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British Dodgeball Rules

Learn basic dodgeball rules and have fun playing this indoor court game - popularized by many primary schools in the UK.

The information in this section explains dodgeball tactics and strategies, court regulations, and how the scoring system works.

Dodgeball Rules UK

‘British Dodgeball: A Non-stop Action Team Elimination Game.’

The sport has become a commonplace physical education activity in many primary schools around the United Kingdom and is rising in popularity among adults.

British Dodgeball (BD) runs local, national, and international leagues. Whereas, the World Dodgeball Federation (WDBF) organises the European Championships and World Cup.

So, how did it all begin?

In fact, the exact origins of this fast-paced game remain somewhat sketchy. However, its popularization reached widespread exposure thanks to the hit movie ‘Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story’. Since then it has grown in to dozens of university and open-age clubs.

Internationally, there are variable dodgeball rule-sets with ‘Cloth’ and ‘Foam’ being the two most recognized. But, British Dodgeball events are almost entirely Cloth and is the focus of this article.

Note: British Dodgeball (BD) is the governing body for the official rules and regulations of games played in the United Kingdom.

British Dodgeball: Aim of the Game

There is one principle aim of playing dodgeball games. The goal is to eliminate all player members of the opposing team using thrown balls.

You achieve this by throwing dodge balls at them. They will use body-swerves and sidesteps to evade the throws and remain in the game.

This part is important:

Catching the ball when thrown by an opposing player also eliminates them and brings the catcher’s out teammate back into the game.

If a player touches the surface outside of the court they are also deemed out and ends their participation in the game from that point on.

Note: Our ultimate list of sport rules has more than fifty activities from American Football to Yoga in the master section.

UK Dodgeball Rules Court Size

Dodgeball court dimensions can vary slightly according to the facility measurements available. Even so, official games use the following dimensions.

The dodgeball field size for competitive games should be seventeen (17) metres long by eight (8) metres wide.

There is a central line where the balls are lined up at the start of the set and a central zone, measuring 1.5 metres wide. This is an area where players from either team can enter during the game.

But, players will ignore the neutral zone when playing the game in a casual setting.

The ball return line measures three (3) metres from the back. Balls must be passed back behind this line from the opening rush and by ball retrievers returning balls to play.

In regulation games, players will have a designated ‘out box’ (called the Player Return Area) when they get eliminated. But, players only need to stand to the side (e.g. off-court) in recreational games.

Out players who get ‘caught back in’ by a teammate must return to the court from the back, behind the Player Return Line.

Tip: This means the same pitch may also accommodate games of basketball rules and volleyball rules when played by school kids (e.g. KS2).

Rules for Dodgeball Players

Each team starts the game with six (6) players on court. Players would need to be registered with British Dodgeball to play in official competitions.

Both teams will have two (2) ball retrievers. Their role includes returning balls into play from their side of the rectangular court area.

And the clothing?

Team players should wear matching uniforms in official league competitions. Furthermore, the dodgeball shirts must clearly display a unique number identifiable by the officials.

The colour of the kit and outfit should not clash with the referee’s uniform. Ball retrievers must wear a different kit or shirt top to the ones worn by the players.

Note: The FAQ section is where you will find further answers to popular and frequently asked questions about dodgeball.

Equipment for Dodgeball Rules UK

The standard cloth dodgeball ball measures seven (7) inches in diameter. Players will use five dodgeballs in a match (approved by British Dodgeball for competitive games).

Court tape is used to mark the court boundaries. Netting may be used to surround the playing area. If so, it should be a minimum distance of one metre away from the edge of the court.

Note: Another section lists the equipment used in dodgeball in much greater detail (e.g. balls, shoes, and apparel).

General Dodgeball Rules and Regulations

The Opening Rush

  • Each set starts with the opening rush. Referees start the game by a countdown of ‘Line up. Teams Ready. Whistle.’
  • Both teams rush from their base line to the balls lined up in a row in the centre of the court.
  • Players try to simultaneously grab a ball and bring or pass it back to a teammate.
  • The two balls on the teams left are only available to them and the centre ball is contested by both teams. Players running for the centre ball must not touch the centre line or beyond and players running for the left balls can place only one foot over the line.
  • Players must return the ball behind the Ball Return Line before the ball is deemed live and can be thrown. This can be done by rolling the ball over the line or a player holding the ball having both feet behind the line.

Open Play

  • If a player is hit by a valid throw and does not complete the catch before it touches another player or surface then that player is out. The catch is complete when the referee deems the player has the ball under control with at least one hand.
  • The throwing player gets eliminated when a player catches a ball, and the catching player brings the first person in their outbox back in to play.
  • Players are caught back in following the same order that they were deemed out.
  • If a player is hit and a teammate catches the ball before it hits the floor or out of bounds surface, the player is out and then the catch counts (potentially bringing the hit player back in if they were the first out).
  • Players can use a ball they are holding to block throws from the opposing team. When blocking, the hand (up to the wrist) is considered part of the ball and the player is not out if hit there.
  • Balls that are blocked are live and can still hit a player out or be caught, making the throwing player out.
  • If a ball is blocked back to the opposing team, this is called a ‘Block Attack’ and can earn hits or be caught.
  • If a throw is deemed invalid by the referee the player is out. A valid throw is a thrown ball within one (1) metre of an opposing player.
  • Players must remain within the court at all times. If a player touches the back line, side line, or the neutral zone line furthest away from them, they are deemed out.
  • A headshot is a valid throw. But, players must use caution and avoid making intentional headshots, especially at close range. It is the referees discretion whether a headshot is intentional and may result in the thrower receiving a yellow card.
  • A set lasts for three (3) minutes or until one team has no players left. The team with the most players at the end of 3 minutes wins the set; if they are equal the set is a draw.

Dodgeball Scoring System and Match Length

Winning a set earns a team two (2) points and a draw earns both teams one (1) point. The team with the most points at the end of the match wins.

Match length varies between competition style. League matches consist of 2 x15 minute halves. Whereas, tournament matches have 2 x 8 minute halves.

In a knockout format, if the teams are drawn at the end of the match, then a 1-minute overtime set will be played. If the teams are equal at the end of the minute the referee will call ‘Sudden Death’ and the team that gets the next out wins.

Winning a match earns a team two (2) points in a round robin format. A draw is worth one (1) point.

Referee and Officials in Dodgeball Regulations

British Dodgeball regulations use the honour system of officiating. That means refereeing and officiating occurs more so between the players themselves. As a rule, there will be less umpiring performed by any dodgeball officials.

Generally, it also means it is ultimately up to the players to enforce and uphold the laws of the game. But, the referees will make the final call whenever there is ‘controversial’ play.

A match should have two (2) centre referees with four (4) line referees in each corner. In most cases, team members will be assigned to assist with the role of referees when not playing with one or two official referees.

Note: The YouTube video presented by British Dodgeball emphasises how the sport is for ALL people, no matter what age, background, or experience level.

Dodgeball Rules and Regulations for United Kingdom