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Pre-Game: Teams, Setting Up
Gameplay: Opening Rush,  Playing,  Ball Control,  Overtime,  Penalties
Rules & Definitions: Court Layout,  Throwing,  Catching,  Deflections/Blocking,  Live/Dead Balls


Honor Code

Dodgeball is a self-regulated game that relies on the honor system. Knowing the rules helps alleviate any frustrations or misunderstandings on and off the court.

Referees are provided to keep the game moving, ensure player safety, rule on unclear plays and settle disputes. All ref calls are final and a lack of a call by a referee does not remove your obligation to abide by the honor code and take your out, nor does it give you permission to react in any unsportsmanlike way.

Team captains are the only players that may address concerns to referees and League Managers during the match and must do so in a respectful manner. Captains must confine discussions to interpretations of the rules and not challenge referees’ decisions regarding judgment.

Dodgeball Basics

  • Teams on each side of the court throw multiple balls at each other in an effort to eliminate the other team by hitting or catching their opponents.
  • Players are out if their throw is caught or if they are struck by an opponent’s ball.
  • A player can be “caught in” and come back into the game if one of his/her teammates catches the ball.
  • A team wins when there are no opponents remaining on the other side.

Easy, right? Now let’s get down to the nitty gritty…




  • Each WDS league has a male-to-female ratio requirement for team rosters, which varies from league to league.
    • A standard WDS league carries a 3:1 ratio, which means 1 female is required for every 3 males on the roster.
    • Males cannot exceed the maximum number allowed on the court.
    • For example:
      • A roster of 12 players must have at least 3 females.
      • No more than 9 males may be on the court at a given time or risk forfeiture.


  • A typical game begins with 7 balls on the center line—3 on one side, 4 on the other. The team with 4 balls is considered to have “ball control.”
  • Ball control will alternate between teams in each game until the end of the match. Halfway through a match (~25 minutes), teams will switch sides of play. Note: This may not be applicable in tournaments or smaller leagues.
  • Prior to the start of the game, team captains should meet with the refs and ro-sham-bo. The winner selects between their choice of ball control or which side of the court their team will start on.
  • Play begins with each team lined up behind their respective back line with one foot completely behind the line.

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  • On the ref’s whistle, players may “rush” or run to retrieve balls on the right-hand side of their court.
  • If a player runs prior to the whistle, the game is reset.
  • If a team does not successfully retrieve their balls within a reasonable amount of time, the balls are up for grabs by any player.
  • Balls retrieved must be cleared before they are considered “live.”
    • To clear a ball, the player in possession of said ball must have two feet behind the attack line before it can be thrown.
    • If a player throws a ball before they have cleared the attack line, the throw cannot result in any other player being eliminated.
    • If a player is caught in the process of throwing an uncleared ball, the catch is good and the player who threw is out.


