How To Win At Tetherball: Tactics and Practice Drills


To win a game of tetherball, you’ll need to know the winning conditions and how to beat your opponent. After playing many games of tetherball myself, I’ve come up this list of the best tactics to use and the best approach to win the game.

To win a game of tetherball, you’ll need to wrap the ball around the pole until you run out of rope. Your opponent will be trying to wrap the ball around in the opposite direction as you. So you’ll need to undo their wrappings, or not allow your opponent to wrap the ball in their direction.

In order to accomplish this, there are some simple tactics you can put into place right away. We’ll talk about defensive moves, and offensive plays that can win you the game.

Tetherball Rules For A Win

To win the game you must first know all the rules and try your best not to break them. If a rule is broken, a point is awarded to the other player. No matter how good you are at the game, if you break a rule (for example, catching the ball) it’s an automatic loss for that round.

Tetherball Rules:

  • Ball can only be hit with hand or forearm
  • Ball or rope cannot be held or caught
  • Players must stay within play area
  • Players cannot touch the pole
  • Players cannot hit the ball outside the play area
  • Any foul is an automatic loss

For more in depth information on the rules, court set up, and scoring, check out the article I wrote all about How To Play Tetherball.

Here’s a quick video to give you the basics of the game rules before we get into technique and how to win.

https://youtu.be/MV01RrWhiwE

Keep these rules in mind as we continue. You can use some of these to your advantage, for example, getting your opponent to reach or step out of bounds. If you can hit the ball in a way to cause your opponent to foul, it’s an automatic win for you.

Serving A Tetherball

You definitely want to be the one serving the ball in tetherball. If you’re good enough, you can wrap the rope around the pole and win the game without your opponent ever touching the ball. Usually the server is decided by a coin toss, or the winner of the previous game gets to serve.

Sometimes the server is decided by dropping the tetherball, letting it bounce off the pole, and whichever side it bounces to gets to serve.

Being in control of the ball is everything in tetherball, including serving.

To win right from the gate as a server, you’ll need to hit the ball over your opponents head repeatedly. As the ball swings over their head, and back onto your side, you’ll need to keep giving the ball an extra boost by hitting it again.

It’s pretty difficult, and not normally how the game plays out, but you can definitely win off a serve. It’s all about timing and keeping the tetherballs momentum going. Let’s talk about the hitting techniques and tactics you can use to help you accomplish this.

The Power Serve

Hitting the tetherball at a sharp angle and with enough power that the ball can wrap around the pole multiple times without the opponent getting to it is called the power serve. Keep in mind where your opponent is and angle your serve appropriately. If they’re on the back half, serve from your front half. The point is they won’t be able to touch the ball after the serve.

The power serve is easy to learn, but hard to master. Reserved for the brave and mighty ones of tetherball. Some say the power serve is an art form, and is appreciated for its beauty.

Hitting A Tetherball Technique

You are allowed to hit a tetherball with an open palm, closed palm, or closed fist. You are also allowed to use both hands to hit the tetherball. Usually a closed fist hit is reserved for a power hit, but has less control. An open handed palm hit will give you more control, but typically has less power behind it.

I like to use both hands, one closed and one open, when I’m on offense and have control of the ball. This way I can use my open hand to guide and give accuracy to my hits, and use my closed hand as the hammer, giving power to the hit.

On defense, I would recommend using an open handed (one or both) palm approach. This way you have the best chance of stopping the ball, gaining control, and then you could move to an offensive play style once you have control of the tetherball.

Hitting Technique:

  • Open hand for control
  • Closed fist for power
  • Combine the two on offense
  • Open hand on defense
  • Closed hand knuckle hits are unpredictable
  • Don’t hold the ball, it’s a foul

Stealing The Tetherball

While you’re on defense, your whole goal needs to be stopping your opponent from getting wraps around the pole. Pay attention to where they’re standing and adjust to intercept the ball.

If your opponent is in the middle of the half circle, move to one of the sides of your boundary to prevent the ball from soaring over your head with each pass. You need to position yourself in the path of the tetherball to get a steal.

When blocking the ball, it’s best to go for an outright steal rather than a block. A block is when you stop your opponent momentum, but you also stop the momentum of the ball. Usually this gives your opponent a nice slow ball coming their way, which they’ll use to get back on an offensive drive.

Instead, try getting in front of the ball and hitting it back to your opponent in an advantageous way, for example, over their head. Use two open faced palm hits to increase accuracy and give yourself the best chance at gaining control of the ball.

Tetherball Defense:

  • Get in front of the ball
  • Anticipate the balls path and react
  • Go for the steal rather than a momentum breaking block
  • Keep an eye on your opponents position and adjust
  • Gain control as soon as possible

Tetherball Winning Tactics

While you’re on offense, your main objective is to keep the ball in your control. If your opponent is a skilled player, they will be aware of your position and they will adjust to block your offensive drive. Keep them on their toes by adjusting as they do.

Angle your hits to send the ball out of reach of your opponent. A skilled player will catch onto this right away and move to a different area of the court. Keep your eye on your opponents position and adjust the angle of your hit to keep the ball out of their reach.

A good offensive drive is one that keeps the ball under your control, giving you more wraps around the pole. It’s not always about power hitting the ball. Just focus on keeping the ball at a good momentum, hitting the ball as it comes back into your play area out of reach of your opponent.

Tetherball Offense:

  • Keep in control of the ball to win the game
  • Angle your hits to keep the ball out of reach of your opponent
  • Watch opponents movements
  • Adjust your position to set yourself up for the best hits
  • Stay away from over powered hits, which could cause you to lose control
  • Keep up the balls momentum

Tetherball Practice Drills

To get better at tetherball, it’s going to take practice. Luckily I’ve come up with some practice drills that have helped me get better. First off I’d like to say, playing tetherball is the best practice by far. But if you don’t have someone to play with, try out these practice drills to improve your skills.

  • Hitting The Ball As It Comes Around – This drill will help when your on an offensive drive and need to keep up the momentum of the tetherball. Simply hit the ball around the pole, and work on timing your follow up hits to keep the ball moving. I suggest starting off slow with this one and increase your hit strength as your accuracy improves.
  • Angle Serving – This is a two part drill. You’ll want to practice serving at extreme angles to prevent an opponent from getting to the ball, but also practice receiving those types of serves. Simply practice the serve, and when the ball comes back, practice stealing on those types of serves.
  • Power Serving – Practice your power serve. Keep in mind, the goal is that the ball will wrap around the pole a few times before needing a momentum boost.
  • Save The Ball – Let the ball get close to hitting the pole, for example, a couple wraps left until game over, and practicing saving the ball. Usually at the last few wraps the opponent thinks they won the game and back off a bit. You could make a come back by saving the ball.
  • Hitting Techniques – Just practice hitting the ball with some of the different techniques we talked about above. Use two hands, one open one closed, use a closed hand power fist, and use the palm of an open hand to practice accuracy hits.

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Robert Sampson

I'm Robert Sampson and I live in Colorado where I spend a lot of time in the backyard with my family either grilling, playing games and sports, or working on a project to make our backyard a better place to be.

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