Tetherball is typically thought of as a playground game, but it’s not too difficult to set up a tetherball pole in your own yard so you and your kids can play anytime you like. Although you’ll need a few tools and some DIY skills, this is a quick and inexpensive project that can provide hours of fun for you and your friends or family.
Below is a step-by-step guide to making your own tetherball set. We included instructions for using a tire for a base as well as securing a base in the ground. We will also discuss how to choose the right tetherball for your completed set, and whether it’s better to make your own tetherball set or to purchase one overall.
1. Plan the Pole’s Location, Height & Mounting Type
Before you purchase any materials to make your tetherball set, think about the location you’ll use for playing. Make sure there is enough room for the ball to swing around freely, plus plenty of space for players on both sides to move around. In the excitement of the game, a player could easily injure themselves on obstacles nearby.
We recommend at least 100 square feet of open space to play tetherball, on level ground with no tripping hazards. An official tetherball court is a 20 foot diameter circle.
When deciding on the height of your tetherball pole, it will depend mainly on who will be playing most often. Ten feet (from the ground to the top of the pole) is considered the standard height, but some tetherball poles can be as short as 7 feet if they’re meant to be used by younger children.
Regardless of how high the pole is, the ball should be hung so that it is 2 feet above the ground.
The pole will need to be mounted into something sturdy to keep it from moving around, even if players put a lot of strength into hitting the ball. We’ll give options for two different methods of securing the pole: in-ground or using a tire for the base.
- In-Ground Poles – Securing the tetherball pole in the ground takes more effort to install, and it’s not portable. However, it’s likely going to be more stable than the tire method. Some people also find that the tire gets in the way when they try to step close to the pole during the game.
- Mounted Poles – Mounting the pole in a tire is easier and has the advantage of portability. You can move it to different parts of your yard as needed, as it can easily be rolled from place to place. It’s even possible to take it with you when moving to a new home.
Once you’ve made your decision about which type of base you are going to use, it’s time to gather your materials and prepare your workspace.
2. Gather Materials and Tools
Below you will find the list of materials and tools needed for this project. We have also listed separately the tools required for in-ground installation and tire installation.
If any step seems too much for you to handle yourself, I recommend checking out HomeAdvisor Handyman Services for a local handyman that could give you some help.
In-Ground Pole Sets
- 1-½-inch galvanized steel pipe of desired height plus 2 feet
- Rebar – 2 pieces, 12 inches long
- Concrete – 180 lbs.
- Eyebolt with washer and hex nut
- Safety wire
- Tetherball with rope (link to Amazon)
- Connecting hook for rope
- Drill with cobalt bits
- Cutting lubricant (link to Amazon)
- Spirit level
- Old towels or rags
- Work gloves and eye protection
- Post-hole digger (optional for in-ground install)
Tire-Mounted Pole Sets
- 1-½” galvanized steel pipe of desired height
- Old tire
- Rebar – 2 pieces, 12 inches long
- Concrete – 180 lbs. or more for larger tire
- Eye bolt with washer and hex nut
- Safety wire
- Plastic sheet (large garbage bags will work)
- Tetherball with rope (link to Amazon)
- Connecting hook for rope
Once you have your materials, read through the steps below before getting started. It’s recommended you have one or more other people on hand to help when you get to step 5.
3. Drill Holes in the Tetherball Pole
To mount the tetherball to the top of the pole, it is necessary to drill a hole in your galvanized steel pipe to hold an eyebolt. The loop of the eye bolt will be where the tetherball rope attaches to the pole.
Drill a hole slightly larger than the diameter of your eye bolt about 1.5 inches from the top end of the pole. Make sure to drill straight through both sides of the pole.
A cutting lubricant is recommended when drilling through galvanized steel since it reduces friction and dulling of the drill bit. As with using any power tool, make sure to use proper protective equipment while drilling through the poles to avoid injury.
- After completing the first hole, you will need to drill two more holes at the opposite end of the pole to insert the rebar.
- The two pieces of rebar will be placed in these two holes in an X shape to provide more stability when the pole is set into the concrete.