  • “In” Players
    • Once the game begins, players start as “in” players and use the balls to eliminate the other team by hitting them or catching their ball that was thrown, rendering them as “out” players.
    • In players should stay on the court to the best of their ability. If a player is off the court and out of bounds, they cannot be eliminated by a throw nor can they take any action that eliminates a player on the opposite team.
    • In players can leave the court due to injury, momentum or to retrieve (or shag) balls for their team.
    • In players leaving the court in anticipation of a shaggable ball before the ball crosses the sidelines will be warned and said ball will be turned over to the opposing team.
    • In players leaving the court in the middle of a play in which that player is directly involved will be called out. Examples:
      • If player A throws at Player B and Player B leaves the court to avoid being hit, Player B is considered to be dodging out of bounds and is out.
      • If player A throws at Player B and Player B leaves the court to shag a ball mid-play and avoid being hit, Player B is considered to be dodging out of bounds and is out.
  • “Out” or “Eliminated” Players
    • Players that are out must immediately go to the outline, dropping any balls in their possession and doing their best not to influence the remaining game.
      • Eliminated players should line up in the order by which they get to the outline, no matter who was eliminated first.
      • The first out player to come in off a catch must stand near the back corner of the court.
      • Players may shag on the opposite side of the court once the minimum number of out players has been reached (varies by league).
      • The penalty for line-jumping (skipping the proper order of out players) or stacking the outline (intentionally putting other players ahead of you) is a forfeit of the current game.
    • If an “out” player making their way to the outline touches or is hit by a live ball, that ball is considered dead.
    • Out players should not interfere with any action on the court and should never enter the court at any time. Referees may yellow card repeat offenders who try to influence the current game.
    • If a catch is made, the out player has approximately ~5 seconds to enter the game or risk forfeiting the right to enter.
  • Momentum
    • If a player steps out of the sideline boundaries because of momentum after a valid throw or catch, the player is still safe. They must re-enter the court immediately and can be eliminated at any time by a catch or a throw once both feet are in bounds.
    • If momentum carries a player over the center line, the player is out.
  • Shagging
    • Players may only exit and re-enter the court from the back line when shagging balls and must do so as quickly as possible.
    • Players leaving the court cannot take balls with them or those balls will be awarded to the opposing team.
    • “In” players cannot exit the court before a ball rolling out of bounds is fully out of bounds, otherwise the ball will be awarded to the opposing team.
    • No player, in an attempt to shag, may touch a ball inbounds or that ball will be awarded to the opposing team.
    • When a ball is shagged, players may toss the ball back into their court. “In” players may carry the ball with them into the court.
    • If a player exits or re-enters the court from the sidelines, they will be warned and any ball(s) gained illegally will be awarded to the other team.
    • The center line boundary continues out of bounds as well. Reaching over the center line is allowed, but you must remain on your side of the court while shagging balls.
    • The last player on the court cannot exit the court to retrieve balls.
  • End of Game
    • The game ends immediately when one team has their last player eliminated or when the final end-of-game whistle blows, regardless of live balls remaining in play.
    • In the occasion when all remaining players on both teams are eliminated simultaneously, it will be up to the judgment of the ref to determine a winner. If there is not a clear winner, a tie will be declared for the game.
    • At the conclusion of each game, both teams should help line up the balls prior to the start of the next game.
  • End Of Match
    • The team that wins the most games in the match will be declared the winner.
    • At the end of the match, both team captains must sign the scoresheet to confirm the final score. If captains do not sign the scoresheet, the written scores are still final.
  • Stopping Play
    • Refs may stop play for injuries, to call players out or to discuss a call with other refs.
    • Play stops when the ref blows their whistle and steps on the court. A ball in the air will be considered dead if the ref has stopped play and stepped onto the court.
    • When a ref stops play, all players in the outline should remain there, and all players on the court should remain there to the best of their ability.
    • Balls should not be interfered with, and the ref should to their best to return the game to the pre-timeout state of play.
  • Timeouts
    • One 30-second timeout may be called by a team captain per match. Play stops only when the referee officially signals the timeout.
    • If a non-captain calls a timeout or a team calls more than one timeout, all balls will be turned over to the opposing team.
  • Injury
    • When a player is clearly injured, play should stop immediately for their safety.
    • In the event of a headshot, the struck player may be given a 10-second window of safety on the court if they have been affected by getting hit. This window ends once the player resumes play or signals they are okay.
    • Players who are injured may step off the court momentarily to regain composure and may reenter the court with the ref’s approval. Players who are severely injured should sit out the remainder of the game or until they are cleared to play by a League Manager.
  • Props & Costumes
    • No props or costumes can be used on the court to benefit a player at any time (i.e. catching). Props and/or costumes count as an extension of the player and will result in an out when hit.


