Wall Ball Rules – Yep, There are A Few

So you want to know the rules of wall ball? Good call. Much like the recent pickleball craze, this easy-to-play, hybrid version of more complicated sports feels like it’s due for its moment in the sun.

I tried my hand at pickleball a couple of years ago. This weird hybrid of tennis and Ping Pong involves less movement and skill than either parent sport. And now, every suburbanite seems to be playing pickleball. Wall ball shares similar DNA to pickleball as it requires a lower degree of athleticism yet provides loads of fun and a good workout. In other words, just like pickleball, wall ball feels primed to blow up. 

My Wall Ball Experience

I spent many afternoons playing wall ball in middle school. We generally used a tennis ball, sometimes a lacrosse ball – really just about anything we could get our hands on. The absence of a racquet or bat ensured an easy entry point into the game. 

wall ball player

On top of that, wall ball only requires a wall and a ball. Scratch that, maybe at least one friend (arguably the hardest challenge yet) with whom to throw the ball back and forth.

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Wall ball, like any sport, contrived in a dusty playground, struggles with rules and structure. As a casual game, a few rules doesn’t rank as a bad attribute. While I played wall ball frequently, it still ranked a distant second on my list to “Destroy the Man with the Football,” whose list of rules…well, was constrained to the title of the game. 

The USWA Lays Down the Law

Surprisingly, an organization called the USWA (The U.S. WallBall Association, Inc.) exists and dubs itself the “natural governing body of that (wall ball) sport.” Slogans aside, the mere existence of such an organization implies that somewhere in the United States, at least several people treat the sport of wall ball seriously. 

The seriousness is further conveyed by the fact that 25 official rules exist. I know you are here to learn how to play wall ball in your backyard or schoolyard, not in a uniform. So I took a spin through the lengthy USWA rulebook, so you don’t have to. 

My personal favorites of the 25 are as follows:

Rule Thirteen: “All games will be single elimination.  There will be no buy-backs in any tournament games.” Buy-backs!? Huh?  This conjures up a shadowy figure, angered at losing out on his $500 price money, slipping a Benny to a well-coiffed official. 

Rule Sixteen… “There will be no smoking any drugs or drinking any alcohol if you are playing in any USWA Tournament.” What!? Say it ain’t so, who doesn’t want to guzzle a Bud after nailing a poor schmuck with an 85mph fastball. 

Len Dawson smoking a cigarette at Super Bowl
Len Dawson, Violator of Wall Ball Constitution. (Photo By Bill Ray/The LIFE Premium Collection/Getty Images)

Rule Twenty-Four: “USWA reserves the right to temporarily or permanently ban or suspend an individual who is the subject of a public dispute, contempt or scandal; anyone directly involved in the defamation of the USWA, its affiliates or sponsors; anyone directly or indirectly threatens any athlete, spectator, sponsor, affiliate or employee of the USWA.” This reads that you can be banned for just about anything. So mind your Ps & Qs and R-E-S-P-E-C-T the judges!

The Real Wall Ball Rules

While we appreciate the good work of the USWA to standardize wall ball rules, wall ball is best left to the domain of the playground or office wall during lunch break. As such, here are the rules that you really need to know to ensure a good time for you and your buddies.

  • Wall ball can be played with as many players that can reasonably gather around a wall and be somewhat in proximity to each other. Usually, this maxes out at five or six, but use your best judgment. 
  • The game begins when a player throws the ball against the wall. The thrower cannot bounce the throw to the wall.
  • Once the ball rebounds from the wall, another person must grab it. If a person fumbles or inadvertently contacts the ball, they must then run and touch the wall. Meanwhile, another person will pick up the ball and attempt to either hit the runner or the wall prior to a wall touch occurring. 
  • If the ball hits the wall prior to the runner touching the wall, the runner is out or given a strike.
  • There are several options for keeping score:
    • Runners are eliminated from the game if the ball hits the wall before they touch the wall.
    • Runners achieve a strike if the ball hits the wall before they touch the wall. A predetermined amount of strikes mean you are out (usually three).
    • If the ball hits the wall before they touch, the runner must stand at the wall and allow themselves to be pegged by a person who got them out.  

The Last Man Standing Wins

Wall ball truly can be played by anyone nearly anywhere. The few rules and dynamic pace of play make for a good workout.  And much like life, the last man standing wins. So whether you are 13 or 30, may these playground rules make wall ball more fun for you and your crew. Just don’t get pegged!  

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