Dodgeball has been a staple of gym class, youth group retreats and backyard fun for generations. Most people know the basics. Hit another player with the ball and they're out -- unless they catch it, in which case the thrower is out. Last player standing -- or last team with players -- wins. To keep things interesting for your teens, try some variations.
1. Benedict Arnold Dodgeball
Nobody likes a traitor -- except the side he's defecting to. For Benedict Arnold dodgeball, split the teens into two equal teams. Divide the playing space between the two teams, just like regular team dodge ball. Give each team two dodge balls to start. Whenever a player would normally be eliminated -- because he was hit or the opponent caught a ball he threw -- he switches sides instead. Play continues until all players are on the same side. Everyone ends up on the "winning" side and they have a lot of fun getting there.
2. Left-Handed Dodgeball
This variation can be played in teams or every-man-for-himself. Instruct the teens that they are only allowed to use one hand to throw, catch or retrieve the ball and that they must use their "off" hand. For most, this will mean using the left hand. Left-handed teens will, of course, be required to use their right hands. If anyone touches the ball with both hands or the "wrong" hand, they are out and must drop the ball. Not only is this variation funny, but it can help the teens work on their off-handed coordination. Play this game with one ball or several.
3. Pirate Ship
Divide the teens into two or more equal teams and give each at least one dodge ball to start. Lay down a recreation mat or otherwise mark off a 4-foot-by-6-foot area for each team. Each team is a pirate crew and their area is their "ship." Make sure all teams' areas are within reasonable throwing distance of one another. All members of a team must stand within their "ship" -- the more crowded, the better -- except for one player who is designated as the "diver." The diver retrieves any balls that are not within reach of the mats. If the diver is hit, he is not eliminated, but has "run out of air" and must drop any balls he has and return to the ship before going out again to retrieve balls. When any member of the crew except the diver is hit, she is eliminated and sits down behind the mat. As a fun alternative, have players who are hit sit down on the mat, adding an extra obstacle to their crew.
4. Guard the King/Queen
Divide the teens into two or more teams. Have each team designate one player as the king or queen. The object of this variation is to eliminate the other team's king or queen by hitting them with the dodgeball before they eliminate yours. Designate a "recharge point" in the center of the playing area. Any player except the king and queen may run to the recharge, count to 10 out loud and get back in the game if they are hit. If a team's king or queen is hit, that team is eliminated. As a variation, you can have each team's king or queen be a secret -- told only to the coach or moderator -- so the other teams don't know for sure which player they need to eliminate.
- Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images