Switchball I How to Play!
The rules of the most thought provoking sport in the world.
Switchball brings you an unique 21st Century Game Sports Experience that vitalizes players on a physical, mental and soul level. (fall 2016 edit) Shortened version rules without background info can be found here.
What if we started all over again, rethinking sports and play that could help prepare us for our new society? What if we started from scratch and redesigned the whole sports experience? Switchball just does that. Our purpose is to support an vital society that shares playful experiences and a growing sense of community. Our means is Switchball.
Our starting points for this vitality sport:
- Game or Sports events and trainings should be a shared experience of players and audience. Everyone should leave more energized and happy and feel they have been part of the experience.
- The whole game and experience around it create a sense of community and sportive.
- Games should bring about fun, flow, fluidity and energy, and may be complex in play, both physical and mentally.
- Games should challenge several aspects of the player. Attitude is as important as skill, drive, capability and execution. And modern skills that help prepare for our day and age, should be ignited by the game play. We believe dealing with change, fluidity, loss, co-creativity, mindfulness and cross gender play should be included in the game, as should it stimulate cooperation, participation, leadership, mediation, self regulation, invoking enthusiasm.
- The game should train modern world skills*). We see more and more people switch careers and collaborations between big and small organizations. Thus you may have to switch team ingame and or teams don’’t have to be the same size. Deal with it.
- As a player or audience you lose if you get overtaken by stress or anger.
- Players should start as individuals and end with team spirit, including all players. We are the community, lets play it.
The game is played with 5 to 7 teams at the same time, in a field that is preferably one big circle. The sport is fluid. Play, rules, goals and even teams may change during the game. Winning is a means more than an objective!
Switchball has a specific culture during and around the game. See the full rules and philosophy of the game to understand them all. Basic game purpose is: Keep everyone playing at their best throughout the game(1)!
Keep it playful, fun, activating for everyone. Thus everyone may applaud a score or brilliant safe and everyone celebrate the winners together.
To make it work in short:
- Game and the objectives are explained.
- Warming up that trains the right culture and attitude and warms up the body.
- Field is set up.
- Team formation.
- General Game rules explained. Voting system explained.
- Côte is being played: goals placed to the liking of the teams, play is voted.
- (for new players first specific game rules of the play are explained) Game begins.
Note: At first Switchball can seem very complex and overwhelming. Once you play, it get simpler and simpler in rules and attitude. The possibilities in the gameplay can be made as complex by players as they like. Watch all the laughing faces to get a feel how players experience the actual game!
Content of this document
- Game preparation
- Entry ritual
- Team setup
- Game objectives
- The Côte
1. Game preparation
Setting up the field. Because there are, as yet, no official Switchball fields, they’ll have to be agreed upon before the match. The field is preferably round in shape, with a diameter of the width of a football field (68 meters), preferably a bit more. The more players, the bigger the field*. But, whatever the shape, take a clear decisions about the boundaries.
Goals. At Switchball there can be scored from all sides. Currently we work with goals in the shape of three sided pyramids, if possible each in the colours of one of the teams. The goals must be easily replaceable, as their position will change during a game. We found garden bamboes of about 2–2,5 meters, make nice posts. Build with safety, expecting people at some run the goals over, or into them, at some point.
Goal Set up. The goals are placed in a, not too big, demi circle in the centre of the field, so players standing near each goal can easily talk to each other. This is only for the team creation!
Balls. You’ll preferably need a frisbee, a handball and rugby ball to play. Other items might be hockey sticks, a bit bouncy small ball and a very big ball.
Trophies. You’ll need 4 trophies in each goal. These can be red ribbons which can be hung at the top or fire logs or even boulders which can be placed in the middle at the bottom. Once again, expect people to step on them, so avoid sharp objects. The trophies must be visible from the outside so scores can be checked at all times. By the way, stealing of trophies is really unsportsmanlike behavior and kills the spirit of the game.
Sashes or scarfs. Have at the least 7 big ribbons/sashes/scarfs, of a material you can sweat in, thin, lightweight, for each 5 or 7 teams ready. Players might need these to be very distinguishable. T-shirts for everyone in the right colors and all sizes would be awesome. One can also form teams of most matching clothing people happen to wear.
2. Entry Ritual
(Can be skipped, when short time or in case of first try out of the game) After the field is set up and all players ready, gather them around or in the playing field in a circle in between the goals. The players all bow three times towards the middle, once for the Buddha, once for the Hero and once to the community within each of them.
Then each of them runs one after the other to the middle making a personal Jimmy on the way, while all others applaud him or her. When everyone is gathered in the middle teams will be selected.
3. Team Selection
In Switchball you start as an individual. Teams will only be formed just before the game. It is part of the game. There are either 5 or 7 teams. Teams don’t have to be the same size*!! The difference may not be more than two players however. The number of players in a match can vary between 5 and 34.
It makes sense to play with substitutes when there are too many players or a field is very small. Players may run out of the game to tap a substitute in, and substitutes may run during in any standstill in the game (before free throws, or right after a goal) and tap another player out. Here is no discussion possible.
