How did you play sports in your neighborhood?
June 13, 2008 5:48 PM   Subscribe

What alternate rules did you follow when you played specific sports as a kid?

So, my wedding anniversary is a month and my wife and I are going to treat our friends to a big outdoor party in a local park. We've been talking about activities that would be a little more unusual than the normal summer park activities.

Writing up this comment in the Blue got me to thinking about how much fun I used to have playing three person whiffle/tennis/baseball. I'm thinking it might be fun to abandon the adult rules of some traditional sports and play by playground rules at our cookout thing.

So, when you were a kid, did you have specific rules for playing sports that were, to the best of your knowledge, unique to your town or neighborhood?
posted by Joey Michaels to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (27 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
In elementary school, we played a variation of kickball known as "workups" which was cool because it worked with anywhere from five to a billion players. There were 3 kickers and everyone else was in the field. The play was mostly like regular kickball, except when one of the kickers got out, they would go back to the field and trade places with the person who made the out.
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 6:01 PM on June 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

I don't know whether this was a local thing, but the advantage rule for the never-ending unrefereed football match at my junior school was, let's say, liberally interpreted: you could foul someone, keep possession by dribbling or passing away while shouting 'I plaaayed it on!', and get away with it.

Oh, and our version of rush goalie -- the link to Harry Pearson, a man from my part of the world, is worth reading -- was that the keeper could bring the ball out untackled until the half-way line.
posted by holgate at 6:02 PM on June 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

When we played touch "football" with four to eight people, the center was an eligible receiver and the only defensive lineman couldn't cross the line of scrimmage, unopposed. Basically he could wave his hands and jump to distract the quarterback and/or tip a passed ball away.

I also played a lot of what I guess in hindsight was racquetball, but with tennis rackets, tennis balls and the school gym wall.

Scrub was a good any number of people baseball game. I don't know how common the rules are, if I need to explain them, but it's basically rotating batters and fielders. You bat until you're out, as long as that takes, and as soon as you're put out in any way, you go to right field and everyone rotates one spot. Pitcher is the next batter, etc.
posted by rokusan at 6:05 PM on June 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Holgate reminded me: we also played a LOT of ball tag (chaotic) and dodgeball (gloriously violent).
posted by rokusan at 6:06 PM on June 13, 2008

When you're playing football in a field, and you have no idea what ten yards is, you go by the "two completed passes makes a first down" rule.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 6:08 PM on June 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

This is not quite an alteration of an existing sport but is definitely playground rules:

Sting, as best as I can remember it:

You need a tennis or similar ball and a windowless wall to throw it against.

Players bounce the ball off the wall, catch it as it bounces back, throw it at the wall again after taking a limited amount of or no steps, and repeat.

If the ball came into contact with you and you did not catch it before it hit the ground subsequent to that contact, you had to run to and touch the wall. Before you touched the wall, other players were free to take the ball themselves and peg (throw the ball hard at) you. If you were playing for a winner, a person pegged would be out, with the last person out winning, but usually we were just playing to throw tennis balls at people and let everyone keep playing.

The universal penalty for consensus transgressions (primarily throwing the ball but missing both the wall and any pegging target, attempting to hide a flubbed catch by grabbing the ball after it hit the ground, or missing while carrying out this penalty on another) was butts up, where the player to be penalized had to put themselves against the wall facing it while another player freely pegged the stationary target.

If the ball went wild and you picked it up at a distance judged to be impossible to throw, a player or players would agree to act as safety where you threw the ball to them and they threw it at the wall.

You can make it less violent by replacing pegging the person with hitting the wall before they touch it and eliminating butts up, in which case the game is called Off The Wall, but this is only to be done when the school authority figures forbid pegging and is highly lame in other situations.

I just looked and believe it or not the 'pedia has this, though naturally with variations.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 6:22 PM on June 13, 2008 [2 favorites]

You're from Hawaii - did you ever play baseball with a tennis ball and use someone on your team's slipper as the bat? You could only use whatever your team walked to school in. When I think about it now, this was a great intro to evaluating materials and options - you'd think that the biggest slipper would be best, but sometimes they'd be too flexible and the pitch would bend them backwards. A girl's wooden/plastic slipper was sturdier, but it would be harder to connect with because it was smaller.

When we played two-hand-touch football, if you got tagged but the ball was in the air, it didn't count. So you could lateral it to yourself if you timed it right. And of course, "no rush, no run" for the QB.

I don't know if this was unique to our kickball game, but you didn't have to stay within the base lines and you could tag someone out with the ball. So very often it would turn into a full-field game of 5-on-1 dodgeball.

