Gone Outdoors

The History of Tetherball

by Bobby Gee

We all played tetherball as kids. It was a ball attached to a pole with a rope. You batted the ball around the pole in attempt to knock the person out. Just kidding, but as you know, kids will be kids. Who knew that tetherball had rules on how to play the game. Tetherball even had a modicum of strategy involved. There was a definite winner and loser in the game of tetherball.

The Equipment

Tetherball consists of a 10-foot pole that is firmly secured in the ground. A ball is attached to the end of a rope. The length of the rope is 8 feet. The tetherball is made from soft rubber.

Object of The Game

The object of tetherball is to wrap the ball attached to the rope around the pole. The person who does this first is declared the winner.

Rules of The Game

Two people play tetherball. Each person stands on opposite sides of the pole. Both players are not permitted to cross the imaginary centerline. One person is assigned to be the server. The server can either use an open hand or a fist to serve the ball. Players are not permitted to catch the ball and throw it. Players are not permitted to touch the rope of the tetherball. Both players must use an open hand or fist to propel the tetherball around the pole.

The Game

Once the ball is served, the other player hits the ball back in the opposite direction. One player hits the ball in a clockwise motion while the other player hits the ball in a counterclockwise motion. Each player tries to hit the ball in such a fashion that the other player cannot alter the tetherball's direction. A winner is declared when the ball is fully wrapped around the pole. The final wrap must be above the centerline of the pole.

Strategies of Tetherball

Some players will use a one- or two-fisted punch of the ball. A few players will employ using their fingers to hit the ball while others will use the palm of their inside hand to hit the ball. Some players will employ what is called the "sacrifice wrap." This means your opponent's attack ball is hit too high, and the defending player will hit the ball back in the same direction. This will allow you to hit a better return ball and take control of the game. Some players will keep moving from side to side so they can steal the ball from the opponent.

Origins of Tetherball

The origins of tetherball remain a huge mystery. Here are some of the guesses historians have about the origin of tetherball. One theory traces the origin of tetherball to a 9th century ritual practiced by the Tatars of putting the head of a fallen foe on a rope and attaching the head to a pole and beating the head with a stick. The Tatars are a Turkic ethnic group who inhabited Russia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Ukraine. Another guess traces the origins of tetherball to the Maypole rituals. In these rituals, villagers would put tethers on a pole and begin to pull at the tethers and dance around the pole. No one knows for sure who invented the game of tetherball. Since tetherball is not a recognized sport, it does not have a professional league. The origins and inventor of the game will remain a mystery.

About the Author

Robert Glessner is a former sportswriter, political writer and sports broadcaster. A published novelist, Glessner's book "Quando Temp Vez" can be purchased on Amazon.com. Currently, he writes for AssociatedContent. Glessner earned his Bachelor of Arts from Lycoming College in Williamsport, Pa.