The 6 Best Tetherball Sets

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This wiki has been updated 30 times since it was first published in April of 2016. It's a simple game to play and requires no special uniforms or equipment, so it's no wonder that tetherball is popular with adults and children alike. If you're looking for some outdoor fun and exercise this year, these sets include pretty much everything needed to get started. We've included budget-priced options for backyard use as well as some sturdier models suitable for schools or camps. When users buy our independently chosen editorial selections, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.

1. Lifetime Portable System

2. Baden Champions

3. Voit Outdoor

Editor's Notes

April 03, 2020:

As anyone who's ever been a fourth-grader can attest to, tetherball can be a surprisingly competitive game. There are three types of ready-made systems available if you want to get back to your younger roots, or teach your kids how to be good sports: portable, permanent, and semi-permanent ones. If you're willing to dedicate some space to a permanent installation, the Voit Outdoor is one of the few single-pole options available, although it is pretty expensive.

The Park & Sun Permanent is less costly and it disassembles into 3 pieces for easy storage, but as you might imagine, its multi-part construction makes it not quite as solid, although it's still perfectly capable. The Baden Champions is very similar, but it does come with a slightly higher-quality ball. These two are semi-permanent, meaning the only part that must stay in the ground is the PVC sleeve; just make sure that it's installed below ground level to avoid damaging it or your lawn mower. The Franklin Steel doesn't require a sunken sleeve; it's secured by simply screwing it into the ground. So, you won't want to take it out and reinstall it frequently, otherwise you'll damage your lawn, and because of its relatively simple design, it's not ideal for intense play by adults. But, it is affordable, and for young kids it should work fine.

Then there are two portable options worth mentioning. The Voit Portable sports a wide, metal base that's certainly sturdy, but the unit costs a few hundred dollars, which makes it a non-starter for many families. The Lifetime Portable System, however, costs less than half that, and when the base is filled with sand or water, it's surprisingly stable and suitable for use by players young and old.

Alternately, there are plenty of other toys that are great for use outdoors on the lawn that involve all kinds of fun and games aside from tetherball.

Special Honors

Jaypro Sports TBP-275R You might recognize this one's wheeled base from your elementary school days, and that's not a coincidence; this company has supplied grade schools and high schools with sports equipment for many years. If you're outfitting an institution of your own with athletic gear, consider this high-quality portable model that should last for a long time. Otherwise, though, it may be too pricey for you.

Gared Net Sports More commonly known for their basketball backboards, Gared also has a slightly more obscure line of net sports equipment. Just like the rest of their catalog, their tetherball systems are extremely high quality, but also like the rest of their products, are very costly and not marketed for in-home use.

4. Park & Sun Permanent

5. Voit Portable

6. Franklin Steel

A Brief History Of Tetherball

Then again, considering how ruthless high school and junior high can be, maybe it's better if we didn't teach them a game based on beheading people...

Like the existence and location of the Holy Grail, the origins of tetherball are shrouded in mystery, possibly lost forever, and likely guarded by a zealous cabal of Knights Templar.

Okay, maybe not — but the fact is, not much is known about the sport's origins.

One of the more macabre theories is that it dates back to a ritual practiced by the Tatars, a group of people who lived in the region that's now part of Eastern Europe. It's said that, after a triumph in battle, these people would bring their fallen enemies back to their village, tie their severed heads to poles, and whack them with sticks (which may also be where piñatas came from, come to think of it).

Another potential origin story involves the Maypole dances that were done in medieval England, Germany, and Sweden. These dances involved people moving in a circle around a tall pole while waving ribbons, and were believed to be performed as part of pagan fertility rituals. It's not known why they'd add smacking a ball into these rituals, but hey, why not?

The most likely explanation, though, is that it started in England and Ireland in the late 19th century. In the early stages of the game, the ball used was a tennis ball, and players hit it with racquets — so, it was like tennis, except you didn't have to run.

