What is kickball? It is a fun for all ages variation on the game of baseball. In fact, it was originally named “Kick Baseball” and was invented as early as 1917 by Nicholas C Seuss, Supervisor of Cincinnati Park Playgrounds of Cincinnati, Ohio. Seuss submitted his first documented overview of the game, which included 12 rules and a field diagram in The Playground Book, which was published in 1917. Since then the game has evolved into a fun outdoor sport for both kids and adults.
Around 1920–1921, “kick ball” was used by physical education teachers in public schools to teach young boys and girls the basics of baseball. At first, they used a soccer ball or volleyball for a ball. The game was played by ten to thirty players and the field included a “neutral zone,” an area not to be entered until the ball had actually been kicked. There was no pitcher as the ball would be kicked from the home area, which was a 3’ circle.
It was promoted as an informal game for soldiers by the United States Department of the Army as early as 1943. In this variant of the game, all kicks had to be home runs, by beating the kicked ball back to home after consecutive passes to all basemen before throwing them out at home.
Since then the game of kickball has evolved into not just a common game on the school playground but a popular sport with leagues for adults. Part of kickball’s appeal is its simplicity. And you never have to play the usual way. Teams can always change up the rules or try one of the multiple alternative versions of the game.
How the Game Is (Usually) Played Today
Opposing teams face off on a diamond-shaped playing field with three bases plus a home plate. The fielding team’s pitcher throws an inflated rubber ball to the kicking team’s players, who try to kick the ball then advance around the bases. A fielder can get a runner out by reaching a base first with the ball in hand, or by throwing the ball directly at the runner and hitting him with it. The runner may not catch or touch the ball. Just as in baseball, a pitch may be a strike or a ball; a kick may be fair or foul; three strikes make an out; and three outs mean the kicking team must take to the field on defense.
Popular Variations of Kickball
Now, we want to discover some of popular variations of kickball:
Kids may play Big Base in the gym at school, using gym mats as bases (hence the name). Unlike in regular kickball, runners can cluster on the big bases. Each base can hold several players instead of just one. You can even require runners to circle the bases twice before scoring, either two laps around or one lap counterclockwise and one clockwise.
In Soccer-Base-Basketball, you need a basketball hoop at a playground, in a gym, or in your driveway. The kicker stands under the hoop and the pitcher rolls the ball to them. Once he/she kicks it, they start running the bases while the defense recovers the ball. Once a defensive player has the ball, he/she tries to shoot a basket. If the shooter sinks it, the kicker is called out.
No Pitch is a T-ball version of kickball where instead of a tee, the ball is placed directly on the home plate. The play starts when the kicker kicks the ball into the field. If the defensive team catches the ball in the air, it’s an out. But if they miss, or the ball is a grounder, the fielders must recover the ball, then roll it back toward the home plate. Their catcher grabs it and places it back on the plate. As soon as the ball hits the plate, any runner who isn’t on a base is out.
Kickball for Kids
When it is a simple game of kickball in your backyard or local park you can easily adjust rules to help little ones succeed. Here is a little tip for beginners: Try rolling the ball when you pitch, instead of throwing. It will be easier to the kids to kick then. You can also be more generous in letting them reach the bases without being tagged out.
For playing at home, you need a large flat space. Grass is safer than dirt, although it makes the game somewhat slower-paced.
You can use traffic cones or other markers for the bases, home plate, and the pitcher’s mound, or pick up a set of rubber baseball bases at a sporting goods store. Or see if a nearby park or school has a baseball diamond that isn’t being used.
What Is WAKA?
Today there are numerous kickball leagues for adults across the country. This is in large part thanks to the World Adult Kickball Association, today known as Club WAKA, which was started in 1998. It is an organization running the most fun and social co-ed adult kickball leagues across America. Their official kickball rules can be found at www.kickball.com.
Kickball Fun around the Globe
Kickball is now played in many parts of the world and goes by many different names. In South Korea, it is known as balyagu, or foot-baseball, and it is a staple in PE classes at elementary schools there. In parts of Canada, the game is referred to as “Soccer-Baseball” or “Chinese Baseball,” and in Japan, it is played by elementary school students and known as “Kickbase.” In England, a variation is often played in P.E. classes and referred to as “Football-Rounders,” a mix of Association Football and Rounders.
So did we awaken memories of 4th grade recess with this overview? We hope we did! You don’t need any high skills nor specialized equipment, just a willingness to run and have fun for the day.
Enjoy your next game of kickball, everybody!