Games, Challenges and Competitions

My Favorite 18 Dodgeball Variations

I LOVE Dodgeball and so do most campers. While traditional Dodgeball is my favorite campers sometimes need variations to keep it interesting. Here are my favorite 18 variations. You may have different rules depending on the variations or may have heard them called something else, but this is how I play and the names I know them by.

Don’t see your favorite here? Let us know about it in the comments area below.

  1. Barrier Dodgeball – In this variation barriers are set out for players to be able to hide behind. I have used things like gym mats propped up on their sides, large cones, tables laid on their sides, chairs and refrigerator boxes. If you find that players are just hanging out behind a barrier then let them know they have to change barriers on the sound of the whistle. This gets them up and moving. Using large cones is good too since campers are still a bit exposed when they try to hide behind them.
  2. Island Dodgeball – Teams must stand on a large mat or tarp as they play. Only one player at a time may step off to collect balls but they cannot throw them unless they are on the “island”.
  3. Powerball – The referee holds the powerball, a larger or different colored ball. Occasionally during the game the referee will roll the ball along the center line. Players have 10-15 seconds to retrieve the ball and get it to the referee without getting hit. If they are successful one of their teammates who has been in jail the longest gets to return to the game. You may impose rules like, once the powerball is picked up that player cannot be hit, or once the powerball is returned to the referee the player gets a free walk to the back line.
  4. Hoop Shoot Dodgeball – If you are playing on a basketball court players can opt to shoot their dodgeball at the opposing team’s basket. They must shoot it from their own side of the court.  If they make the basket (a rarity) all of their team’s players in jail get to return to the game. It’s like a “jail-break” for that one team.
  5. Opposite Hand Dodgeball – All players must throw with their non-dominant hand. This is hilarious to watch.
  6. Crackabout – This is an “every person for themselves” type of game. There must be specific boundaries (we play in a small community room). Players can run anywhere they want in the room, or within the boundaries. Play starts with the referee throwing the ball in the air. The player that gets it can throw it at someone or take up to three steps, no more, before they throw it. The player that retrieves it must do the same, take up to three steps (or hops) before throwing it. Meanwhile the other players can run around and dodge the ball. If a player is hit they must sit down where they are (essentially they are frozen). If the player that got them out gets hit they are back in the game (unfrozen). Also, players can catch the ball to save themselves and get the thrower to sit down. So game play goes on for a while. This is our teens favorite version of “Dodgeball”.
  7. Four Quadrants – This is where the large square playing area is divided into four smaller squares. Each area is home to a team (four teams are playing, obviously). Play is just like normal Dodgeball except that players must be watching three other teams instead of just one. This variation makes it hard to “hide”.
  8. Jedi – One player from each team is chosen to be the Jedi. Jedis start the game inside of a Hula-Hoop which is their “circle of force”. When a player is hit the must sit down. Jedis can heal them by tagging them. If the Jedi has to come out of their “circle of force” to heal someone and they get hit by a ball they are out. Each player that gets hit after the Jedi is out goes out as well. Once a player, or Jedi, is out they cannot return even if someone catches a ball. You may give the Jedi a lightsaber (foam noodle) to carry. They can use the saber to tag their fallen teammates. This gives them a bit more reach from their “circle of force”. I don’t use the lightsabers personally, but have seen other activity directors use them.
  9. Medic – This is similar to Jedi except their is no “circle of force” for the Medic to “hide” in.
  10. Protect the King– One player is chosen to be the King (or Queen). The other players are Knights and must not only battle the other team (by playing Dodgeball, of course) but they must protect their King (or Queen). Once the King or Queen gets hit the game is over.
  11. Cosmic Dogeball – This variation is regular Dodgeball but with the lights off. We use glow-in-the-dark dodgeballs. We also replace the lights with blacklights so people can still be seen (especially if they are wearing white). This , of course, has to be played inside. you can also have players wear glow necklaces for fun. For added effect throw in some DJ lighting and music.
  12. Poisonball – This is the way we played Dodgeball as a kids. There are no teams. The last person standing is the winner. All players, except for one, start inside the playing area (a large circle the size of a GaGa pit, half of a basketball court, or some other coned off area). One player is outside of the area and begins by trying to hit the players inside the playing area. Once a player is hit they join the player(s) on the outside. The players on the inside do not get to throw balls, they only get to dodge. The last person inside the area is the winner and starts the next game on the outside.
  13. Traitor Ball – Normal Dodgeball rules apply except when a player gets hit they must go to the other side (become a traitor). The game ends when all players are on one side or the time is up.
  14. Pinball – Three pins (plastic bowling pins, 2-liter bottles, or whatever else you can think of) are placed at the back line of each side. They are placed equal distance from each other on the line. The goal of the teams are to either get all the players out on the other team or to knock down all three of the opposing teams “pins”. Once a pin is knocked down it must stay down, even if it was knocked over by a players foot accidentally.
  15. Protect the President – Players are on the outside of one playing are while two of the players are inside. One of the inside players is the President and the other is the bodyguard. As players on the outside throw balls at the President the bodyguard must protect the President with their body. The bodyguard can block the balls with his/her hands, legs, chest, etc. Once the President is hit the bodyguard becomes the President and the President becomes the bodyguard. Once the “new” President gets hit the two are out and the next duo gets a turn. i like to time the pairs to see who lasts the longest.
  16. Rapid Fire – Three Hula Hoops are placed in the middle of the playing area. Each Hula Hoop has one player (thrower) and three dodgeballs in it. The object is for everyone else to get from one side of the playing area to the other without getting hit. It’s sort of like Sharks and Minnows except that the “sharks” must stay in the Hula Hoop and when the minnows get hit they are out. Once the survivors get across, the throwers may retrieve their balls before the next round starts. Throwers can only throw dodgeballs while they are in their Hula Hoop but they can leave their hoop to retrieve balls at any time. The last three survivors get to be the throwers in the next game.
  17. Nine-Lives Dodgeball – Actually we play Three-Lives Dodgeball. Each player is given three strip of fabric to tie around their arm. Each time they are hit they must take off a strip. when a player runs out of strips they are out of the game.
  18. Fitness Dodgeball – We play this one with the younger campers because they don’t like to sit out. When a player gets hit they must stop where they are and do 20 jumping jacks or three push-ups before they continue playing.

