Tetherball Rules and Basics of the Game

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Tetherball comprises a volleyball attached to a rope that’s tied to a center pole. It’s a game for 2 opposing players.

A 20-foot circle often serves as the playing circle, where each player is allotted one-half of the circle. Tetherball can also be played using a smaller ball, which is attached to a rope and struck using paddles.

Though it’s not officially recognized as a sport, the game is usually regarded as an outdoor activity. The equipment to play consists of a stationary metal pole, from which a volleyball from a tether or a rope is hung.

The 2 players in the game will stand on opposite sides of the pole. Each of them will try to strike the ball one way, one clockwise, while the other counterclockwise.

The game comes to an end when one player winds the ball all the way around the pole till it‘s stopped by the rope. And it mustn’t bounce.

Tetherball Rules and Basics of the Game

In an early variation of the Tetherball game described in Games for the Playground, a 1909 book by Jessie H. Bancroft, a tethered tennis ball is struck by racquets. The variant also has similar rules with the traditional version of the game.

Played on several surfaces, including sand, asphalt, gravel, and lawn, here are Tetherball rules:

Equipment of the Game

It requires the following pieces of equipment:

  • A stationary pole
  • A ball
  • A rope

The ball has nearly the same size and weight as a volleyball. However, it’s a bit firmer unless you specifically opt for a soft tetherball.

Tetherballs often come with a bar recessed in the top, which the rope is tied to. Certain options simply feature loops protruding out. However, this is less common because hitting the loop using the hand can be painful.

The pole typically measures 3.0 m (10 feet) in height. It can be as low as 2.1 m (7 feet) high according to the players’ height.

To ensure the pole stays stationary, it’s either embedded in the ground or anchored down with a concrete-filled tire or a blow molded plastic base filled with water or sand or concrete (in certain cases).

It’s generally slender nylon and has enough length to ensure the ball hangs around 0.61 m (2 feet) above the ground.

Tetherball’s Basic Setup

These are the steps to set up the game:

  • Designate an area that has a 16-foot or 20-foot diameter for play
  • Now, dig a hole in the court area’s center that’s 1 foot deep and between 18 and 24 inches in diameter. Ensure the pole base protrudes up to half an inch above the surface
  • Insert the pole base into the hole and use dirt and/or gravel to pack up to half of the pole base tightly
  • Fill the remaining part of the hole using cement and keep the pole base at a 90-degree angle to the ground
  • Now, connect the 3 pole pieces and make sure each piece locks into place
  • Use the pump for inflating the tetherball (if necessary)
  • Hook your tetherball to the loop on the top pole and place the pole in the pole base

What Are Basic Tetherball Rules?

  • The player that’s taking the first service is allowed to choose a direction to strike the ball
  • The receiving player strikes the ball back in the opposite direction
  • The aim is to strike the ball in your direction so that the rope will wrap fully around the pole

Alternate Play: After the service, the server is not allowed to touch the ball again until the rope gets wrapped around the pole four times or the opponent makes contact with the ball.

How to Score Points in Tetherball Game

A player earns 1 point when they wrap the rope as far around the pole as it’ll go in their direction.

Fouls and Penalties to Note

Watch out for the fouls and penalties below to ensure the game is played according to Tetherball rules. You’re allowed to call the following on your opponent (or yourself), and play will stop, after which one of the penalties explained below will come into effect:

Standard fouls in tetherball:

  • Trying to hold, catch, or delay the ball, rather than striking it
  • Stepping on any out of your playing area into your opponent’s area or a neutral zone
  • Striking the ball with any body part except your hands or forearms
  • Making contact with the rope using your hands or forearm
  • Making contact with the pole using any part of your body
  • Striking the ball more than once in a single wrap around the pole is disallowed unless the ball makes contact with the pole or the opponent.
  • Attempting to increase the ball’s momentum or throwing it

How to Win the Game

The player that earns the highest score after 7 games becomes the winner of the game.

History of Tetherball Game                                

Tetherball origin isn’t certain. But some people have suggested that in the 9th century, the Tatars that were resident in the areas of today’s Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan would hang the head of their fallen enemy from a pole and strike it using a stick.

Others have opined that Tetherball might be related to the practice of maypole dancing, which was performed in medieval England and northern European countries. Villagers in those places would hold ribbons or ropes hung from a tall pole and dance around this pole.

But since the ball commonly used looks like the volleyball, Tetherball game is thought to have been designed sometime after 1895, following the volleyball game’s invention.

A popular version of Tetherball, which is known as paddleball, is played in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. In this variant, a smaller ball is hung from a pole and struck with paddles.

Wrapping up

Highlighted above are Tetherball rules. To learn how to play, it’s crucial to master these rules. Whether you want to play Tetherball professionally or casually, this guide will be of great help.


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