powered exoskeleton, dodgeball-style.
  • In episode 'Letters' of M*A*S*H (season 9, episode 2), the doctors receive letters from school children asking various questions. One child says she would be rather playing dodgeball, but her teacher is making her write the letter.
  • In the TV show 'Glee', this game becomes an important part of the character Kurt's campaign. He describes it a "modern day stoning."
  • In the movie Bad Teacher, while Cameron Diaz's character attempts to teach her students more aggressively, one method she used was throwing a dodgeball at a student if he/she got a question wrong, reversely if he/she got it right, they'd get to throw at her.
  • GSN aired a dodgeball game show called Extreme Dodgeball it was hosted by Bill Dwyer and Zach Selwyn and ran for 3 seasons.
  • In the Babymouse series' 2nd book Babymouse: Our Hero, Babymouse plays dodgeball; she fails as a kindergartener but defeats her nemesis in the game when older. Dodgeball has made appearances in other books such as Babymouse: Heartbreaker & Babymouse: The Musical.
  • Dodgeball is featured in the Nintendo Wii video game Mario Sports Mix.

In addition, the dangerous nature and associated risks of dodgeball have resulted in controversies, lawsuits, and calls to eliminate the game from school physical education programs.5

World records


Protect the Pin - A variation on dodgeball in which each team has 1 to 3 pins on their respective ends of the court. A team may win by either knocking down all the pins or knocking out all the players. Hence the name "Protect the Pin". Additionally, players may opt to play with "lives". Each player wears a band representing each extra life (1 band for 2 lives, 2 bands for 3 lives, etc.) and simply removes a band when hit with a ball or when their ball is caught. When no bands are left, they go out the next time they are hit or their ball is caught.

Medic - A variation on dodgeball in which each team has a player designated as the "Medic." Once a player is struck or caught out during a match, they do not exit the playing area, but rather sit down. If they are touched by the Medic, they reenter play. If a team's Medic is struck out, the Medic is out for the rest of the round, and no further players can be resurrected.

Jail - When a player is out, they go a "Jail Area" on the opposite end of the court where they stay until a member of their team throws a ball all the way across the court for them to catch and they can rejoin the game. This is usually risky because the other team can intercept the balls easier, thereby knocking the thrower out of the game instead.

Army - A variation of dodgeball where rather than going out when hit with a dodgeball or having a throw caught the otherwise "out" player remains in the game but loses the use of one of their limbs. If a player is struck with a dodgeball they may continue playing but must discontinue use of a limb of their choice; either an arm or a leg. Similarly, if a player's throw is caught by an opponent the thrower must choose to discontinue use of a limb. Usually, if a player is struck on a specific limb they do not have a choice and must discontinue use of that specific limb. If a player loses the use of both legs they must sit on the ground and may only move by crawling. Once a player loses the use of both arms they are out. If a player makes a catch they are permitted to re-continue use of one of their lost limbs. If a player makes a catch and they already have full use of all limbs a teammate who is out may return to the game.

Invincible - Where two people can't be knocked out of the game with a dodgeball or throw. When they catch a ball the whole team is back in. When there is only 1 person left they are no longer invincible.

There are many other variations of Dodgeball.

Kenyan version

Called Kati its played by two teams. One team has people inside the KATI area, the other outside throwing and fetching the ball to the two main ‘two hitters’ The hitters will try to hit the people at the center “KATI” to eliminate them (similar to dodge ball) If one is hit by the ball they get out of the KATI area The people in KATI will try to dodge the ball while also making a tower of bottle tops. If they manage to make the tower then they shout “HOORAY!”, and those who had been hit come into play again.

Usage in American vernacular

In some American idioms, the act of avoiding something or someone mildly unpleasant can be referred to as 'playing dodgeball.' Additionally, in a variant of the same concept, the term "dodgeball" is sometimes used to describe a situation in which an individual is caught between two untenable positions, in a reference to the version of the game in which players from the same team can surround opposing players from two opposite sides.

See also


  1. ^ "History of Dodgeball". Go Mammoth. Retrieved 19 April 2014. 
  2. ^ "Increasingly, Schools Move To Restrict Dodgeball". The New York Times. 6 May 2001. Retrieved 19 April 2014. 
  3. ^ Valentino, Giovanni (July 18, 2013). "All Grown No Lines: A little known Dodgeball rule.". Exaggerated Rants and Strange Musings. Retrieved August 22, 2013. 
  4. ^ Paley, Amit (July 12, 2004). "All Grown Up, Dodgeball Hurtles Toward a Higher Popularity". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 3, 2012. 
  5. ^ "School dodgeball goes to court in New York". The Associated Press ( November 20, 2004. Retrieved February 3, 2012. 
  6. ^ CBS
  7. ^ "U of A smashes dodgeball record". Edmonton Journal. February 3, 2012. Retrieved February 3, 2012. 
  8. ^ "Longest marathon playing dodgeball". Guinness World Records. Retrieved June 19, 2013. 


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