39 Comments

  • My students LOVE playing the Jedi version. Every time we play it I have a gaggle of students begging me to be the first Jedi knights. Thanks for the other dodgeball ideas.

    • There’s something about being a Jedi that kids, especially boys, love. I think you can add Jedis to any game and make it more appealing in the process.

  • Hey Curt,

    These are awesome ideas that I am going to remember as a P.E teacher! Quick question: where can you find black lights?

    • Thanks, Langston. You can get blacklights online at Amazon, companies that carry Halloween products and companies that carry DJ equipment.

  • We did a version we called “Snack Break” where we lined up snacks on the center line. If you could grab the snack and make it to the back line without getting hit by a ball, you got to keep it. We had several rounds, and used Pez, cans of Pringles, Snack Pies, liters of soda, gum, Goldfish. We even had a t-shirt round. The kids went CRAZY for the prizes!

  • We used to play a version called “Vanguard” that I can’t find the rules to anywhere! Similar to the Jedi version but the Vanguard had a box on the opposing team’s side. Vanguard could eliminate members of the other team, or if their own team members threw them a ball and it was caught everyone on the Vanguard’s team was back in. If the Vanguard tried to get an opposing team member out and the ball was caught, VG was out and so were any other team members subsequently hit. Has anyone ever heard of this?

  • I haven’t seen this version of Pinball we used to play. Each team has a pin (empty gallon jug) and a guard holding a ball and on his knees in front of the pin to fend off the incoming balls. Each team is playing traditional dodge ball, trying to hit others from the other team and getting them out, but also trying to hit the guard to get him out. If you get the guard out, it leaves the pin wide open to be knocked over= game over. Team members can take over as guard, but eventually it comes down to one guard protecting the pin and the other side taking aim until he’s out and the pin is theirs to knock over. It was a lot of fun!

  • i think a really good one was definitely the traitor dodgeball, its nice to see a twist where you have to be in the majority but still fight for your team and make a come back!!!

