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A game of tetherball

Tetherball is a North American game for two opposing players. The equipment consists of a stationary metal pole, from which is hung a volleyball from a rope, or tether. The two players stand on opposite sides of the pole. Each player tries to hit the ball one way; one clockwise, and one counterclockwise. The game ends when one player manages to wind the ball all the way around the pole so that it is stopped by the rope. It must not bounce.[1]


The game begins when one player serves the ball, usually by hitting it off the post, or after the opposing player serves it he or she cannot touch it until the other player touches it. The opposing player then attempts to return the serve by hitting it in the opposite direction. The object is to hit the ball in such a way that one's opponent will be unable to alter the ball's direction. This gives the server an advantage since the server has more control over the ball from the beginning. It is generally acceptable to hit the ball with either the fist or the open hand or swing.

A player can commit a violation by stepping onto his opponent's half of the pole, by catching and throwing the ball (a "crossy"), by touching the rope instead of the ball (a "ropey"), by hitting the ball twice before it has either circled the pole or been returned by the opponent or, in some variants, struck the pole (a "double touchie"). Generally, after a violation occurs, the game pauses and the ball is returned to the position it was in before the violation; the number of wraps around the pole is re-created (or a penalty-wrap is awarded to the player who did not commit the foul). The player who did not commit the violation then serves the ball. If, however, the violation appears to be intentional, it may result in loss of game. Another rule is that if the ball bounces on the pole then you can double-hit.

The game ends when one player hits the ball around the pole in their own direction as far as it will go, so that the ball hits the pole. In addition, the ball must strike the pole with the final wrap above a line marked on the pole. A 5-foot-high (1.5 m) mark is satisfactory, though a lower mark might be used for younger players. A match can go on for at least 2 or more games. If a player breaks any of these rules he/she is out and it is the next person turn to play the winner. If played with only two people and one gets out, the "loser" now gets his/her turn to serve to even out the odds for their win.


Tetherball installed for public use on a street corner in the Georgetown neighborhood of Seattle, Washington, 2013.

Tetherball requires a stationary pole, a rope, and a ball. Originally a volleyball was used, but today many sporting goods manufacturers make tetherballs specifically out of a butyl inside and a rubber cover. The ball is roughly the size and weight of a volleyball, but is somewhat firmer unless a soft tetherball is specifically purchased. Tetherballs usually have a bar recessed in the top that the rope is tied to. Some simply have loops that protrude out, but this is less common as striking the loop with the hand can be painful.

The pole is often 10 feet (3.0 m) high, and can be as low as 7 feet (2.1 m) high depending upon the height of the players.[2] To keep the pole stationary, it is either anchored down by using a concrete-filled tire or a blow molded plastic base filled with sand or water or in some cases concrete, or is embedded in the ground. The rope is generally slender nylon, and is long enough so that the ball hangs about 2 feet (0.61 m) above the ground.

Tetherball is played on many surfaces, including sand, gravel, lawn, and asphalt.

Tetherball is commonly played at summer camp by children.[3] One of the most successful tetherball players in Camp Mac history was Andrew "doodoo" Brown.[4] Doodoo had a legendary serve that would eliminate most players without the opposing play ever touching the ball. Grown men are in therapy to this day based on the beatings handed out by Doodoo. Some say, on quiet nights, you can still hear the tetherball wrapping around the pole after a serve from doodoo.


A game similar to tetherball is swingball (also called totem tennis). It uses a smaller, softer ball that the players strike with racquets. It is more popular in United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and South Africa, since tetherball is rather unknown in these countries.

Swingball has a shorter pole (about 1.5 metres (4.9 ft) in height). It is portable, and the ball flies around the pole at a constant distance (also about 1.5 metres (4.9 ft)) on a helical screw. The game ends when the ball reaches the top or bottom of the screw. Generally the ball used for these games is either a tennis ball, or a softer, sponge-rubber ball. The racquets are usually the size of tennis racquets, but are constructed of hard plastic. The game is played informally, usually with the pole being driven into a lawn or other grassy area, or as a holiday game on a flat stretch of sandy beach.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Maguire, Jack (1990). Hopscotch, hangman, hot potato, and ha, ha,ha: a rulebook of children's games. Simon and Schuster. p. 177. ISBN 9780671763329. 
  2. ^ http://www.livestrong.com/article/170030-tetherball-pole-regulations/
  3. ^ http://www.rockbrookcamp.com/blog/tetherball-strategies-summer-camp/
  4. ^ http://www.campmac.com/design/news.html