Teams can be selected quite random, like best matching color of clothing or hair. Or strongly colored ribbons or sash can be provided, with for each team a different color. Make sure the goals also have such a sash in the top, or are painted in the same color. At official matches players can either draw a ribbon blindly from a closed bag or maybe even enter the game as a preselected team.
4. Game objectives
After this the game begins. The deeper objective of the game is to keep everyone playing at their best throughout the game. Therefore seek to create alliances during the game, that balance the strength between teams.
One can win, or feel a winner, in several ways:
1st. There is a winning team. They have the most trophies at the end of the game.
2nd. A Hero of the Match is chosen. It is the one, who regardless of team or success, made the most beautiful actions and or gained the most respect at play. One could wonder, who was my Messi of the game? It can also be someone like we had, a 70 year old, who astounded everyone with his unexpected energetic contribution. Or an 11 y.o. running fearlessly amidst adults.
3rd. Who was the Buddha of the Match? This is the one, who regardless of team, for you contributed most to fair play, was most honest, or giving, in unclear match situations, best dealt with set backs and misfortune and gave away opportunities to teams in trouble. Basically kept everyone in the match with through fairness, honesty, generosity and wisdom.
4th. Fool of the Match. Who kept everyones spirit up the most? Who made people laugh, have fun, feel the match was as much a party as it was a match?
5th. The team of the match. Which team, while the might not have won, inspired the team play in the game? They showed a unity, sense of cooperation and power that got them respected by all others. Perhaps even made others a bit jealous of what they shared within the team.
Note: Be aware, winning is not the highest purpose within Switchball. It is only an excuse to play together more fully. Therefore contributions to sphere, beauty, adventure, creativity and fair play are all as much celebrated as a win. Check philosophy for more info.
5. The Côte
Unique in the game is the Côte (the Beach). During the Côte the following steps are being made:
Sharing the score. (only during the the game) All teams count their number of trophies and shouts this while putting the amount in fingers in the air.
Time out. When necessary, or wished for, there might be even a short break anything between 2 and 10 minutes. The break is there to drink water, perhaps take a bite and, with training, interventions are possible. Players of different teams may meet and discuss alliances.
The (re)placement of goals. Immediately after the break are all teams allowed to replace their goals according to wish. All goals have to stay at the least four meters away from neighbors or sideline. After being placed, they can’t be moved until the next côte. With gyms or different shaped fields the following principles of placement apply. Teams with lesser ribbons and people have the advantage and may place after everyone has moved, or claim a position over a stronger or bigger team. This whole procedure shouldn’t take more than 2 minutes.
Choice of Play. Within the team the players concur what form of play is chosen. Three to four different sports can be chosen. Every team, and the audience if there is one, vote with hand signals what play they favour. Every team and the audience each counts for one voice. If the votes are equal revoting takes place.
We mostly offer Frisbee, Handball, Handball with a Rugby Ball, and Dodge Ball. Sometimes we also offer a big ball or Hockey with a soft ball or tennis ball. Max four different choices per match. We never offer soccer or rugby, due to possible big physical differences or the mix of male and female players. See for the voting signals special rules of play.
Every game takes place over four game rounds of each 12 to 20 minutes. During the play time teams try to score in each others goals, meaning playing the ball or frisbee in or through the goal of another team. Coaches may vary with the following ways to deal with goals, to improve spirit and gameplay. (If variation is too much for the players, especially those playing it for the 1st time, use only the scoring of round 2)
Round 1: When you score, you receive a trophy, out of the hands of the team that you scored against, and put it in your own goal.
Round 2: When you score, you receive a trophy, out of the hands of the team that you scored against, and give it away to another team*, but never the one you scored against.
Round 3: The team that scored receives a trophy and gives it away. The team that was scored against may either change the location of their goal, or change the play, if they want to.
Round 4: Same as round 3*.
General Playing Rules
Playing with improvised goals works just as well. Though pyramids are the real thing!
- People of all genders and ages may play at the same time (though a minimum of 7, preferably 9 keeps the feeling of sport alive). This demands high respect towards all players. All physical contact is forbidden, except during celebrating*. Small accidents will happen, but too heavy touching, slamming into another player (even when it was just because of speed!) is a foul. Players have the responsibility to take care of each other. Saying sorry for accidents is also a desired custom.
- There is no referee. Players have to work it out among themselves. With beginners a referee might be a good idea, though he or she, should also guard the nature of the game and not just the rules.
- The game starts with someone kicking the ball very high, generally towards the teams with the least points.
- The one who touches a ball, or frisbee, first, owns it. You may never strike, push, grab the ball out of a players hand, even when he or she touches it with one finger.
- The ball or frisbee can only be played through the air, and never be passed on by hand.
- One cannot walk with the ball, or frisbee. One step to stop when running is allowed, but not a considered extra one.
- When a ball goes out, or a foul has been made, the ball can only be brought into play by another team than the one that made the foul, at the least seven paces away from a goal. Players of other teams have to stay at the least four paces away. Mostly the one taking a free ball, or throwing it back into the game (football style) will be the first to get the ball, unless a foul was made against a specific player, then he or she plays the ball. With all free balls cannot be scored directly.
