Despite many an elementary school outcast being scarred for life after getting beamed in the head by large rubber balls…Dodge Ball not only remains popular on the playground, but has recently resurfaced as a popular adult pastime. So, all you traumatized former grade school targets study these rules well…it’s time for some revenge!

There are several variations of play.

American National Rules

Number of Players

2 opposing teams of 6 – 10 players (6 players per team with up to 4 alternates. Alternates may only enter the game during timeouts or in the case of injury).

Playing Field

A 60’ x 30’ court divided into 2 equal halves by a center line, with 2 “attack” lines located 3 meters from the center line on either side.


6 eight-and-a-half inch (8.5”) rubber balls, at least 1 referee with a whistle and a stopwatch, good footwear, and a strong tolerance to being pummeled.


All 6 balls are placed along the center line (3 on each side of dead center) at equal distances from each other. All 6 players of each team take a position behind the end line on their side of the court.


Once the 6 balls and all players are in place, the referee blows the whistle to signal the start of the match. Players may then rush the center line and attempt to retrieve as many of the 6 balls as they can (some rules only allow a team to retrieve the 3 balls to the right of center). Once retrieved, a ball may only be thrown across the center line AFTER it has passed behind a team’s attack line (this may be done by rolling it backward, tossing it to a teammate, or carrying it yourself). Players then attempt to eliminate the members of the opposing team. A player may be eliminated in three different ways:

  1. Getting hit by a “live” ball anywhere below the head (a ball is live as long as it has not hit the floor, a wall, the ceiling, a teammate of the player who threw it, the referee, or any other object outside the playing area).
  2. Having a throw caught by an opponent (as long as the ball is still live).
  3. Fouling out (see “fouls” below)

Any player hit by a live ball is immediately eliminated and must leave the court. Players leaving the court must do so by exiting from the end line (not the side). Any player may leave the court through the end line to retrieve balls that have gone out of play, provided they re-enter the same way.

In addition to eliminating an opponent by catching a ball they threw, a player who catches a ball may bring one (1) of their eliminated teammates back into play. “Reactivated” players re-enter play in the order that they were eliminated through the end line.

In many games, a ball that strikes a player is still considered live until it hits something else…which means multiple players may be eliminated by a single throw. When playing with this variation, a teammate of a player who has been struck may catch the ball while it is still live…thus saving their teammate from elimination, and instead eliminating the player who threw the ball.

Each team is allowed one (1) 30 second time-out per game (they may make player substitutions, or simply talk strategy during this time).


The penalty for all fouls is the offending player being eliminated. All fouls are called at the discretion of the referee. The referee may call a foul for the following infractions:

  1. Stepping out of bounds (except across the end line)
  2. Stepping over the center line (a player may cross the center line, but does not officially commit a foul until their feet touch the floor on the opposing team’s side of the court, so if a player leaps across the line and throws a ball while still airborne, that ball will be considered live).
  3. Deliberately throwing a ball at a player’s head (headshots are illegal, but if a player is hit in the head while attempting to dodge or catch an otherwise legally thrown ball, that player will be called out).
  4. Delay of game (if a single team is in possession of all 6 balls, they have 5 seconds to throw, roll, or otherwise move at least one ball across the centerline. This will be enforced at the referee’s discretion).
  5. Unsportsmanlike conduct (sure, in grade school this game may have just been an excuse to torment people…but if the game is to be fun, there should be some degree of civility).


Eliminate all players of the opposing team. The last team with players still standing wins. Sometimes, matches may be timed (intervals are usually no less than 3 minutes per match). If this is the case, then the team with the most players remaining when the clock runs out will be declared the winner.

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