  • Steal the Chicken/Bacon Dodgeball
    I play steal the chicken or steal the bacon dodgeball….we use rubber chickens or pigs…we have 4 mats which are the chicken coops or pig pens….there are 2 teams 1 hula hoop with the chicken or pig inside it towards the end of the gym….2 mats (chicken coops or pig pens) on each side (put at the ends of the playing field….the mats are where they go when they are out…the only way to get back in is to have your teammate throw you a ball & you catch it in the air with both feet on the mat…..whatever line they are allowed to of to & throw the ball they can now cross anytime as long as they don’t have a ball & try to steal the chicken or pig….If the other team taps you you go to the mat, if you steal the chicken or pig and make it back and place it in your hula hoop you win…you also win by getting all the other team out….some other rules are if the cross the line to steal the chicken they cannot kick balls or bring balls back with them, they may however bring the ball back with them & they catch it while they are out, no passing the chicken or pig whoever picks it up must put it in their hoop, once they cross the throwing line the other team must hit them with the ball not tag them

  • Curt, thanks for these great ideas. I am coaching an after school activity for dodgeball and will use many of these. We’ve been doing a variation that I call “No-mans-land.” There is a line both teams cannot cross, but a space about 15 feet in the middle where these lines overlap. Both teams can go in this area, creating a high risk, high reward zone called “no-mans-land.” The kids seem to really enjoy it.

  • kids just came back from camp and played a version called “Justice.” Heard of it? Know how to play? I tried asking them but my old person brain can’t seem to interpret their responses.

    • Sorry, Rich, I have not heard of Justice. Sounds interesting, though. If you ever find out the rules, let me know.

      • Justice: (at least the rules I have so far) Everyone sitting in a circle in chairs and use a balloon ball is best (cheap ones you get at store that are hard to catch but not too bouncy). A facilitator is needed to pick random time frames (like musical chairs) and referee. Players throw the ball from their seat. First throw cannot be blocked or you’re out – either catch it or let it hit the person it was going for. Last person the ball hit when time runs out is out. When a person is out, they can sit on the floor in front of another person and block the ball from hitting them. You can only get out of your chair to retrieve a loose ball that hit you – and if so, you can run around the circle to throw the ball from anywhere. But if you are out of your chair and the ball hits your chair – that is the same as the ball hitting you.

        I think you can make up the rest however you want. You can pile up ppl on the floor to block remaining survivors. Or you can completely remove a ‘blocker’ when the ‘blockee’ gets out – then that blockee can become a blocker. Use some creativity to finish off each round.

  • We do a version called BodyBall. If you get hit in the arm, you lose it, and have to put it behind and have to throw with the other hand, if you get hit in the leg, you hop on one leg, both legs you are on your knees, both arms you can only dodge, if hit anywhere else you choose which body part you lose, if you lose everything you roll around on the floor.

  • We play a game called batman and robin where you pick a batman and robin. You also pick 3-4 villains that are on a team. The rest of the people that you haven’t picked yet are citizens. Batman and robin run around and when the citizens are hit batman or robin have 5 seconds to save the person who was hit. If they don’t save the citizens in time then the citizens go with the villains when a villain gets hit the are out of the game. When either batman and robin are both villains or all of the villains are out, the game is over

  • Mission Impossible. Divide students into 4 teams with each team in a different colored pinny. Each team starts in a corner of the gym with 2 balls. At the starting signal they can run anywhere and throw balls at opposing players. When hit a student must sit down but when the person that hit them goes down they can then rejoin the game. A team wins if every other team is totally down while their whole steam is standing. Sometimes one game take an entire gym period.

    • Sheldon, this version seems like it would be utter chaos…and a whole lot of fun. 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

  • “Crackabout” is known as leriche where I’m from (luh-RISH). It’s easily the my favorite form of dodgeball out there. The cool thing about it is that alliances in general tend to be natural, which makes way for some awesome gameplay dynamics. A game of leriche/crackabout becomes a live-action wartime soap opera for all parties involved. Backstabbing and betrayal is a rampant theme of the game, and it can lead to heartbreak and spite for allies and enemies alike. Warlords can have long moments of glorious rampage, but their reign of terror can be crumbled in the blink of an eye, either by an unfortunate misstep or an unsuspected pelting by a trusted teammate. You don’t get that in regular dodgeball.

