A Quick History of Dodgeball

If you grew up in America in the 90s or prior, chances are you grew up with the sport of dodgeball in schools. It’s a game where two teams rush at the start to get possession of a dodgeball, which they then throw with the purpose of hitting an opposing player while avoiding throws from the opposing team. Not only is it a ton of fun, but it’s also become an American pastime in its own way. Here at Rebounderz, we love dodgeball, and even have our own dodgeball arena in Grand Rapids, MI. Here, we would like to give you a quick overview of the history of the sport.

Where did it come from?

There’s a lot of speculation as to the origins of the sport of dodgeball. Nobody knows for sure, or at least has been able to prove it. One line of thought is that it originated in Africa, where a much more serious and dangerous version of the sport was played. Instead of of a soft, malleable leather ball, rocks were used, and with the intent to hurt. Injury was the goal, rather than something to be avoided. Rather than being “out” when hit, a player would just continue to get pelted with rocks unless his team could draw attention away from the opponents.

But how did it make its way into the western world? Again, we are stuck with speculation, but a common claim is that a doctor by the name of James Carlisle saw the sport while performing missionary work. The story goes that he was impressed with the agility and skill of the players, and would watch them play for hours. When he made his way back to Europe, he brought stories of the sport with him all the way to St. Mary’s College in Norfolk where he taught.
He made some of the changes that put dodgeball on its course to its current iterations, like replacing rocks with a leather ball. However, the game was still very different than what we know today; for instance, players weren’t out when they were hit, and there were no space restrictions on where players could move.

It wasn’t until 1884, when St Mary’s college hosted members from Yale University, that one in that party (Philip Ferguson) caught his eye on the game and took it to America. He is also the one credited with making most of the rules that we know today, like having set play areas for each team.


That’s a pretty amazing journey for a sport! The story comes from a group called GOMammoth in the UK. Unlike with many other sports, there isn’t much of a recorded history for dodgeball, and so it’s less authoritative. That doesn’t change the fact that it’s a blast to play, though! Here at Rebounderz, we have a dodgeball arena in Grand Rapids, MI, great for kid’s birthday parties. With a supervising referee, you can be sure your kids can have fun in a safe environment. Give us a call today to find out more.

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