This article will review how to play kickball, kickball rules, and strategy & tactics.
The game of kickball is the baseball of recess. All the fun and thrill of a baseball game without all the equipment – no gloves, no bats, and no hats. All you need is just a rubber ball.
Often played on a baseball diamond, kickball follows the general rules of baseball, but it is easier to set up kickball games than baseball and also a lot more inclusive. Everyone knows how to kick a rubber ball- not everyone is as adept at swinging a bat. And let’s face it; it is way easier to tell if a kickball ran over the plate or was a strike than it is to know if a baseball was a strike.
One analogy might be that baseball is to chess as kickball is to checkers. However, I would argue that while this analogy may be accurate in terms of the difficulty curve, chess is a lot more fun than checkers – but baseball is equally as fun as kickball.
First and foremost, you need a kickball – this is a large rubber ball (the traditional red ball from gym class). You also need a playing field – home plate, first base, second base, third base, and a pitcher’s spot. The game is played with two teams, and the expectation is that each team has at least eight players, although the number often varies depending on how many people are playing.
The team that takes the field must have a pitcher and a catcher. A player at first, second, and third base and a left, right, and center outfielder will round out a standard eight-person squad. The inning begins with the pitcher rolling the ball toward the home base from the pitching strip (the equivalent of the mound’s rubber in baseball).
How the game begins
The team kicking sends one player to kick at a time. The team captain or manager can determine the kicking order. This player kicks until they get three strikes (which is very rare in kickball) or until they kick the ball onto the field of play. A ball kicked outside of the field of play is a foul ball. A fair ball results in the kicker becoming the runner and sprinting to first base.
The runner is out if the ball is caught or makes it to the base before the runner can touch base. If a runner is tagged with the ball, the runner is out. Throwing the ball and hitting the runner is one of the most common ways to make an out in kickball. The other is to catch the ball in the air before it lands after the batter kicks.
When a kicking team gets three outs, they must take the field. Now, the fielding team takes its turn to kick. After three outs, the teams reverse positions as the team kicking goes and retakes the field. Once both teams have reached three outs, the inning is complete, and a new inning starts. A kickball game typically features at least six innings, but many prefer nine innings. A team captain from both sides meets to discuss and settle any disputes that may arise.
You might like the Kickball Team Names page.
How To Play Kickball
The goal of each team is to score runs. Only the kicking team can score runs. A player must safely and legally circle and touch all three bases and return home to score a run. If a player is touched by the ball while running, they are out. A home run is when a kicker makes it back to home plate in one kick. This happens when a booming kick sends the ball over the fence or when a kick is good enough and the runner is fast enough to circle the bases before the ball can be recovered and used to get them out.
The pitcher must pitch to the catcher, and the kicker tries to connect on the pitch. It is more challenging to get a strike in kickball than in baseball, so often, the pitcher is just trying to send tough-to-kick pitches that will result in a poor kick and, ideally, a corresponding out. Most of the time, the rules will prohibit the pitcher from sending bouncing, erratic balls.
How to Play Kickball — It’s Like Baseball
If a ball goes over the plate, but the kicker does not attempt to kick it, that’s a strike. If the kicker does try to kick but misses the ball, it is also a strike. A ball kicked foul will result in strikes but can never result in an out unless caught.
The pitcher does have some leeway in their pitching style: fastball, slowball, outside pitch, and inside pitch. The more challenging the pitch, the less likely the kicker will be able to tee off. However, if a pitch is bouncy, errant, or doesn’t reach the plate, it is called a ball – four balls result in a walk. A walk is when the kicker is sent to the first base, and a new kicker comes up.
Kickball Tips and Tricks
When kicking, try to use the inside top of your foot to make contact with the ball. This is similar to how a soccer player kicks. This style will allow for a more significant energy transfer and the ability to direct the ball to travel in the desired direction.
The desired direction depends to some degree on the field. First and foremost, a home run is always the best option – but never an easy task. Trying to hit the home run is usually a solid play, but not always the smartest.
Getting to the first base is the most uncomplicated objective. The best way to do this is to kick the ball in any direction other than at the first baseman. This will give the runner the most time to make it to the base. Be careful not to kick a ball that can be easily caught – sometimes, a low-bouncing kick is much more effective.
Sometimes, getting to first base isn’t the only objective. This is when there are other runners already on the bases. For instance, if a runner is on first, kicking the ball at the second baseman will undoubtedly result in an out for your team. This means kicking the ball left, toward third base and beyond, is ideal.
If a teammate is on third base, it is more beneficial for your team to kick the ball in a direction that may jeopardize your chances of making it to first base if it increases the likelihood that your teammate could make it home.
