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How to Play Dodgeball: A Beginner's Guide

Rhys Baker teaches science at Arthur Mellows Village College in Peterborough, UK.

Dodgeball is a sport that requires no specific skill set, is great exercise and fun to play. It can be played by all shapes, sizes, abilities and ages.

Dodgeball is a sport that requires no specific skill set, is great exercise and fun to play. It can be played by all shapes, sizes, abilities and ages.

Dodgeball Game

Dodgeball is one of the fastest-growing sports in the UK and US. Why is it enjoying such success?

"Dodgeball has many advantages over other sports, but none more than its absolute accessibility. It is played right across the world by people of all ages, sexes and sporting abilities. It is very simple to learn, and ‘everyone’ has the ability get involved as part of a team" UKDBA

Dodgeball is a simple, fast-paced game that can be played by anyone. Teams of mixed ability, gender and age are possible, and there are plenty of rule variations to keep your sessions fresh.

The aim of the game is to eliminate the opposing team by either hitting them with a ball or catching one of their throws. You have to keep your wits about you to land hits on opposing players whilst avoiding getting hit yourself. Each game only lasts 2 minutes, but after a couple of high-intensity matches, you will be getting one heck of a cardio workout!

Dodgeball Rules

UKDBA Official Rules. Rule sets can vary from region to region, so make sure you go over the rules when playing at a new tournament or with a new team. This will prevent disputes later on.

Number of Players6 on court

Number of Substitutes

Up to 3

Length of 1 game

2 minutes

Length of Match

1, 3, 5 or 7 games

Court Dimensions

52-60ft by 24 feet

Dodgeball Associations

  • US NDL
    The Official Home of the NDL, Professional Dodgeball and the National Dodgeball League Amateur Association .

UKDBA Dodgeball Rules

Object of Dodgeball

Eliminate all opposing players by getting them 'out.' The easiest way to eliminate a player is to hit them with a dodgeball. You can also eliminate a player by catching one of their throws. This is how to really turn around a game; when you catch a thrown ball, not only do you eliminate the thrower, but you can bring back one of your own eliminated players (FOFI - first out, first in). Players can fumble catches, but must retain possession of the ball without it touching any other player, ball, object, or surface. Catches win matches!

Winning a Game

You win a game of dodgeball when either:

  1. All of the opposing team have been eliminated
  2. You have more players than the opposing team at the end of a 2-minute game

If both teams are equal in number after 2 minutes, 1 minute overtime is played. If teams are still equal after this, sudden death begins. The next team to eliminate an opposing player wins.

Opening Rush

Each game begins with the 'opening rush' where three players from each team run to gain possession of the three balls in the centre of the court. These balls must be taken or passed to the back of the court before they can be thrown at the opposition.

Getting 'Out'

You are called out when:

  1. A live ball (i.e. one that has not bounced, hit another player, hit another ball or hit a wall) hits you directly. Clothing counts as part of a player's body;
  2. An opposing player catches your throw;
  3. When you step into the deadzone (hands/arms are allowed);
  4. When you touch, or step over, a boundary line;
  5. When a referee calls you 'out' for any reason. (Arguing with the officials just gets you out anyway)


In adult UKDBA games, non-deliberate headshots count! If a headshot is deemed to be deliberate, the thrower is out and the hit player is safe. This is decided by the referee and is entirely at their discretion.

The Five-Second Rule

To prevent games from stalling, a leading team is only allowed to retain possession of one ball at a time. If a leading team has two or more balls (UKDBA rules; all six balls for IDF rules) on their side of the court, they must throw their balls within 5 seconds. These throws must be valid attempts at hitting a player (e.g. balls cannot just be rolled along the floor or thrown too high at the back wall).

