10 Popular Backyard Games That Became Sports With National and/or International Associations

Updated on June 10, 2019
beverley byer profile image

Beverley Byer has been writing professionally for a number of years. Her work has been published in magazines and newspapers.

Not all sports were created professionally. Many of them began as simple backyard games. Here are ten popular backyard games that morphed into sports with official sanctioning bodies.

Bocce balls
Bocce balls | Source

1. Bocce

Bocce, also called Boccie or Bocci, is regulated in the U.S. by the United States Bocce Federation, which was created in 1977 by Chris Gerardo, whose intent was to make it an Olympic sport. Equipment and rules are basically the same as the backyard version. There are eight large colorful balls, one smaller ball, and a rectangular court of specific dimensions. Teams consist of one, two, or four players. The object of the game, after a coin flip, is to toss the smaller ball or pallina beyond the center of the court, then roll the larger bocce balls as close to it as possible. The winning team must score a total of 12, 16, or 21 points. Bocce can be traced back to 5,200 B.C. It is the third most played sport in the world behind soccer and golf.

Cornhole equipment
Cornhole equipment | Source

2. Cornhole

Cornhole is professionally governed by the American Cornhole Organization, founded in 2004 by Frank Geers in Milford, Ohio. Games are also sanctioned by international associations. The dimensions of both boards and bags are generally the same as their backyard counterparts. The official bags, however, contain plastic pellets to survive wet weather conditions. The rules and scoring are also consistent with the backyard game. After a coin flip, teams of one or two players begin the inning by pitching four bags unto the board, preferably into the hole. The winning team must score 21 points. Depending on research, there are multiple theories about cornhole’s invention. Theory one: Cornhole began when Ancient peoples tossed rocks into holes in the ground. Theory two: Illinois’s Native American Blackhawk tribe tossed dried, bean-filled pig’s bladders. Theory three: It was invented by a Kentucky farmer. Theory four: The Germans invented it.

Croquet play
Croquet play | Source

3. Croquet

Croquet is sanctioned nationally by the United States Croquet Association (USCA), which was founded by Jack Osborn in New York in 1977. There’s also the American Croquet Association, which was established in Phoenix, Arizona in 1984 by player Stan Patmor and others who left the USCA. Global tournaments are sanctioned by the World Croquet Federation. The USCA governs tournaments in the traditional nine-wicket game, Golf Croquet, and the more modern six-wicket game. The equipment used in these sanctioned games are more expensive than those used in backyard play. The court-setup and the rules differ in each version, but the premise remains the same. After a coin toss, the first team hits four croquet balls with a mallet through hoops planted in the ground. This British import is thought to be of French origin and was once favored by a high society garden party crowd.

Dog frisbee game
Dog frisbee game | Source

4. Frisbee

In 1967, a group of Maplewood, New Jersey high school students established a governing entity called Ultimate Frisbee. They created an official game, incorporating plays from football, soccer, and basketball. The regulation plastic Frisbee disc, now owned by the Mattel Toy Company, was purchased from the Wham-O toy company in 1994. Wham-O began producing the flying discs in 1957, after purchasing rights from one of the original inventors. The company took the toy to two world fairs (Seattle in 1962 and New York in 1965), where they demonstrated and promoted freestyle Frisbee as a new sport. However, research discovered a similar game called Tin Lid Golf played by a Canadian elementary school in 1926. A disc golf game was also created with the Frisbee in the late 1970’s by Ed Headrick, one of the toy’s original inventors. That tournament is governed by the Professional Disc Golf Association.

Horseshoes equipment
Horseshoes equipment | Source
Horseshoes court
Horseshoes court | Source

5. Horseshoes

Current U.S. and Canadian charters consisting of clubs, state associations, and individuals fall under the National Horseshoe Pitchers Association (NHPA), which was formed in 1926. Pits are standardized, and a more stringent scoring system is used. The NHPA also sanctions international tournaments, and offers an annual health program in July. The game’s history traces back to second century Roman soldiers who occupied Britain. They needed something to do with their spear time, so they created a game called quoits, where they pitched castoff shoes from chariot horses. Quoits’ roots stem from the Greeks’ discus-throwing game, which was one of the main competitive sports at festivals and the Olympics. When English colonists crossed the Pond to the U. S., they brought the game with them. Quoits eventually became known as horseshoes. It’s now played by over 30 million, and is considered to be one of the most popular pitching games.

