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What Is Tetherball?

What Is Tetherball

Tetherball is an incredibly simple game that consists of a pole, a rope and a ball. The game equipment is inexpensive and the rules are simple. You’ll likely find a tetherball court in school yards, parks and other public places. But what is tetherball about and what does the game entail? If you have questions about tetherball that need answering, you’ve come to the right place.

Essentially, tetherball involves players attempting to hit a ball attached to a pole with the aim of wrapping it around the pole. If this is something you’d like to try, keep reading to learn everything you need to know about tetherball.

What Is Tetherball Game

Tetherball is a game in which two players attempt to hit a tethered ball so that it completely wraps around the pole and stops. You can play this game on grass fields or concrete surfaces. Both children and adults of different fitness levels can enjoy tetherball and the best part is that you can make a tetherball court easily, without spending a lot of money.

There are always two players in a tetherball game, which can last anywhere from a few minutes to a couple of hours. One player serves the ball in a chosen direction and the opponent tries to hit it back.

Tip: Since tetherball requires constant movement, it can serve as a cardio exercise.

The main objective of tetherball is to hit the ball around the pole. The tetherball rope gets shorter as it wraps around the pole, making the game more difficult for both players. The match ends when the rope has wrapped around the pole so tightly that it can’t wrap around it anymore.

Click here to find the best tetherball sets.

Tetherball Gameplay

During a game of tetherball, players typically hit the ball back and forth. The goal is to try to hit it out of the reach of the other player. If your opponent misses the ball, it will wrap around the pole once and come back to you. You now have another chance to hit the ball and get it to wrap around the pole again.

While aiming to get the final wrap around the pole, you have to ensure that you stay within your play area. You lose a point if you cross over to your opponent’s side or enter any out-of-bound zones.

Tip: Like in any other game, the best strategy for winning tetherball is to identify your opponent’s weakness. For example, if you’re playing against a shorter opponent, you have a height advantage. In this case, try to hit the ball high and above the player’s reach.

Tetherball Court Setup

Tetherball Court Setup

Now let’s go over everything you need to know about setting up a permanent tetherball court.

Court Dimensions – A traditional tetherball court has a diameter of 20 feet (6 m) and is divided into four sections. The court will serve as the playing area for the game and players must stay in the circle while playing.

Tip: When constructing a tetherball court for children, make the court 6 feet (1.8 m) in diameter.

Divide the court into four sections. You can draw a big “X” at the center of the court circle. The upper and lower parts of the tetherball court will serve as each player’s play area, while the other two sections of the court will be foul areas or out of bounds.

Note: You can also split the court into two sections (one for each player), so there is no foul area or out-of-bound zone.

Tetherball Pole – The pole should be 10 feet (3 m) high when measured from the ground to the top. You must place the pole at the center of the court. When using a permanent pole, you have to bury it in the ground, whereas if you use a temporary pole, you can put it in the center of the court. Click here for more details on the height of a tetherball pole.

Tetherball Rope – For a 10-foot tetherball pole, you need a rope that is about 7 feet (2.1 m) long. The rope’s length varies depending on the length of the pole. The goal is to keep the ball a few meters above the ground level while it’s hanging from the rope.

You can adjust the rope length based on the dimensions of the other equipment. For example, if you want to use an 8-foot (2.4 m) pole, make the rope about 6 feet (1.8 m) long so the ball hangs about 2 feet (60 cm) above the ground. These dimensions work better for kids who may struggle to play with the traditional setup.

How To Play Tetherball

How To Play The Game Of Tetherball

Now that you know how to set up a tetherball court, it’s time to start playing the game. Let’s briefly go over the game basics.

Visit our how-to guide to learn how to play tetherball like a pro.


Tetherball rules are pretty straightforward, but you can add some house rules to make the game more interesting. We’ll review the standard tetherball rules first, followed by some house rules you can add when playing in your backyard.

Standard Tetherball Rules

Standard Tetherball Rules

Here are the standard rules that you must follow when playing tetherball:

  • You can only hit the ball with one hand or your forearm.
  • You can only hit the ball once.
  • You must not hold or catch the ball rope.
  • Players must stay within the play area throughout the game.
  • You cannot touch the pole.
  • Players cannot hit the ball outside their play area.

Tetherball House Rules

You can make the game more interesting by using the following rules when playing at home:

  • You can divide the court into two sides without foul areas.
  • You can hit the ball twice when it’s on your side.
  • If you cross to your opponent’s side of the court, it does not result in a loss. Instead, the opponent gets to serve the ball.
  • You can hit the ball with any part of your body.
  • You can hold the ball for 2 seconds. This is a good rule for younger players learning how to play.
  • You must win the game by 2 points.

Note: You can choose any of these house rules to play by them at home or you can create your own rules.


Tetherball Serving

A tetherball game starts with a serve. One player will serve the ball to the other player, who will try to return it and it goes on in that fashion. How you decide who serves first is up to you. Some players flip a coin or play rock, paper, scissors. Others simply hold the ball over the foul line and let it go. After the ball hits the pole, whoever’s side it bounces to will serve first.