Even better, you didn't need a large expanse of lush, green grass to play it on. This made it available to a wide swath of the population, rather than just the elite few who had access to lawns or courts. Around this time, the racquets were ditched as well, with players using their hands to smack the ball instead.

Doing so was a little more difficult, however, as tennis balls were still being used. That changed when volleyball was invented in 1895, as some entrepreneurial tetherball champion quickly realized that hitting a large volleyball would be much easier.

From there, the game quickly caught on in schoolyards across America, as it was a cheap and easy way to keep kids occupied for a few hours. It's still widely-played in elementary schools today, although it never quite caught on in the higher grades.

Then again, considering how ruthless high school and junior high can be, maybe it's better if we didn't teach them a game based on beheading people...

How To Take Your Game To The Next Level

You might be thinking, "Strategy? In tetherball? I thought the whole point of the game was to hit the ball as hard as you can and try to smack the other person in the face."

And while that is certainly satisfying, if you're more interested in winning than in breaking noses, there are a few strategies you can use to give yourself the advantage.

You should stay active and move around in your circle, too.

First off, your hand positioning is key. Most people try to punch the ball, and while this can certainly generate momentum, it makes control difficult. A better idea is to hit it with the side of your dominant hand, like you would if you were karate-chopping it with a closed fist. This allows you to hit it hard while still having some accuracy. Then, once you've established control, you can switch to the open-hand slap.

Knowing when to make your move is critical. Most games favor the server, so when it's your turn, you need to make sure that your opening volley is on point. Then, when you get closer to winning, it's time to speed up your attacks.

Likewise, if you're on the defensive, it may be smart to wait until the other player has almost won before you make your move. Those last few hits can be the most difficult, so that's prime time to jump up and smack it in the opposite direction, undoing all their hard work and putting yourself back in control.

You should stay active and move around in your circle, too. If you just stand there, it makes it easier for your opponent to hit the ball away from you. If you're constantly moving, though, they have to make split-second judgments on where to smack it, which can lead to mistakes.

At the end of the day, though, strategy can only do so much, as power, dexterity, and good old luck will likely decide the outcome of the match.

The very fact that you're going through the trouble of reading about tetherball strategy should mean that you have a leg up on the competition, though.

Benefits Of Playing Tetherball

When you consider all the advantages that tetherball has over some other schoolyard games, it's no wonder it's so popular across the United States.

Unlike in most games, which have frequent breaks in the action, tetherball players are in constant motion, running, jumping, and swinging their limbs as hard as they can.

The benefit that's most attractive to school budgets, of course, is that it's an incredibly inexpensive game to play. All you need is a pole, a length of rope, and a volleyball. It doesn't require a ton of space or a specialized surface, either, so you don't have to have your entire yard dominated by a basketball court or soccer pitch.

Despite that, it's a game that pays off impressively in terms of cardiovascular benefit. Unlike in most games, which have frequent breaks in the action, tetherball players are in constant motion, running, jumping, and swinging their limbs as hard as they can. There's even some evidence that it can improve motor skills and hand-eye coordination.

It's incredibly easy to learn and play as well, making it as suitable for young children as it is for adults. And since you only need two players, it's easy to get a game going, or even to practice while you're alone.

Of course, we don't expect tetherball to overtake soccer and basketball anytime soon — but if you're not playing it, you might be missing out on a game that's simple, easy, and tons of fun.

Now get out there and break some noses.

Christopher Thomas
Last updated by Christopher Thomas

Building PCs, remodeling, and cooking since he was young, quasi-renowned trumpeter Christopher Thomas traveled the USA performing at and organizing shows from an early age. His work experiences led him to open a catering company, eventually becoming a sous chef in several fine LA restaurants. He enjoys all sorts of barely necessary gadgets, specialty computing, cutting-edge video games, and modern social policy. He has given talks on debunking pseudoscience, the Dunning-Kruger effect, culinary technique, and traveling. After two decades of product and market research, Chris has a keen sense of what people want to know and how to explain it clearly. He delights in parsing complex subjects for anyone who will listen -- because teaching is the best way to ensure that you understand things yourself.

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