Too much fun. My SO had to make some yarn balls for her school kids, so we're thinking we'll make a bunch more and have ourselves a sham battle or game of medic.
posted by krippledkonscious at 6:29 PM on June 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Half court or less, single hoop basketball: the defending team had to "clear" the ball by dribbling or passing it away from the basket past some defined boundary before they could take the offensive role.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 6:30 PM on June 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

We played touch football with three to five people per side. All of the folks on offense are eligible receivers. One of the defensive players can rush the passer, but only after counting to five thousand by thousands out loud. The passer can't run until he or she is rushed. Three completions make a first down.

We played baseball on the street with two to five per side. With two on a side, the batter has to throw the ball up and hit it himself. With three or more, there is a pitcher, but no catcher or first baseman. Hits to right field are automatically out. If the pitcher gets the ball before the runner reaches first, the runner is out. If someone has to bat when there already on base, and "invisible runner" takes their place.
posted by gteffertz at 6:37 PM on June 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

We used to play a huge freeform game called "big ball" using a gigantic rubber ball you needed two arms to carry. It was a little like some cross between soccer and football: players carried the ball and threw it to one another; if a player dropped it, possession went to the other team; if it touched the ground but a player was still wrapped around it, the player was fine to continue with possession; players could rush and bump off opposing team members using the ball; opposing team members could attempt to wrestle the ball away from whoever was carrying it, then, if successful, continue on with it. There were no positions, just an ever-shifting massof players, kind of like when little kids play soccer in a big swarm. The goal? To cross the opposing team's end line while holding the ball. That meant a point was scored and possession reverted to the other team, whose members would then attempt to get the ball back across the field in the other direction.

Tons of fun, albeit very physical.
posted by limeonaire at 7:15 PM on June 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

We played football ('soccer') without any rules, including the ones forbidding jumping up and down on the other team's players' backs.
Games tended to not last very long.
posted by signal at 7:30 PM on June 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

When we would play handball, the challenging player would always have the option of outlawing certain moves (slams, waterfalls, corners, dribbles, babies, sidewinders, etc.) It was generally used to help avoid the humiliation that would otherwise follow any easy lob that left the opponent with enough time to make whatever hit they wanted. (e.g. Those balls could be knocked waay across the playground, and really were impossible to get to, so "no slams" would force every hit to be in front of some back line.) They also could be used to remove a lot of the strategy ("no babies" meant you couldn't use a dirty little drop shot). Unfortunately, there was so much peer pressure around which calls you could make without looking like a baby that rule setting never got used to its full potential as a strategic component in and of itself.

I think it would be interesting to play such a game with adults, where any player who has been doing well can get saddled by some arbitrary rule from a challenger. This could even work in baseball. If the pitcher got the last batter out, the batter could hit them with an arbitrary rule: pitch side-armed (or from a sitting position, or without feet leaving the ground). If the batter got a hit last time they were at bat, the pitcher could do the same to the batter: hold the bat upside-down (or bat left-handed, or on one foot). Depending on the people, you might have to limit the rules or find the lazy person who won't play and make them judge on ridiculousness, but it could be fun.
posted by ErWenn at 7:51 PM on June 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you're drunk enough, or a young enough, I give you British Bulldog.

Wikipedia has it exactly right: "The game is characterised by its high level of violence and physicality". I still have scars from playing it.

I'm sort of amazed it's never become a big spectator sport. It is astoundingly violent.
posted by unSane at 7:57 PM on June 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

NB Wikipedia omits the detail I remember most vividly: the bulldogs linking themselves together in a huge chain between you and the other side of the field, through which you are expected to burst.

The violence comes from the fact that the bulldogs have to chant "British Bulldog! One, Two, Three!" while hanging on to you. Needless to say, the temptation is to use Ultimate Fighting Skills to get the buggers off you and make it to the safe area.
posted by unSane at 8:03 PM on June 13, 2008

Oh, we also had a specific version of dodgeball that's completely unlike what's played in organized dodgeball leagues (e.g. in the movie Dodgeball). Our version was played inside a big round circle outline on the pavement with up to two dozen players. Most people started out inside the circle, with just a few players (two or three) along the outside. A single rubber Voit ball was thrown at players inside the circle; if a player was hit, they had to move to the outside of the circle and become a thrower. A player on the opposite side of the ring would catch the ball if it went through without hitting anyone. However, if the player inside the circle caught the ball before it bounced or hit them, they weren't out; in addition, even if they got hit with the ball, they weren't out of the thrower stepped over the line when throwing. The game was played until the very last player inside the circle became the sole object of target practice and got thwacked with the ball, at which point almost everyone outside the circle came back in and the game began anew. Wonderful twisty-turny-dodgy fun for those good at dodging; wonderful thwacky fun for those good at throwing.
posted by limeonaire at 8:12 PM on June 13, 2008

When we would play handball, the challenging player would always have the option of outlawing certain moves (slams, waterfalls, corners, dribbles, babies, sidewinders, etc.)