- Choose a drill bit that is slightly larger than the diameter of your rebar.
- Drill one hole about 1.5 inches from the bottom end of your pole, again drilling straight through both sides as you did with the previous hole.
- Then, turn the pole 90 degrees so your next hole will be perpendicular to the one you just finished.
- The placement of the next hole should be about 3 inches higher on the pole than the last one.
- The arrangement doesn’t need to be perfect since this part of the pole will be inside the concrete and not visible.
Once all your holes are drilled, you can install the eye bolt. Push the eye bolt through the hole in the top of the pole and out the other side. Use the washer and hex nut to secure the eye bolt in place.
Here’s a quick video demonstration, notice how they position the rebar in the pole after drilling.
4. Prepare the Tetherball Pole for Installation
For an in-ground tetherball pole, you will need a hole in the ground, which will be filled with concrete to hold the pole in place. Dig a hole that’s about 2 feet deep and about 1 foot in diameter (it must be wide enough to accommodate the widest part of the rebar).
A post-hole digger can speed up this process if you have access to one. You may be fine without the rebar on an in-ground install.
For tire-mounted or in-ground installation, the next step is to install the rebar. Insert the two pieces of rebar into the two holes you drilled at the bottom of the pole. The rebar will help to stabilize the pole in the concrete. After the rebar is inserted, we recommend wrapping a length of safety wire around both pieces of rebar and the pole to stop them from shifting out of place.
- For a tire-mounted pole, prepare the location where you are going to put the concrete into the tire before you start mixing the concrete.
- Set the tire on a flat surface covered by the plastic sheet (a garbage bag can work for this purpose).
- If you don’t have a suitable flat surface, you can use a piece of plywood under your tire.
- You want to be sure that the bottom concrete surface dries flat so your tetherball pole will be balanced.
Be sure you’ve completed all your preparation work before you start mixing your concrete since you will need to work fast once it is mixed. Concrete can dry quickly, especially on hot and dry days.
5. Set the Tetherball Pole in the Concrete
For safety, it’s recommended to use personal protective equipment when working with concrete. Gloves and eye protection will keep you safe from skin and eye irritation that can come from wet concrete or concrete powder, while a mask is recommended to prevent unintentional inhalation of dangerous powder particles.
- Mix your concrete according to the directions on the bag, using your bucket or another suitable container.
- It’s not necessary to mix it all at the same time.
- When it’s ready, place your pole centered in the tire or hole and start to fill around it with concrete.
It is useful to have someone to help you hold the pole in place while you do this, but an alternative would be to use some scrap wood and vise clamps to hold the pole. As you work, frequently check to be sure your pole is held straight. A spirit level is useful to confirm this since it can be hard to see if the pole is tilted when you are close to it.
We’ve used a ladder set up next to the pole to hold it steady and level with good results. Just tie the pole to the ladder with zip-ties or string.
Fill the hole or tire with additional concrete, making sure you reach the outside edges, until the hole or tire is full. You may choose to smooth the top with a trowel if it’s going to be visible.
The amount of time it takes for the concrete to dry completely will depend on the type of concrete and the weather conditions. Make sure that the pole is not moved before the concrete is completely dry since that could cause it to be less stable.
Here’s a quick video showing how the pole can be removable with the in-ground set up. That makes it easier to mow the yard or store the pole for winter.
6. Attach the Rope to the Tetherball Pole
Once you are sure that the concrete is completely dry, you’re ready to attach the tetherball rope to the eyebolt. The tetherball rope can be tied directly onto the eye bolt with a secure knot, or connected with a metal clip or carabiner that allows it to be removed when it’s not in use. A ladder may be necessary to attach the rope, depending on how tall the tetherball pole is.
All you need to do next is attach the tetherball to the other end of the rope, and you’re ready to play!
If you would like to mark the court and boundaries, check out my Tetherball Court Dimensions article for a free print out diagram to help you lay the court out.
Tips for Buying a Tetherball
There are several types of tetherballs available from sporting goods stores and online. Without having used each one, it can be challenging to decide which is the right choice. Here are some considerations when thinking of which tetherball to buy.