Kickball Tips When Running
Running is relatively simple. Run as fast as you can to get to the next base.
If you can’t make it to the next base in time, don’t attempt to run (unless a runner behind you forces you, you must run. When going to first base, always run it out).
If you can steal a base, steal the base. If you aren’t fast enough to steal, don’t try to steal.
Anticipate whether the fielder will make the play or not. Make your running decision accordingly.
How to Play Kickball: Kicking Tricks & Tips
- Know the field. When played in grade school, our baseball field abutted the asphalt of the parking lot. If you could wrap a kick around the foul pole – in our case, a telephone pole – the ball would hit the hard asphalt and bounce forever. This is where all the better kickers aimed until defensive adjustments were made.
- Wait for your pitch. Don’t be afraid to take a strike.
- Kicking on the ground to the left side of the field is usually a dependable way of getting on base. It’s a long throw, and removing the chance to catch the ball in the air makes you a problematic “out.”
- Look for openings in the defense. If players are shading you to the left, maybe it’s time to surprise them with a hard kick to the right.
- Understand which fielders are skilled and which are not. Aim for openings near weaker fielders.
Note: If you have tips on playing kickball, please let us know via the contact page. Thanks.
Kickball Strategies When Pitching
Most times, one player will pitch for the majority of the game. The best person for the job should be the team’s pitcher.
Try to change pitches so the kicker can’t queue in on a pitching style. The pitcher controls the field while they have the ball in their hands, so be wary of any opposing team members attempting to steal any bases.
Play to the weaknesses of the player who is batting (to use a baseball term). A slow ball will allow them to place the kick where they desire. A fastball is more likely to result in an error on their behalf but also carries the most significant potential energy transfer and, therefore, could be sent booming.
When in doubt, walk a kicker. If the kicker has your name and you don’t feel confident in your ability to pitch at them, walking them and giving up a base isn’t all bad.
Sometimes, a bouncier-pitched ball is harder to kick.
How to Play Kickball When Catching
Watch the field. The catcher is the only player facing the opposite direction as their teammates and therefore is the best person to alert the pitcher if someone is attempting to steal or leading off a base too aggressively. It is wise to establish some form of communication with the pitcher.
Catch the foul balls. A quick catcher can seize an easy out if a ball is popped up shallowly.
How to Play Kickball When Fielding
Know where the runners are at all times. If the ball comes to you, a split-second decision is usually required to decide your next move. A smart, quick, well-executed move can be the difference between a good play and a bad play.
Catch the ball. It seems simple, but if the option is to catch the ball or let it bounce, the catch results in an automatic out. Play smarter, not harder.
Move-in/Move-out. If the player has a “big leg,” it may be smart of the outfielders to take a few steps back. And if the kicker tends to hit soft, take a few steps from your regular location.
Watch and learn. Observation is a life skill that isn’t left out in kickball. Certain kickers have certain tendencies for how they kick the ball. If a kicker tends to kick the ball high and left always, it would be wise to position yourself accordingly.
So, that’s how you play kickball!
Kickball was invented by Nicholas C Suess, who was a park and playground supervisor in Ohio. The game was first described in a 1917 publication called The Playground Book. The word is that Mr. Suess didn’t want to have to pay the money to purchase bats for baseball. This thrifty move brought the game of kickball to the United States.
If the similarities between kickball and baseball weren’t enough to convince you that these two sports are related, the original name for kickball was actually “kick baseball.” It also went by kick cabbage, but that didn’t stick.
Canada also had a descriptive name for the game: “soccer baseball.”
You might be interested in the World Adult Kickball Association.
Kickball Fun Facts
- By the 1920s, the game was beginning to be implemented into gym classes in America as an instrument for physical fitness that also taught young people the essential rules of baseball, which was America’s most popular sport.
- Ironically, the original rules for kick baseball were less like baseball than they are today. There was no pitcher, the ball was kicked from the same spot every time, and players were forced to wait until the ball was kicked beyond a five-foot line before they could enter the inner field of play (known as the neutral zone)
- The first time adults enjoyed a kickball game was officially in New York in 1922.
- In 1943, the U.S. Army declared kickball an official “informal game.” A twist in the rules made it so that the only runs that could be scored had to be home runs.
- In the 1970s, kickball rose to national prominence in America. It is mostly a recreational game for adults, with many cities and towns offering seasonal leagues.
Well, we hope you enjoyed our deep dive into kickball. It’s a fun game requiring very little equipment – kickball!
By Jack Barrow
Jack writes about football, basketball, and general sporting activities.
You’re on the How to Play Kickball — Kickball: Rules, How to Play, Tips page.
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