How To Play Tetherball: Tetherball Rules

Girl Learning How To Play Tetherball In A School Yard.
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If you’re anything like me, tetherball was the coolest game to play as a child. But who says it can’t still be an awesome game for kids? In this post, I’ll teach (or re-teach) you how to play tetherball so that your entire family can enjoy it this summer.

The goal of this two-player game is to use your hands to hit a ball that’s suspended from a metal pole by a cord. You’ll hit the ball until the cord is completely wound up around the pole.

Even though the rules for tetherball are relatively simple, there are several things you should understand before you start playing. So, here’s a guide to everything you need to know to play a successful game of tetherball.

Table of Contents

Setting Up Your Tetherball Court
– Equipment
– Tetherball Court Dimensions
– Length of Pole
– Length of Rope Attached To Tetherball
What Are The Rules of Tetherball?
– Rules
– Penalties

Setting Up Your Tetherball Court

If you’re interested in playing tetherball, the first and most important step necessary for playing this sport is to set up your own tetherball court, which is easier than it might sound.


Creating a tetherball court is simple with the right equipment. While it’s possible to make your own tetherball court with concrete, stones, and some other supplies, this method can be costly and time-consuming.

A Tetherball Hanging Next To A Tetherball Pole.

Instead, we suggest purchasing the Lifetime Portable Tetherball System.

With this system in hand, you’ll have all of the equipment that you need to play a successful game of tetherball.

Base stabilizers at the bottom of the tetherball pole provide extra support to make sure that the pole remains in place as you play. Along with an eight-inch tetherball, you’ll also receive a 72-inch cord that’s outfitted with a steel attachment hook. The cord itself is made from soft nylon material.

As for the 30-inch base, it’s made of strong material and can hold up well against natural elements.

Note: This base can be filled with either water or sand to provide additional support as you play.

The pole itself is eight feet tall with a two-inch diameter. It’s made from durable steel and coated with an all-weather powder coating that ensures the pole won’t be adversely affected by the weather.

Because the base has a circular design, it’s easy to roll the tetherball pole to your desired location. Keep in mind that the system works well on nearly all surfaces, which include sand, concrete, and grass.

If you purchase this system, you’ll receive a five-year warranty for the pole and a 90-day warranty for the cord, ball, and clasp.

Tetherball Court Dimensions

If you want to create a tetherball court that’s as official as possible, there are five distinct areas to a tetherball court that you should be aware of. Each of these areas has its own specific dimensions.

Young Girl Learning How To Play Tetherball.

✔ Main Court – The main court should consist of a sizable circle surrounding the tetherball poll that’s around 20 feet in diameter.

✔ Neutral Zone – As for the neutral zone, you can set this zone as a no-players area or an area that both players can be in.

Two zones should be drawn that are both 60 degrees of the entire court. The play area should be comprised of two segments of 180 degrees apiece.

The foul circle should be three feet out from the tetherball pole and should have a six-foot diameter. No player is allowed to play from this area.

Length of Pole

The tetherball pole that you purchase should have a length of eight to ten feet (the portable tetherball system mentioned earlier is eight feet tall).

Keep in mind, the foul circle should be positioned differently depending on the height of the tetherball pole. If the pole is only eight feet tall, the foul circle should have a five-foot diameter around the pole.

On the other hand, the foul circle should be drawn with a six-foot diameter if you have a 10-foot pole.

Length of Rope Attached To Tetherball

As with every facet of the tetherball system that you use, the length of the rope that’s attached to the tetherball depends on the overall height of the pole itself.

Tetherball Court, Ball, Rope, and Tetherball Pole.

If you select a tetherball system that includes an eight-foot pole, the cord will be 72 inches in length. With a 10-foot pole, you should expect the rope to have a length of 96 inches. The tetherball that you use should always hang around two feet off the ground.

Note: If you want to play with official rules, a tetherball pole has a height of 10 feet and you’ll want to make sure that the ball is positioned two feet above the ground.

What Are The Rules of Tetherball?

Now that you’ve created a tetherball court, it’s time to take a look at the tetherball rules that you’ll be expected to follow. Understanding the rules is an important part of learning how to play tetherball.


✅ Players will take turns serving throughout a game of tetherball. Once the ball is wrapped around the pole, the other player will get their chance to serve.

