Casual athletic game for two grown-ups and a twelve-year-old
January 15, 2023 5:45 AM   Subscribe

My wife and I are entertaining a 12-year-old boy. He wants to do something sporty and outdoors. His first choice would be 2-on-2 touch rugby, or 2-on-2 football.... but there's only three of us. We could just throw a ball around, but he'd prefer something with rules and a victory condition. What three-person sports (or at least games that involve some exercise) could we play?

For today, we just have access to the usual random assortment of balls you'd find in any home with kids, and we'd love a suggestion that doesn't require specialized equipment. But for future occurrences, we're open to buying equipment as long as it's not too expensive or bulky.
posted by yankeefog to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Baseball (or cricket since you’re English) is great for this. One player pitches, one player bats, and one player plays the field. If you don’t have a bat, kickball is the same setup.
posted by kevinbelt at 6:14 AM on January 15 [4 favorites]

Isn't pickleball marketed as a sport that can be played amongst people with different skill levels and athleticism? Much like tennis, I assume a 1 v 2 variant exists.
posted by mmascolino at 6:14 AM on January 15

If you have a basketball goal available, a game like Horse is perfect for 2-3 players.
posted by jquinby at 6:17 AM on January 15 [5 favorites]

Disc/frisbee golf? I throw this out knowing none of the rules but seems like it might lend itself to low equipment odd number groups. Look for a local course (usually free in parks).
posted by countrymod at 6:45 AM on January 15 [2 favorites]

No ball, but orienteering? Or a trampoline park.
posted by Iteki at 7:45 AM on January 15

Does he know the rules of American football (do you want to teach him?). I played 3 person football all through my grade school. I played all time quarterback (because I hated to lose).
posted by sandmanwv at 7:51 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]

Round-the-table table tennis/ ping pong would involve a lot of running with only 3 people, but maybe that's what you want? You could also just play 1v1 or 1v2, and bare minimum you can use a regular table and a screw on net. You get heavier balls to use outside, if you wanted.
posted by stillnocturnal at 7:57 AM on January 15

I think there's PDFs out there (for instance...) of The New Games book, a perennial favorite of mine. If you were in a gym class or club or group in the 80s you will recognize some of the activities in that book. The subtitle tells the whole story: "Play hard, play fair, nobody hurt." They don't have a section for 3 people, but many 2 person games can either be expanded to 3 or people can take turns, which can be great when 1 person wants less intensity.

From that book, if maybe you're tired of plain 'ol catch, you can shake it up by making a Foxtail from a ball and an old tube sock (an item later manufactured as a Foxtail and sold by the Klutz Press, which has a history mixed up with the same people who did The New Games Book, or at least maybe that's true only in a philosophical sense. John Cassidy's son recently started making them again, but a ball in a sock is plenty fun).

There's a sequel called "More New Games," but I've never read it. Also available to check out online, I believe.

If you have a TON off room, I love aerobies. Suckers can FLY, but of course that's a purchase. My brother and I amused ourselves with a frisbee just fine, but the aerobie steps it up.
posted by AbelMelveny at 8:06 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]

Three person football is quite fun. One person is the quarterback, one runs the ball (or catches) and one is defense, after a TD or 4 downs, runner and defense switch. Sacking the QB was off limits when we played. You can rotate out the QB or have one person be the all-time-QB.
posted by CleverClover at 8:18 AM on January 15 [7 favorites]

3 person football (soccer) is doable. One person is the goalie the other two are opposing players trying to score. If the defender is able to gain possession then they have to bring the ball out to reset things and then get to attack.

My kids are really into volleyball right now so they will practice rallies trying to see how many touches they can do together. It's less there's a winner and loser and more a group challenge to hit some number.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 9:10 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]

Monkey in the middle? Or is that too young for a twelve year old?
posted by mkb at 9:30 AM on January 15 [1 favorite]

We used to play kickball with one person being the dedicated pitcher and the other two competing.
posted by gideonfrog at 10:46 AM on January 15

Would "building" and racing each other through an obstacle course be fun? You could use whatever is around - all you need is a stopwatch for "personal bests."
posted by nkknkk at 11:26 AM on January 15

Disc golf is totally viable for this purpose! Get a frisbee for each person (can be any kind) - pick a place you want to throw it to (something you can hit, like a tree or a trash can or a fence). Count how many throws it takes you to get to that place. Someone else picks a new place. Repeat.

Some Youtubers have taken the same concept but added in whatever other sporting equipment you have on hand -- I.E., you can kick a soccer ball once per "hole", you can throw a football once per "hole" etc. Makes for a good bit of novelty especially if different players have different skillsets.
posted by matrixclown at 2:31 PM on January 15

If spikeball/roundnet is novel to your visitor (or you) it might be fun to just hack around at that for a bit, even if technically there are rules, and 2v2 setups.
posted by adekllny at 6:47 PM on January 15

3 person football (soccer) is doable. One person is the goalie the other two are opposing players trying to score.

The best version of this is 'headers and volleys', where the outfield players are not allowed to score from the ground; the ball has to be in the air first i.e. only volleys and headers are allowed.

The competitive element comes from a time-limit; the goalie counts down from 60 seconds to zero, and the outfield players must score within that minute. Next round is reduced to 50 seconds, and so on.
posted by vincebowdren at 2:46 AM on January 16

Response by poster: Thanks everybody! I appreciate all the suggestions.
posted by yankeefog at 1:24 PM on February 14

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