Ditto this sort of move outlawing for foursquare matches.
posted by limeonaire at 8:13 PM on June 13, 2008

We played a variant of dodgeball called nationball, which appears as one of the names of this dodgeball variant, prisonball, which is similar to the ruleset we used.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:17 PM on June 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Do games played in the water count? We used to play a game that was derived from football/soccer/ultimate frisbee, but with a watermelon (preferably greased). It's heavy - so it can't be thrown - and it floats. And spins, and slips away. Watermelon has to touch the side of the pool (or dock, or some other goal, if you're in a lake or whatever). It's incredibly goofy and fun.
posted by bassjump at 8:18 PM on June 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

My boyfriend just described a fenced-in dodgeball variant called "Ga-Ga" that they used to play at summer camp. Everyone would cram into a 15-foot-diameter fenced-in area (about a dozen players) and someone would throw a ball in from the outside. The ball would bounce three times—"ga ... ga ... ga"—before anyone was allowed to touch it, at which point full-on dodgeball melee ensued. Anyone could throw the ball at anyone else (possibly only below the waist), anyone the ball touched was out (regardless of whether the touch was due to a throw or a bounce), and it was basically pure frenzy until the last guy/gal was left standing.

Another dodgeball variant I remember from gym class was something like "saturation dodgeball," in which gym mats were set up on either side of the gym as barriers to hide behind, two teams were created on either side of the gym's center line, and dozens of soft balls were dumped in the middle of the gym. Full-on dodgeball melee from there: players weren't allowed to cross the center line; if a player caught another player's throw, that player was out; etc.

If I could go back to elementary-school gym class I think I really would...
posted by limeonaire at 8:24 PM on June 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

NB Wikipedia omits the detail I remember most vividly: the bulldogs linking themselves together in a huge chain between you and the other side of the field, through which you are expected to burst.

The violence comes from the fact that the bulldogs have to chant "British Bulldog! One, Two, Three!" while hanging on to you. Needless to say, the temptation is to use Ultimate Fighting Skills to get the buggers off you and make it to the safe area.

We have a similar game in the US, only we call it Red Rover. Red Rover, Red Rover, Let come over.
posted by tamitang at 11:42 PM on June 13, 2008

Garden cricket. Six and out, if you hit the ball over the fence.
posted by popcassady at 2:30 AM on June 14, 2008

I think I played football round Holgate's end myself. And another rule we had (which I think exists everywhere) is that if the ball goes sufficiently far out of play (whether on a marked or unmarked pitch) and you're willing to go and fetch it, you get to keep possession and play on without the throw-in, corner or goal kick that should have been awarded.
posted by galaksit at 7:32 AM on June 14, 2008

Growing up, we used to play what we called "Hawai`ian style football" (American rules) as a kid. Every player was an eligible receiver and there was no limit to the number of forward passes you could make. You also could pass from anywhere on the field. Two-hands touch, and the "no rush, no run." Result: you ran and ran and ran. Great fun, though it was better to play barefoot than with rubber slippers.

And I have played baseball with a tennis/raquetball and a slipper as a bat!
posted by pandanom at 8:19 AM on June 14, 2008

French Cricket was a big one for me. I must say it's pretty awesome the wikipedia has the rules for things like that and Bulldog (or Bullrush as we called it in NZ).
posted by Sparx at 8:22 AM on June 14, 2008

I have no idea is this is unique to the area that I grew up in, but we used to play soccer in my neighborhood with "roaming goalies"- anyone on your team could enter the goal area (this was usually not on real fields with lines, so "goal area" was anything within a few feet of the t-shirts on the ground serving as goal posts) and when they were in the goal area, they could use their hands and act as a goalie. Only one player may act as a goalie at a time.

This can be played with as few as 2 people per team. Or, if one person is significantly faster and more skilled than anyone else (was usually a teenager versus two children), you could play 2 on 1.
posted by cheerwine at 12:19 PM on June 14, 2008

Thank you all! Wonderful answers and some great ideas for my wife and I!
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:32 AM on June 15, 2008

If you didn't have enough people for your whiffle ball/fat bat baseball game, instead of throwing the ball to a first baseman, if you threw the ball in between the runner and the base, they were out.
posted by starman at 4:56 PM on June 15, 2008

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