  • Ball Control
    • The team controlling the greater number of balls is considered to have “ball control” and has the burden to give up control.
      • Example: If Team A has 5 balls and Team B has 2, then Team A must deliver at least 2 balls to surrender control.
    • Control occurs at any time where 4 or more balls are on one side of the court, in or out of bounds, in possession of players or not.
    • Any mode of delivery, excluding kicking, is acceptable to deliver ball control. Throwing, rolling, bouncing – all can give balls to the other team.
  • Rate of Play & Countdown
    • Teams with ball control must turn over possession within an approximate 15-second timeframe.
    • Teams are only responsible for giving up control of the balls they are in possession of when the countdown begins. Failure to do this results in stoppage of play and loss of all balls by the offending team.
      • Example: If the countdown starts with a team in control of 5 balls, they are only responsible for delivering 2 balls in order to turn over control. If the opposing team chooses to throw additional balls the team in control is not responsible for delivering those balls during the same countdown.
    • Announcement of ball control and turnover will be called as such:
      • Refs will mentally take note of which team has possession and begin the 15-second count.
      • Refs will give a 10-second verbal warning plus the number of balls to turn over:
        • Example: “10 seconds, throw 2 balls!”
      • A verbal 5-second countdown warning will be called by the refs. A whistle is blown for the 0 count.
        • Example: “5-4-3-2-1-(whistle)”
      • If a team has not properly turned over possession, all play stops and all remaining balls awarded to the opposing team.
      • A turnover of ball possession happens once the last ball necessary to turn over control has crossed the opposing team’s clear line.
      • The countdown stops immediately if possession is turned over to the opposing team before the 15-seconds ends.


  • Overtime
    • During playoff eliminations, if your match is tied at the end of 50 minutes, the match will go into a 4-minute overtime.
    • Teams must ro-sham-bo for ball control before starting the OT game.
    • The team with the most live players left on the court at the end of OT wins. The final whistle signals the end of the match.
  • Sudden Death
    • If both teams have the same number of players at the end of OT, the match moves into sudden death with the remaining players on the court. The next team to lose a player by any means loses the entire match.
    • Any IN player who wanders off the court and is not present for the final count cannot reenter the court unless they were shagging a ball prior to the final whistle being blown.
    • If the refs can clearly determine a winner and an OUT player enters the court before the winning team is announced, the game is NOT automatically forfeit.
    • If the refs cannot clearly determine a winner because an OUT player has entered the court before the winning team is announced, the team of the out player automatically forfeits.


  • Penalties
    • For some infractions, a referee may give a warning or stop play to caution an individual or team.
    • In other instances, a yellow or red card may be given immediately without warning. Refs have final judgment on the assignment of penalty cards.
    • Cards may also be issued retroactively, based on the situation and input from refs, league managers and/or WDS staff members.
  • Yellow Card
    • If a player receives a yellow card, they must sit out the current game and the next game.
    • If the yellow card is issued in the final game of the night, the player must sit out the remainder of that game and the first game of the next match the following week.
    • A yellow card is typically assigned for players arguing, general unsportsmanlike behavior and flagrant rules violations. This includes but is not limited to:
      • Clear abuse of the honor system
      • Excessive contact with balls by players out of the game
      • Intentional interference by players as they leave the court
      • Interference with the game by players in the outline
      • Continuing any practice that a ref has cautioned against
      • Continuous verbal abuse of the refs
      • Heckling to cause altercation
  • Red Card
    • If a player receives a red card, that player is out for that entire match and the infraction will be reviewed. Red-carded players must also immediately leave the gym.
    • If a player receives 2 yellow cards within a single match, the second yellow card will be considered a red card.
    • Infractions that will immediately call for a red card include but are not limited to:
      • Crossing the center line in a threatening manner
      • Any intentional physical contact or attempt to make physical contact with a player of the opposite team or ref
      • Any action endangering the physical health of any player or ref
      • Gross violations of the rules, above and beyond regular in-game infractions (i.e. entering a game illegally and intentionally)
  • Equality of Play / Rights of Refs
    • All players including team captains, league managers, subs and staff are bound by the calls of a ref during the game.
    • Refs have free reign to stop play in order to consult other refs regarding rules.
    • In general, appeals and complaints should be made outside of gameplay and should be addressed by the captain to the league manager.