✅ To serve, throw the ball up in the air and hit it towards the person receiving the ball. You can serve the ball in either direction to start out the match.

❌ Keep in mind that the server is unable to touch the ball again unless the other player strikes it or it wraps around the pole four times.

✅ When striking the ball, you can choose to hit the ball with a closed fist or open hand. You can also hit the ball with two hands.

Most players choose to vary how they hit the ball to make sure that they have the advantage. While closed fists are commonly used for power, open hands can provide better control.

❌ You’ll also want to pay attention so that you don’t touch the rope or the pole while the game is ongoing. If you do, a foul can be called.

❌ In the event that you step onto the other player’s side of the field, you would be offsides, which is another foul.

❌ It’s also a foul to throw or carry the ball. If the ball is touched by anything other than your hands or forearms, a foul would be called.

✅ While playing, the ball can only be hit once per revolution around the pole.


Breaking one of the above rules could lead to a penalty, which would give the other player the advantage.

Tetherball Court In A School Yard For Kids.

When a foul is committed accidentally, the ball will be taken around the pole and positioned exactly where the foul took place. From here, the other player can serve the tetherball and resume play.

If a foul is committed intentionally, the player who committed this foul must forfeit the entire game. No one wants to play with a poor sport.

When a foul is committed by both players at the same time, both players should place a hand on the ball and hold it around three feet away from the pole. The ball should be positioned on the line that separates both play areas. From here, the ball should be dropped and can be played by either player once it hits the pole.

How Do You Win At Tetherball?

The main goal of playing this game is to get the tetherball around the pole until there isn’t any rope left.

To win, a player must reach 7 points before the other player. But, a player can only win if they are up by two scores, like 7-5, for example.

If you’re up by a score of 7-6, you’ll still need to score again. The purpose of being up by at least two scores is that the match shouldn’t end if it’s still on serve. The only way to win is by breaking the other player’s serve.

Tiebreaks can also happen in tetherball, but they require a different set of rules. That’s why it’s easier to have a player win by two points.

How To Score A Tetherball Game?

In order to learn how to play tetherball, you’ll need to learn how to score a tetherball game. Luckily, it’s very easy.

As mentioned previously, a player can score in a tetherball game by wrapping the ball around the pole completely until there isn’t any rope remaining. When this occurs, the scoring player is up one game to zero.

Tetherball Frequently Asked Questions

Now that you know how to set up your tetherball court, how to play, and how to keep score, let’s dive into some of the most frequently asked questions about tetherball:

Can You Catch The Ball In Tetherball?

There are a number of illegal actions that cannot occur when playing a game of tetherball. These actions could result in a penalty for the player who commits them.

While you can safely strike the ball with your hand, you’re not allowed to catch, hold, or throw the ball. It’s also important that no other part of your body touches the tetherball.

Despite these rules and restrictions, you can use several different methods to strike the ball, depending on your overall preference.

For instance, it’s possible to strike the ball with an open or closed hand. You could even use both hands to strike the ball without a penalty being called.

Just make sure that you don’t touch the rope or pole at any point throughout the game.

What Is Carrying?

Carrying is a common foul that can be called during a game of tetherball. This foul occurs whenever a player touches the tetherball string, throws the ball, or catches the ball.

A School Yard Is The Perfect Place To Learn How To Play Tetherball.

It’s vital that players learn and know the fouls because overall, this will help you learn how to play tetherball correctly.

Who Serves First?

Anyone can choose to serve first. However, it’s possible for the server to be at a disadvantage throughout a game of tetherball, depending on the rules that you use.

To make it easier, you can always flip a coin to choose who will serve first in a game of tetherball.

What Are House Rules?

When you play any type of game or sport, you may hear the term “house rules”. These are unofficial modifications that one or more players can make to the official tetherball rules.

For instance, you could increase the difficulty of the game by choosing to only strike the ball with a closed fist, which is considered to be more difficult than hitting the ball with an open hand.

Since tetherball isn’t necessarily an official sport, you shouldn’t have any issues with adopting house rules if you want to make the games more varied. However, make sure that all players agree to these new rules before you try to use them.

Another common variation for tetherball is to remove the penalty for striking the ball with anything other than your hand. A beach tetherball variation allows players to strike the ball with their forearms, chest, or head for added variety.