Dodgeball Strategy

Dodgeball is a team sport, and like any other team sport, requires a certain amount of strategy to win. Yes, you can win by just going all out in a free-for-all scenario, but more experienced teams will soon pick you off. To win against the best you must play like the best. There are several strategies that you need to be aware of to succeed in dodgeball:

  • Throw as a team: Solo throws are often seen in rookie players. You should call out the number of balls your team has at any one time. If you have more than one ball, co-ordinate your team to throw at a single target, at the same time. This is much harder to catch or dodge and makes you look much more professional. Develop your own cues and calls so the opposition cannot guess who you are about to throw at.
  • Spread out: If your whole team is bunched in one area it will make it harder to dodge incoming balls and much easier for the opposition to hit someone - they just lob it in your general direction!
  • Stay back and away from the sidelines: Too close and you are going to get hit easily, too far back and your own throws will be easier to dodge. You should move forward (as a team, remember) when you throw your balls, and move back to avoid the counter. Stay away from the edges of the court as this limits your dodging space

Apart from these two general rules, there are specific strategies used by the top dodgeball teams:

  • Eliminate stronger throwers first
  • Aim at players in the corners to force them to step out of bounds.
  • Hold a ball behind your back for a teammate to grab and throw. If the opposition doesn't know who has the balls, they are easier to hit. Even if you don't have a ball, hold your hands behind your back to fool the opposition into thinking you might.
  • Don't celebrate hits. The opposition will be vulnerable immediately after losing someone, so follow up with some low, fast throws.
  • Practice plays where balls are passed between players, or players cross paths before throwing.
  • If you are the last one standing, crouch down and hold a ball to deflect incoming hits. This makes you harder to hit (you are a smaller target) and may give you a chance at a catch. When all of the balls have been deflected onto your side, you can go on the offensive.

Top Ten Dodgeball Tips

  1. Always confirm the rules. There are many variations and tournaments are usually played according to the host-team's rules. Make sure all rules (no. of balls, do catches bring players in, can you catch off blocks, five second rule) are explained before the match. Falling foul of a rule you didn't know about is no excuse. Avoid pointless arguments by confirming the rules before you play.
  2. Never lose your cool. An over-the-top celebration of your epic catch or awesome hit makes you a sitting duck. Equally, losing it over an elimination may get you banned from the rest of the match, leaving your team to carry on a man down.
  3. Always work as a team. Don't rely on the same player each time in the opening rush (they will soon get tired). Rotate your throwers to keep them fresh. Also, throwing together at a single target makes it a lot harder to dodge or catch. Pick your target and throw together.
  4. Never turn your back. This will only end in disaster.
  5. Always play to your strengths. If your throw gets caught often, set up your other team mates and aim to catch and dodge. If you cannot do it in training, don't go for spectacular catches in a match. Dodgeball is a game for all abilities. Find your strength and work to it.
  6. Never give up. Even if you have been eliminated, help your team by encouraging them, calling out plays or giving them time checks. You can be just as helpful on the sideline.
  7. Always aim low. Throws at chest height are easiest to catch. Anything higher is easy to dodge. Aiming at the ankles will usually mean your ball bounces before a hit. Aim between the thigh and shin of your target. Also, try not to throw at someone you are directly looking at, or who is directly in front of you. Throw across the diagonals - you are more likely to catch someone out.
  8. Never stand still. Bounce on your toes to make it easier for you to dodge incoming balls.
  9. Always remember: If in doubt, dodge. Only attempt to catch balls you are certain of making. You don't want to bounce the ball off your outstretched fingers. If it doesn't look like you can catch it, dodge it and let it go. (This is easier said than done.)
  10. Always follow through with your throws. This will make the throw faster and more accurate.

© 2012 Rhys Baker


gay on November 21, 2018:


Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on August 26, 2012:

Thank you for this hub, TFScientist. The students at the school where I teach love to play dodgeball, but the rules have been a mystery to me, except for the fact that the players try to hit each other with the balls that they throw! I've bookmarked your hub and will use it as a reference source during the upcoming school year. I'm sure it's going to be useful!