6. Lawn Bowling

Also called Bowls or Boule in French, lawn bowling is considered the English version of bocce. But both games are rooted in Ancient Egyptian rock tossing. There are four distinctive differences between them: (1) The large lawn ball is flat at one end. (2) Instead of being pitched underhandedly to start play, the ball is rolled. (3) Lawn bowling is played on a grass court or in a rink and not on dirt/ sand. (4) The smaller white ball is called Jack. The U.S. governing body for professional competition, standardized rules, and promotion is the United States Lawn Bowls Association better known as Bowls USA or USBLA. They’re headquartered in Arizona. The global governing entity is World Bowls, located in Edinburgh, Scotland, an appropriate location since lawn bowling’s first official rulebook, Manual of Bowls Playing was published Scotland in 1864. The backyard game arrived in the U.S. in the 1600s.

7. Pickleball

The USA Pickleball Association was established in 1984 to govern and promote the sport nationally and internationally. They also published pickleball’s very first rulebook. The equipment was changed or improved from ping pong paddles, soft balls, and plastic balls with holes to larger, standardized paddles with a slight change in shape, a perforated ball resembling a Wiffle Ball, and a net and court of specific dimensions. Tournament-scoring typically varies from backyard-scoring. The backyard game was invented in 1965 by three men who lived on an island some miles from Seattle, Washington. They were seeking a way to relieve their kids’ summertime boredom. The equipment and rules were simple. As a matter-of-fact, they based the rules on those of badminton. One interesting story was that they may have named the game after a pickle boat. The game’s first ever organized tournament was created by the fathers in 1976.

8. Spikeball

The sanctioning body for spikeball is USA Spikeball, headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. It was established in 2008 when Chris Ruder purchased the rights to the game. He and his partners hired a product design company to help them redesign the equipment, but Ruder more or less established the rules of play, which he borrowed from volleyball and another ball game called foursquare. The sport, which now boasts over 4 million players across the globe, found a resurgence after a 2015 appearance by Ruder, the sanctioning body’s CEO, and a few of his friends on the hugely popular ABC reality show “Shark Tank.” The actual backyard version of spikeball called roundnet bears some similarities to volleyball. It was invented way back in the late 1980s by industrial designer, toymaker, and cartoonist Jeff Knurek. Spikeball was called Slammo after the equipment used to play it. It’s also known as Bounceball.

9. Washers

Also called Washoes, Washers Toss, Texas Horseshoes, Holey Boards, or Holy Boards, washers is sanctioned or governed by the International Association of Washer Players (IAWP). It was founded in 2010, and is headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama. If you played washers in the northeastern part of the country then played it in the South or in the West, rules of the game may be quite different. Professional equipment depends on the version played. Backyard equipment consist of a variety of homemade pits and boards, or a portable pit kit. There are generally two-player teams, and scoring is 21 points or less. Like other toss games, it’s rooted in ancient Egypt. Two theories about its U.S. introduction exist: (1) When pioneers took a break from their long journeys, they used their wagon wheel washers to play the game. (2) Employees at Texas oil fields played the game with washers from oil derricks.

Wiffle ball game
Wiffle ball game | Source

10. Wiffle Ball

The first Wiffle Ball competition was held in 1980 in Indiana, the same year and place the World Wiffle Ball Association, which governs and promotes the game, was formally organized. The rules are similar to baseball and stickball. This backyard ballgame was invented by a Connecticut father for his son in 1953. The father was a semi-pro baseball pitcher. His son, perhaps wanting to follow in his dad’s footsteps, practiced throwing sliders and curve balls with a golf ball. It would have done eventual damage to his arm. So as a solution, his father created a number of ball designs before settling on two concave halves of plastic with eight equidistant perforations. The son named it Wiffle ball, a derivative of the term “wiff,” which people in their neighborhood used to identify a strike. The Wiffle Ball company, which was established by the family, is still around today.

Favorite Backyard Toss Game

Which of the following is your favorite backyard toss game?

See results

Resources

“History of Bocce - United States Bocce Federation,” usbf.us/history-of-bocce.html http://www.bocce.com/

“History of the Game of Cornhole,” https://justgreatvalues.com/history-cornhole/ ; “American Cornhole Organization” https://americancornhole.com/

“United States Croquet Association, www.croquetamerica.com/

“This Day in History – 1957 Toy Company Wham-O,”https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/toy-company-wham-o-produces-first-frisbees; “PDGA- Professional Disc Golf Association” https://www.pdga.com/history

“NHPA – National Horseshoe Pitching Association,” https://www.horseshoepitching.com/

www.bowlsusa.us/

“USAPA Pickleball,” https://www.usapa.org/history-of-the-game/

https://spikeball.com/

“Washers – A Great American Game,” http://washers.org; “American Washers Association of America,” http://www.americanwashersassociationofamerica.com/

“World Wiffle Ball,” https://worldwiffleball.org

Questions & Answers

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      No comments yet.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, howtheyplay.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://howtheyplay.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
      ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)