Updated August 02, 2018 by Sheila O'Neill

The 7 Best Tetherball Sets

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Best High-End
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Best Inexpensive

This wiki has been updated 19 times since it was first published in April of 2016. It's a simple game to play and it 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, check out our selection of sets. 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 recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. Skip to the best tetherball set on Amazon.

7. Franklin Steel

6. Sterling Sports Deluxe

5. BSN Outdoor Pole

4. Baden Champions

3. BSN Portable

2. Park & Sun Permanent

1. Lifetime Portable System

A Brief History Of Tetherball

It's still widely-played in elementary schools today, although it never quite caught on in the higher grades.

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.

If you just stand there, it makes it easier for your opponent to hit the ball away from you.

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.

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Sheila O'Neill
Last updated on August 02, 2018 by Sheila O'Neill

Sheila is a writer and editor living in sunny Southern California. She studied writing and film at State University of New York at Purchase, where she earned her bachelor of arts degree. After graduating, she worked as an assistant video editor at a small film company, then spent a few years doing freelance work, both as a writer and a video editor. During that time, she wrote screenplays and articles, and edited everything from short films to infomercials. An ardent lover of the English language, she can often be found listening to podcasts about etymology and correcting her friends’ grammar.

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