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Rules & Definitions


  • Court Boundaries
    • The court is a large rectangle with a center line dividing the two halves.
    • The center line is a hard line and extends to the out-of-bounds area as well.
      • Players may step on the center line but may not cross it.
      • A player may reach across the center line (i.e. to shag a ball) but may not touch any part of the opponent’s court.
    • The sidelines on either side of the court are considered soft lines.
      • Players may step over the sideline and will remain safe unless a ball has been thrown at them.
      • If a player’s feet cross the sidelines while a ball is thrown at them, they’ll be called out for dodging out of bounds.
    • Players must leave to shag balls and re-enter the game from the back corners of the court only.
  • Court Gameplay
    • Valid throws:
      • Throws must be made from within the court with both feet inbounds.
      • If a player throws from near the center line but falls, steps or jumps over the center line, refs must decide if the ball was thrown before the thrower touched the opposing team’s court.
      • Either way the thrower is out (center line = hard line), but the ball may be ruled dead before thrown and therefore cannot have been caught or hit opponents out.
      • If the ball was thrown before the player crossed the center line, the throw is valid.
    • Valid catches:
      • Both feet must be inbounds to make a valid catch.
      • If a player is hit inbounds and the ball pops up out of bounds, the ball may not be caught out of bounds to save the player. The player that was hit is out.
    • Exiting the court:
      • When a player is eliminated, they should raise their hand and walk to the out line as quickly as possible.
      • If an eliminated player is struck while walking to the outline, that ball is immediately dead.


  • Throwing – Basic
    • A thrown ball is any ball thrown by a player on the court.
    • If the ball hits an opposing player in the air and is not caught, the hit player is out.
    • Any throw can hit multiple people. The ball is considered dead and cannot cause outs once it hits the court, a wall, a ceiling, a dead ball, an out player, an opposing player’s head directly, or is caught.
    • A throw can only eliminate players on the opposing team.
  • Throwing – Complicated
    1. A thrown ball is any ball that is controlled by a player and then propelled by the hands.
      • Kicking, striking with the body (hand, head, knee, etc.) or other non-hand related propulsion is not allowed and the ball is immediately considered dead.
      • Pinch throwing is not allowed. Pinching is defined as manipulating the ball by having rubber touch rubber inside the ball.
    2. A thrown ball becomes a live ball as soon as it leaves the thrower’s hands.
    3. A throw may only eliminate players while it is live.
    4. A player may not throw if they are “out,” they may only throw while still in play.
    5. A thrown ball that hits an opposing player is considered live.
      • A player is considered hit if a live ball strikes any non-head part of their body or extension of their body, including clothing, shoes, a towel tucked in the waistband, etc.
    6. If a live ball that leaves the thrower’s hand strikes another player in the head directly, the ball is immediately dead and neither they nor the thrower are out.
      • Recreational-level leagues enforce a modified standing headshot rule:
        • If a player takes a direct headshot and their head is above their chest level, the thrower is out. This includes players who get hit in the head while jumping to dodge.
        • If a player takes a direct headshot and their head is below their chest level, the thrower is safe.
        • A player who takes a direct headshot is always safe.
      • Open-level leagues have a standing headshot rule:
        • A standing headshot is defined as any direct hit to the head (the entire head, above the neck) while the player is standing upright.
        • If the player is crouching, leaning, bending or in the act of moving from his or her natural standing position, they will not be considered standing. A natural standing position is one in which the person is flat-footed and standing upright.
        • If a player receives a standing headshot, the thrower is out.
        • Three-point headshots are considered a legal hit. All other headshots are safe for all players.
    7. A throw ends if:
      • The live ball strikes a part of the court like the walls, floor, basketball hoops, or ceiling. The ball is considered dead when it hits an inanimate object.
      • The live ball strikes another live or dead ball that is not in a player’s possession. Both balls are dead on impact.
      • The live ball is interfered with in any way by refs, out players or spectators. This results in a dead ball.
      • The live ball is caught by an opposing player. This results in the ball becoming caught.
    8. A live ball may continue to hit players until the throw ends. When the throw ends, the following can occur:
      • If the ball eventually becomes caught then any and all players that were hit are still in. The thrower is out.
      • If the ball eventually becomes dead, all players that were hit are out.
    9. A player must make a valid play when throwing:
      • A valid play is one in which the ball can hit an opposing player, be caught by the opposing team or the ball’s possession may be retrieved by the opposing team.
      • Players who do not complete a valid play can be considered stalling the game.
      • Refs can stop the game once stalling has been determined and warn the player (and their captain) that another invalid throw will result in the turnover of all balls to the opposing team.
      • If the player(s) continue to stall the game, refs may call them out at their discretion.


