Dodgeball is one of the staple games of a lot of youth ministries. It is a great game for burning off energy, creating some shared memories and having some fun. One of the issues with the game is that sometimes it can quickly turn into a spectator sport if you get tagged out early. Here are a couple variations that can keep a game of dodgeball more inclusive and longer lasting, helping it to be interesting to all the participants.
The Medic or Jedi Variation:
This team game is played much like regular dodgeball. However, when you are tagged out, you sit down wherever you are and wait. Because at the beginning of the game, each team selects a player who can restore the “out” players by touching them. (Some groups call it a “medic” while I have seen others call it a “Jedi.”) The referees need to know who the medic person is and teams can be obvious about it or create all kinds of ways to hide or protect that person. When the medic is hit and is out though, the clock starts ticking for that team as people start to get out permanently. Because of the nature of this variation, we eliminate the rule where someone comes back in if a ball is caught; balls can still be caught and the thrower of said ball is eliminated.
The Trench Variation:
This team game works well in a closed room or space. It can be a problem in a large field. The way the game works is that when a player is tagged out or has their throw caught, the go to the outside boundary of the other team where they wait. If they can catch a ball thrown by one of their teammates across the opponent’s area, then they are back in the game, getting a pass to walk back into their side. As soon as they cross the line separating teams, they are fair game again. This version is great for long, extended games and it lets kids always be involved. You do sometimes have to watch as teams tend to want to guard their trench, so I usually set a line they have to be in front of. (This variation works extremely well in a gym!)
The Everyone for Themselves Variation:
The same rules apply in terms of how players are out of the game: if you get tagged or hit, you are out and have to sit down. However “out” players can still pick up and throw balls from their sitting position to get other players out. As there are no teams and everyone is playing for themselves, this variation can go really fast and is an easy game to get multiple rounds in. If you are playing outdoors, you need a clearly defined field of play or else players tend to drift really far away from each other.
Some general rules that apply to all of the above:
1. “If you get hit in the head, you are not dead.” We created this rule a few years ago in response to a couple high school guys who seemed to make it their mission to hit people in the head. It really does help prevent head shots that are intentional.
2. Keep it moving. Nothing is worse than a high energy game that dies out because of a lack of interest or one team keeps getting eliminated quickly.
3. Leave them wanting more. The last youth group I worked with loved to have dodgeball every week if they could. What happens with that is that your game time becomes limited to being fun to a certain kind of athletic kid. What we choose to do is to have one week a month that was consistently dodgeball or a variation and we did other kinds of games the rest of the month. We want our play to celebrate all the many different kids and gifts that we have in our youth ministries.