Can I Make A DIY Tetherball?

It’s definitely possible to make your own DIY tetherball as long as you have the right equipment and enough time on your hands.

Some of the tools and materials that can help you make a DIY tetherball include:

  • An old tire and some spray paint
  • A galvanized pipe with a threaded end
  • Plastic sheeting and decorative stones
  • A 60 lb. bag of concrete to fill the tire
  • A couple of pieces of rebar
  • A tetherball with a rope and hook

Even though it’s possible to make your own DIY tetherball system, it’s highly recommended that you opt for a pre-made system.

When you purchase a pre-made system, the only thing you’ll need to do is use spray chalk or spray paint to mark the court boundaries. It is much easier this way.

Tetherball Safety Precautions

Tetherball is considered to be a safe game that can really be played by anyone who is at least four years old.

A School Yard With Foursquare Court, Basketball Hoops, and Tetherball Courts.

However, there are some basic safety precautions you should take to lessen the risk of injury and to make sure that everyone involved has a good time.

When you’re playing the game, it’s important that you always stand in the designated play area that’s on your side of the court. If you briefly move over to the other player’s area, it’s possible that you or the other player could become injured because of the fast-paced nature of this game.

By following this precaution, no one should get hit by the ball.

Another safety tip that you might want to follow is to push the ball with force as opposed to punching it with a long windup.

Even though tetherballs are soft and shouldn’t easily cause injury, they are still relatively large and are similar to volleyballs. While a penalty won’t be called when you punch the ball with a closed fist, it’s possible that the impact could cause an injury.

On the other hand, there’s very little chance that an injury will result from using the palm of your hand to strike the ball. It’s also easier to properly hit the ball with an open hand.

With these precautions in mind, the risk of injury is very low.

Best Strategies For Tetherball

Not only do you want to learn how to play tetherball, but you want to learn how to win, too. Right?

Tetherball Hanging Next To A Tetherball Pole.

While tetherball isn’t necessarily a competitive sport, it can bring out the competitive spirit in anyone who plays. If you want to make sure you have the upper hand in your next game of tetherball, there are key strategies that you should think about using during the match.

As mentioned, the goal for any game of tetherball is to wrap the ball around the pole until it no longer swings around. As you send the ball in one direction, the other player will be focusing on sending the ball in the opposite direction.

Even though this game may seem simple, using the right strategies can net you a win more often than not.

Offensive Tetherball Strategies

When you’re playing offense, you should be focusing entirely on keeping the tetherball in your control. When you see the other player adjusting their position to block the ball you hit, you should quickly respond by changing the angle at which you hit the ball.

With the right angle, you may be able to keep the ball out of the other player’s reach until it reaches your side of the court.

The best offensive drives are ones that keep the tetherball in your control for an extended period of time. However, many players make the mistake of hitting the ball with powerful force.

There are two issues with this approach.

For one, the angle is more important than the force you use to strike the ball. The other issue is that you could hit the ball so hard that you can no longer control it when it comes back around, which may give the momentum back to the other player.

Some additional tips for offense include:

  • Watch the movements your opponent makes
  • Make sure the ball always has momentum
  • Don’t use overpowered hits
  • Change your position to align yourself for the best hits

Defensive Tetherball Strategies

As for defensive strategies, your entire goal is to stop the other player from wrapping the ball around the pole.

Try changing your position regularly to place yourself in front of the ball. If your opponent is in the middle portion of the circle, you should move over to one side of the court, which should prevent the ball from sailing far over your head every time it comes around.

Girl Learning How To Play Tetherball In A School Yard.

While blocking the ball is great for reducing the ball’s momentum, you should go for the steal as opposed to the block.

If you can actually hit the ball back with momentum, it’s easier to gain full control of the ball. Strike the ball with two open hands for additional accuracy.

Some additional defensive tips include:

  • Try to anticipate where the ball will be when it gets to you
  • Gain control quickly
  • Always look at where your opponent is positioning themselves
  • Place yourself in front of the tetherball

A Final Note: How To Play Tetherball

Tetherball is a fantastic game once you know how to play it. Simply set up the court and watch as the kids spend hours playing tetherball with their friends. And the best part? Tetherball doesn’t require a lot of space in your backyard.

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