  • Catching – Basic
    • If a player catches a ball thrown by an opposing player, the thrower is out of the game.
    • The player at the beginning of the catcher’s outline rejoins the game immediately by entering from the back of the court.
  • Catching – Complicated
    1. A caught ball is any live ball that is caught by an opposing player that is in.
      • A catch is only good if the player is inbounds.
      • A ball is considered caught if the catcher uses their body to render it in firm control. The live ball becomes caught, and then immediately returns to being a dead ball.
      • A catch must be made with both feet inbounds. Touching the sideline is acceptable but any part of the feet touching out of bounds renders a no-catch play.
        • If a player catches a ball mid-air, the ball does not become caught until the catcher’s feet are inbounds.
    2. When a catch is made, the lead player in the catcher’s outline rejoins the game. They have a maximum of five seconds to enter the court.
    3. A ball caught while out of bounds will only result in both the thrower and catcher being safe.
    4. A catcher that has momentum that sends them out of bounds after the catch is not out, and the catch is good.


  • Deflections – Basic
    • When a throw strikes a ball held by an opposing player, the ball can bounce off and still get caught or hit opponents. This is considered a deflection.
    • The deflection doesn’t change the live/dead state of the ball.
    • If a deflection causes the deflecting player to drop their ball then the deflecting player is out.
  • Blocking – Basic
    • A block happens when a throw strikes a ball held by an opposing player and the thrown ball is deflected into the ground.
    • A ball that is deflected into the ground, wall, ceiling (or any inanimate object), out player or referee is considered dead and cannot eliminate players.
  • Deflections / Blocking – Complicated
    • When a deflection or block causes the deflecting/blocking player to drop the ball they are holding, that player is out.
      • The fumbled ball is considered dead and cannot eliminate players.
      • If the fumbled ball is knocked out of a player’s hands but then is caught by a teammate or recovered by the player, the player is safe.


  • Definition
    • Pinching is defined as gripping or manipulating the ball in such a way that rubber touches rubber on the inside of the ball.
    • Pinching alters the trajectory of a thrown ball and significantly deteriorates the quality of the ball, therefor pinching in any capacity – throwing, blocking or holding the ball – is not allowed.


  • Live vs. Dead Ball – Basic
    • A ball is considered live once:
      1. The ball has been cleared on the opening rush (two feet behind the clear line) and…
      2. The ball has been thrown by a live player.
    • A player cannot eliminate their own teammates with a live ball which they have thrown.
    • A live ball that is thrown and hits an inanimate object or a player prior to crossing the center line is considered a dead ball.
  • Live vs. Dead Ball – Complicated
    • A ball is dead once it hits an inanimate object (court, wall, hoop, etc.), “out” player (ref, teammates in the outline, etc.), or when a ref stops onto the court to stop play.
    • Balls that are mid-air and leave the court are still live balls.
    • Players who are hit by a ball may continue to play until the ball that hit them is rendered dead.
      • Example: Team A and Team B both have one player left on the court. Player A throws at Player B and hits them, but the ball ricochets in the air and over the net into the other court. Player B picks up a ball near their feet, hits Player A and that ball hits the ground before Player A’s ball hits the ground on the other court. Player A is out first and the game is awarded to Team B.

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