In most cases, whoever wins the first round becomes the server for the next round and the game continues in this manner. The server must wrap the tetherball around the pole in the opposite direction before making the first serve.

Violations And Penalties

During a standard game of tetherball, players must not touch the pole or rope. You’re also not allowed to cross over the line into your opponent’s side or any areas that are out of bounds. Breaking any of these rules generally results in the player losing the game. Players can, however, decide to continue the game. In this case, play restarts with the non-offending player serving.

Note: If both players commit a foul simultaneously, the match restarts with the original server serving the ball again.

Winning The Game

Tetherball - Winning The Game

To win the game, you must wrap the ball around the pole until the rope runs out. Tetherball doesn’t have a rule regarding the number of points you need to win a game. Therefore, the players must also decide how many games they will play in a match to declare the overall winner.

Most tetherball games consist of seven matches, worth a point each. The first player to win four matches wins the game. A player can win a point by getting the tethered ball to wrap around the pole so tightly that it can’t wrap around the pole again. You can also win a point if your opponent commits a foul during the match.

Some house rules may require you to gain a lead by two points to win against your opponent. According to this rule, the next match does not determine the winner if you and the other player have three points each after the first six games. You would have to score five points to win a game against an opponent with three points.

Go here to read tetherball rules in detail.

How Tall Is A Tetherball Pole?

How Tall Is A Tetherball Pole

A tetherball pole should be 10 feet (3 m) tall when setting up a standard game for adults. For a tetherball pole of this length, you need to attach a rope that’s 7 feet (2.1 m) long. If you’re installing a permanent tetherball pole, make sure it’s 12 feet (3.6 m) long because you’ll have to bury the extra 2 feet (60 cm) into the ground.

You can install an 8-foot (2.4 m) pole with a 6-foot (1.8 m) long rope on courts for younger players. This setup will ensure that the ball hangs just 2 feet above the ground and is within the child’s reach.

Note: You can choose between permanent and portable tetherball poles online. Portable poles are not as durable as permanent ones, but they’re easier to install.

Is Tetherball A Sport?

Tetherball is not a sport. Even though the game has grown increasingly popular over the years, it is not officially recognized as a sport. To be considered a sport, a game must have an official body that governs the rules and gameplay, which tetherball does not have. Today, tetherball has a few standard rules that players around the world observe. However, many players have developed additional rules to make the game more entertaining.

There are different variations of tetherball with slightly different rules. British citizens in the 19th century played the game with a tennis ball attached to the pole rather than the regular volleyball-sized ball.

Even though tetherball is not officially a sport, it is still a fun game to play and serves as a great cardio exercise. Tetherball is an excellent outdoor game for people of all ages. You can play both competitive and casual games against other tetherball enthusiasts.

Brief History Of Tetherball

Brief History Of Tetherball

There is a lot of uncertainty about the origin of tetherball. Many people believe the Tatars, who lived in the modern-day Russia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, invented the game. Legend has it that the Tatars would hang the heads of their fallen enemies on a pole and hit them back and forth with a stick.

However, tetherball, as it is today, originated in the 1800s. Well-off citizens in England played the game using a tennis ball tethered to a pole. Back then, players would hit the ball back and forth using a racket.

Note: Many players preferred playing tetherball to tennis because they didn’t need to chase the ball all over the court.

Somewhere along the line, players stopped using rackets to hit the tethered ball and used their hands instead. This made tetherball even easier for the average person to play. In the 1900s, people no longer used tennis balls and tethered volleyball-sized balls to the pole instead.

Tetherball continued to grow in popularity in England and the United States throughout the 1900s because the set was inexpensive and easy to set up. Today, you can find tetherball courts in school play areas, public parks and many other places for recreational activities.

Frequently Asked Questions

Tetherball is a fun game in which two players attempt to hit a ball attached to a pole so that the ball completely wraps around the pole. The game ends when a player hits the ball and it wraps around the pole, so another wrap is impossible. Both children and adults can play tetherball and the game is easy to set up.

Tetherball is also called swingball or tether tennis sometimes. In this version of the game, players attach tennis balls to the pole instead of the regular volleyball-sized balls. The players can also decide to hit the ball with tennis rackets rather than their hands. Tether tennis is great for little children who may struggle to play tetherball with a large ball.

The goal of tetherball is to hit the ball attached to a rope around a stationary pole until the rope completely wraps around the pole. The players stand on opposite ends of the pole, knocking the ball back and forth. When you repeatedly knock the ball past your opponent, it wraps around the pole tightly.

Tetherball was invented as an alternative to tennis. Some well-off citizens in England found the game more desirable than tennis because they didn’t need to chase the ball all over the court. The game grew in popularity around the 1900s and many companies developed their own versions of game sets to sell them.

Tetherball became popular in the 1900s because it was inexpensive and simpler to set up than most other games. Tetherball is also easier to play and highly entertaining because it allows players to modify the rules. These days, you can easily find tetherball courts in school playgrounds, public parks and beaches.


If you have read the article, you now have a clear answer to your question, “What is tetherball?” Tetherball is a highly entertaining game that is easy to set up and play. This is the game for you if you’re looking for a fun alternative to tennis that requires very little space to play.

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