    Another great thing about crackabout/leriche is how you stay engaged the entire time. When you get out in classical dodgeball, the round is over for you. You traipse over to the bench by the edge of the field and lazily watch the rest of the game continue without you. You may be invested in your team winning, but it’s like watching your favorite sports team playing on television. You’re interested in the outcome, but you’re not really engaged. In crackabout/leriche, that’s far from the case. When you get out, you follow the game like an eagle follows its prey. The person who got you out is the center of your attention, and you eagerly await the moment where he finally falls. His friends are your enemies, and his enemies are your best hope at getting back in. If you’re situated properly, you also may wish to watch the ball with your second eye in hopes that it may come back to you. In the process, you will witness all of the drama and excitement that the others are experiencing, and you’ll in turn experience it yourself. After all, you’re affected by what happens in the game, and at any moment, you can hop right back in. God, I love that game!

        • Haha…I forgot that I added that name. We used to play that variation a lot but called it Mushroom Ball for some reason. I have no idea where that name came from. When I first posted the list I had it as Mushroom Ball, then a friend of mine said it was actually called Crackabout. So I changed the name on the post. Now I guess it has a second name, Leriche. Your comment makes so much more sense now, too. Plus, it’s so well written.

  • Thanks for the ideas, I am the CSM of my JROTC program and my cadets (myself included) are really into dodgeball. After so long medic ball and conventional dodgeball gets a little old. Tomorrow is PT I think I will sugest that four team varient. Thanks again! -C/CSM Moon 4th Brigaid 48th Screaming Eagle Battalion

  • Great suggestions! I will be using some of these this week at our home school co-op!

    I grew up playing “Mushroom Ball” (a.k.a. Crackabout), however with one variation. If you are out (sitting on the ground/floor) you can get back in by the traditional methods (catching a ball or throwing a ball and hitting someone standing) or you can get back in by tagging someone who is still up. A person who is tagged by someone sitting is then out and must sit down. You must be in a sitting position and cannot move from your spot to tag someone (so they must run by within arms reach to get them). This adds a whole other dynamic to the game as those who are up have to worry about balls hitting them and being tagged by those sitting around them!

  • Where I come from Crackabout Dodgeball is known as “3-Step”. I know of a variation of it called Chaos where it is Crackabout but you can take unlimited steps and there is more than one ball.

  • Our version of “Crackabout” is called CONTINUUM. We play on a large athletic field. We make a circle of cones 50-150 feet in diameter depending on how many people are playing. We regularly play this with 50-100 kids at a time. Everyone starts outside of the circle and we have 12-24 dodgeballs piled up in the center of the circle. We yell GAME ON and everyone runs into the center of the circle and the balls start flying…if you get hit, then you have to go and sit outside of the circle until the person that got you out gets out. This game doesn’t really have an ending point, it is virtually impossible to win(unless you are only playing with 10-20 people)…hence the name Continuum.

    • Hahaha…Wow…I’d call that game “Mayhem”. How do you make sure kids aren’t cheating. It would seem that it would be hard to referee that kind of game. On the other hand, it sounds like a lot of fun to play. That’s just a lot of people and dodgeballs. You would have to rely on the integrity of the campers for sure.

  • The versions of Crackabout/Leriche/Mushroom Ball/3-step/Continuum that I recall playing had no boundaries except for whatever natural boundaries existed where the game was played. The cool thing about this version of the game is that gameplay no matter what will gravitate towards the ball, so the only thing that adding boundaries would do is give those not holding the ball more room to run away when somebody else has it. This would then give the thrower less time to make their throwing calculation, since at some point, everyone’s going to be too far away.

    One time, I played this game with a group of around 40 other people. Gameplay was on a big outdoor soccer field surrounded by woods, and we actually ended up playing through to the end. It took more than 3 hours of continuous gameplay, but a victor eventually managed to knock everyone else down. That was a battle worth remembering.

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