AskDefine | Define tetherball

Dictionary Definition

tetherball n : a game with two players who use rackets to strike a ball that is tethered to the top of a pole; the object is to wrap the string around the pole

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. A two-person sport where you hit a ball on the end of a tether attached to the top of a pole in opposte directions, and the winner is the one who manages to make the tether wrap all the way round the pole

Extensive Definition

Tetherball is a game for two opposing players. The equipment consists of a 10 ft (3 m), stationary metal pole, from which is hung a ball from a rope, or tether. The two players stand on opposite sides of the pole. Each player tries to hit the ball one way; one clockwise, and one counterclockwise. The game ends when one player manages to wind the ball all the way around the pole so that it is stopped by the rope.


Rules vary from region to region and even from one court to another, and there is no definitive set of rules that everyone follows.
The game begins when one player serves the ball, usually by holding it in one hand and hitting it with the other. The opposing player then attempts to return the serve by hitting it in the opposite direction. The object is to hit the ball in such a way that one's opponent will be unable to alter the ball's direction; this gives the server an advantage since the server has more control over the ball from the beginning. It is generally acceptable to hit the ball with either the fist or the open hand.
A player can commit a violation by stepping onto his opponent's half of the pole, by catching and throwing ("carrying") the ball, by striking the rope instead of the ball, or by hitting the ball twice before it has either circled the pole or been returned by the opponent (or, in some variants, struck the pole). Generally, after a violation occurs, the game pauses and the ball is returned to the position it was in before the violation; the number of wraps around the pole is re-created. The player who did not commit the violation then serves the ball. If, however, the violation appears to be intentional, it may result in loss of game.
The game ends when one player hits the ball around the pole in their own direction as far as it will go, so that the ball hits the pole. In addition, the ball must strike the pole with the final wrap above a line marked on the pole. A five-foot high mark is satisfactory, though a lower mark might be used for younger players. A match can consist of one, three, five, or more games.


Tetherball requires only a stationary pole, a rope, and a ball. Originally a volleyball was used, but today many sporting goods manufacturers make tetherballs specifically out of a butyl bladder and a rubber cover. The ball is roughly the size and weight of a volleyball, but is somewhat firmer. Tetherballs usually have a bar recessed in the top that the rope is tied to. Some simply have loops that protrude out, but this is less common as striking the loop with the hand can be painful.
The pole must be 10 feet (3 m) high and completely stationary, meaning that it must either be weighed down (often by a concrete-filled tire), or, in more serious tetherball courts, embedded in the ground. The rope is generally slender nylon, and is long enough that the ball hangs 2 ft (0.6 m) above the ground.
Tetherball is played on many surfaces: sand, gravel, lawn, asphalt, or others. Since it requires only a small area to play in, it can also be played indoors.
An alternate version of the game and sold as Swingball uses a smaller, softer ball that the players strike with racquets. It can be described as "tether tennis", and is more popular in the United Kingdom. Swingball has a shorter pole, is portable and the ball flies around the pole at a constant distance from the pole on a helical screw; the game ends when the ball reaches the top or bottom of the screw. Generally the ball used for these games is a tennis ball, and the racquets can come from ping-pong or games with similar paddles.


Tetherball is an informal sport, and has not seen any organization beyond contests within schools, summer camps, or towns. Professional tetherball does not exist.


There is a version of this game called Swingball, where the two opposing players hold bats, and hit a tennis ball that is connected onto the rope. This is substantially different from Tetherball. However, the term Swingball refers to an entire different game involving swings and a soccer ball. In Australia this game is called Totem Tennis.
There is an alternate version called "pole", where many people can play. The object of the game is to not hit the pole with the ball. However, you may hit the pole on a serve. You may swing the ball any way you like, but if you hit the pole with the ball, you are out. The last person standing wins.

External links

tetherball in French: Tetherball
tetherball in Portuguese: Espirobol
tetherball in Finnish: Salkopallo
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