- Attachment type
You can check out my article Tetherball Cost and Compare Guide to see the most popular tetherball sets and how they stack up against each other, as well as some recommended tetherball and rope sets.
You can think of a tetherball as being quite similar to a volleyball, except it’s attached to a rope. Both types of ball are meant to be hit with any part of the hand, although a tetherball tends to be a bit harder; they are made of soft rubber material and feel similar to a soccer ball.
Ideally, your hands will not hurt when you hit the tetherball, but in reality, many models—even if they’re marketed for children—are quite hard. Look for a “soft” or “super soft” designation on the ball when purchasing. These types will keep your hands more comfortable but don’t sacrifice that much in performance.
Here’s an example Soft Touch Tetherball (link to Amazon) to give you an idea of what you’re looking for. The regular tetherballs work fine for us, but the kids can play longer with the softer ball before their hands feel sore.
Be aware of the mechanism that attaches the ball and rope as well. Most tetherballs are now sold with the attachment inside the ball, and you’ll only see the rope coming out a hole in the top of the ball. However, some older styles of tetherball have an external loop that attaches the ball to the rope.
The internal type of attachment is generally preferable for most players since they prevent accidental injury that might result from the player hitting the loop on their hands or arm. Also, they’re less likely to break at the attachment point since the ball surface protects it.
When looking at attachment types, be sure to note if the rope is replaceable or not. An exterior loop attachment will be much easier to replace than an interior attachment, but it is possible on some types of interior attached tetherballs. Check the product description to be sure.
In most cases, a tetherball will last one or two years in a regular backyard situation. The most likely types of damage are frayed or broken ropes, balls that won’t hold air, and balls with fading or cracks in the rubber.
You can reduce the amount of damage to the ball by storing it inside when it’s not being used, and by positioning your tetherball pole in an area that’s out of direct sunlight.
Have reasonable expectations when it comes to your tetherball and rope. They are inexpensive items that will probably need to be replaced regularly since they are usually exposed to rough treatment and harsh weather.
Tetherball Set: Buy or DIY?
After reading through the description of how to make your own tetherball set, most people probably will have a good idea if this project is within their comfort zone for DIY projects.
Although it takes a few tools and could be challenging for people who haven’t done certain things (drilling through metal, working with concrete) before, for most readers, this project is probably do-able.
On the other hand, there are tetherball sets sold online and in sporting goods stores that come with the ball, rope, attachment hook, pole, and a base that either goes into the ground using a sleeve installed in concrete, or a hollow plastic base that can be filled with sand or water for stability.
I cover all the most popular options in my Tetherball Cost and Compare Guide, and how to find a quality set that works for you.
If you don’t already have most of the tools needed for the DIY option, a ready-made option might start looking more attractive financially. Most sets we saw were affordable and comparable with other outdoor sports equipment. If you already have the tools for a do-it-yourself tetherball kit, however, that will be the cheaper option.
- Stability and strength are also concerns with tetherball sets you can purchase.
- It’s difficult to package and transport poles that are 10 or 12 feet long, so most sets have a pole that is shipped in two or three pieces.
- They screw or otherwise attach together, but having those seams where the pieces attach will always create a pole that is weaker than a single piece of galvanized steel.
When thinking about how strong your tetherball pole needs to be, consider who’s going to be using it. If the main players are elementary school children, then a lightweight metal secured by a plastic base might be sufficient for how rough they would be.
Finally, consider whether replacement parts are readily available. If you build a do-it-yourself tetherball pole, all the items except the ball itself are available at a hardware store. If you purchase a kit instead, you may need to buy replacement parts from the manufacturer. Sometimes manufacturers’ parts are more expensive than you’d anticipate, and other times there are no replacement parts available for consumers to purchase.
If you have the proper location and some skills with tools, it’s not difficult to build your own tetherball set in an afternoon and be ready to play by the next day.
Follow the tips in this article to decide if you would prefer to buy or make your tetherball pole, and to help you choose which tetherball is the right choice for your setup. We hope your new tetherball set provides you with hours of entertainment!