Game Review: Tetherball

Disclaimer: There may or may not be sarcasm presented in this article.

Tetherball. You know, that game Napoleon Dynamite slays. The game that you pretty much only play because you happened upon it in someone’s backyard, or at the park, or on the playground. So why are we even rating it? Because it is a classic! And we want to cover all our bases. And in case you are wondering, we are very much aware that Wikipedia–the source of all truth on the internet–makes the clear distinction that tetherball is not a sport—just an outdoor activity.

We have a tetherball and ours is a tire with cement in it. We won’t be linking that version here, since we don’t even know where it came from, but we found some other options that look super cool: Light up tetherball, tetherball pole in the ground, or a regular tetherball (we do actually own this specific ball).

  • Time to set up: As we mentioned before, this game is usually set up already when you go to play it. If you know anyone who has actually set one up, please let me know because I’m convinced that there are tetherball fairies that set up the game one day and it just stays for a lifetime. I jest, but setting up the game for the first time usually requires tying a rope to a ball and that rope to a pole. That’s pretty much it. Just think of how long it takes you to tie your shoe and multiply it by 2. It should be fairly easy to tie.
  • Duration of game: Thinking back to elementary school when I last played professionally under contract of a lunch made by my mom, games could last anywhere from as long as it takes for the rope to wrap around the pole, or, in a more evenly matched round, kids could hit the ball back and forth for what seemed like forever if you were waiting in line to play. In other words, 5 seconds to 3 minutes. If you’re the 5 second’er, I feel for you.  
  • Number of players that are needed/can participate: Two. Dos. Dois. Deux. 双. Sorry if I missed your language.
  • Where it can be played? I mean, if the pole’s cemented in the ground then you’re probably going to play it right there. *points at pole.* Unless of course you can miraculously pull some sword-in-the-stone type deal and yank it out. That would be pretty impressive, but I highly recommend against it because then your pole no longer has a home or a purpose—and frankly,  it wouldn’t work well as a sword anyways. Bottom line, it can be played anywhere the pole is cemented.
    Like I said above, we have the tetherball that’s made from sticking a pole in a tire and cementing it all together. It seems like a good idea, but make sure to seriously consider the commitment before you cement an 80-pound pole/tire game to dwell in your backyard for eternity. The one we have in the backyard right now that grandma put back there was installed—well—I’m pretty sure it’s been there since man first walked on the moon. I wonder if tetherball would work on the moon? 
  • How to play? Each player takes a position on opposite sides of the pole (imagine semicircle boundaries for each person). One player aims to hit the ball clockwise, the other, counter-clockwise. As each hits the ball, they try to wrap the rope all the way around the pole in their respective direction. The round is over once the rope has wrapped completely and the ball contacts the pole. You can hit the ball with a closed fist, or an open palm *cue slapping noise.* This game is actually more dangerous, so be careful out there. 

Backyard Buffs Rating: 10

Ease of storage/portability: 1. As explained above, it’s either going to be an 80 pound block or completely immobile and stuck in the ground. Sooo, unfortunately tetherball pretty much gets the worst score possible in this category. 

Durability (packaging or game pieces): 3. Tetherball poles live for eternity. Although, the actual ball is a different story. We have a pretty good winter each year, and if you forget to take the tetherball into the garage during the snowstorm, you better be ordering a new ball (the lime green and orange one that’s linked above is pretty good). The rope may also need replacing every once and awhile too. And you’ll know when you hit the ball one time, the rope breaks, and it flies into a neighbor’s yard. Probably a good time to get a new rope.

Friendly for all Ages/Skill Levels: 4. I started playing this game in 1st grade, so ages 7 and up should be able to play. Obviously, it’s probably best to play with as evenly matched opponents as possible or one person will win over and over. It’s kind of like the BYU vs Utah football rivalry. (For those not familiar: BYU is on 9-year losing streak.)

Fair Pricing: 2. If you DIY tetherball it can become fairly pricey with the cost of concrete, the pole, rope, and the ball. Obviously you can probably find a tire for free somewhere if you look hard enough. Just please don’t get it off the edge of a highway. DIY-ing a backyard game is not worth putting your life in danger. 

Conclusion: Truth be told: tetherball is a pretty fun game for all ages. Even though we said it is only a two-player game, it’s fun to have a variety of opponents so players don’t get sick of playing each other over and over and over again. I think that’s why tetherball is mostly found on blacktops in schoolyards. Keep in mind, it’s very immobile and may stick out like a sore thumb if you’re going for backyard aesthetics. Lastly, be careful while playing and make sure that you hit the ball so as to make it wrap around the pole. If you miss you’ll likely hit the rope, wrap it around your arm, get a rope burn, and probably hold a grudge against an inanimate object for the rest of your life.