- Rough fouls may lead to a penalty thrown from seven paces and the player committing the sin, leaves the game for the rest of the round, unless the player it was committed against forgives him or her sooner. Physical struggling over a ball means you’re out of the field until forgiven or a next round.
- Game time is put on hold during the Côte, time outs and after any goal until the ball is brought into play again. Extra Côtes may take place when new players enter or leave an informal game.
- When two teams want a time out, by making the time out gesture over their head, this is given for three minutes. After that only a new sport is voted, but no Côte takes place.
Note: Feel free to adjust rules to local conditions or custom if need be. Beware that often players, especially boys, seek to win, this game you can’t win. They’ll try to be smarter than the rules or seek to cheat with the trophies. This is a bad sign, as is cheating, the winning is an excuse, not the main point of the game. We found however that rather to punish it, explain how senseless the game becomes, when cheating decides outcomes. All should be returned to as before it happened, or Buddha’s decide.
Special rules for different styles of play
- Frisbee: No extra rules for the frisbee. Voting the frisbee play, is waving a flat hand horizontally above the head.
- Handball with a Rugby ball: No extra rules, except that a kick out of the hand is allowed. Avoid kicking towards players close by, this might be considered dangerous play. Kicking a ball on the ground is strictly forbidden. To vote for this play, hold the hand as it throwing a rugby ball and wave it high next to the body.
- Dodge Ball: You only may play the ball, when you are at a full standstill. You can only throw people out lower than the head. To avoid being thrown out one may either catch the ball or defend with the bare palms of the hand. If you’re out you stand outside the field, until you get hold of an out ball first or catch a ball thrown at you. Scoring is the normal way. To vote for Dodge Ball, hit one open palm, with a fist above your head.
(Use the following 2 Specials, only after a few matches)
Special options that need extra materials or very equal teams in age, size and gender.
- Hockey*: One is allowed to stop the ball by foot, but kicking is forbidden. The stick may never be played higher than the hip. To vote for Hockey hold your hands above the head, with a 90° angle inward.
- All Ball: (Only play this with men or women only, of just about same age and size, for otherwise it will be too unfair or accident prone for the smaller lighter people!) At All Ball the ball may be played by hand and foot. One may not walk with the ball in hand. Picking up the ball by hand is a foul, even when no one is near (for safety reasons, bending with the head towards someone kicking is both stupid and dangerous). You kick the ball up however so you can catch it yourself. Free balls can both be kicked as thrown.
2. Special Optional Rules.
- The Bear. In the 3rd round the team with the least points can ask for the Bear. This is a special glove. The player wearing this glove gets double points if they score. If a team however score against the team with the Bear, they obtain the Bear. In the 4th round it goes once again to the team with the least points.
- Audience vote. If there is an audience, they may change the play as well, by signalling en masse what type of play they’d love to see. If there is a clear majority, the play on the field has to change accordingly.
After the game, each team counts their Trophies and then come together in a circle in the middle.
Team Victory: The team that holds the most trophies in the air is the winning team. Equal play for several teams is possible. All other teams, and audience if there is one, applaud the winners.
The Hero: All players put their right hand on the shoulder of their personal Hero. The one with the most hands becomes the Hero of the game. More than one is possible. Culture is the Hero(s) make a hero pose for their picture of fame.
The Buddha: All players put their right hand on the shoulder of their Buddha. The one with the most hands becomes the Buddha of the game. Culture is to take his, or a bit more likely ;) her, picture in a Buddha pose.
The Fool: All players put their right hand on the shoulder of their Fool. The one with the most hands becomes the Fool of the game. Culture is to take his/her picture in a Fool pose.
Team of the Match: All players clearly point to their team of the match. Team with the most fans wins.
Note: When there is a very small audience, they may vote with the players. When there is a big audience, the top three players for Hero, Buddha and Fool each get a audience applause with the biggest one winning. For the team of the match all teams get a audience applause, with the loudest winning the honor. When things are close, both win.
Note: Culture is to take pictures of the winners and place these on the internet, Switchball Facebook group. Hero in a heroic pose. Buddha with hands in a Mudra. Fool as happy as possible. Teams as they like.
Here are some habits or Game Culture Elements that will help:
- After every score, or brilliant safe, everyone applauds, including the ones who ‘suffered’ from the action. Thus beauty of play is celebrated regardless of personal interests.
- Also all players celebrate the match winners, as they would be their fans. Carrying the Heroes and Buddha’s on the shoulders of all others players is totally fine (with respect to sex and age differences and local culture). When there is music near the field, play a dance song for all players at the end.
- When there is a score, it is a player of the team who has been scored against, that hands over the trophy in a almost ritual way to the opponent. Often a little bow is added for courtesy. The play only starts again when this ribbon is placed in the goal of the receiver of the ribbon, which might not even be the scoring team.
- During the game you can make signs of respect to other players. Does someone make a Hero action you touch your heart with your forefinger and middle finger and then point to your Hero of the moment with them. Does someone make a Buddha action, you spread both arms and make the famous Buddhistic mudra in his or her direction.
- At the end of trainings or games, or even during the Côtes, players can compliment each other and share what they like about each others contribution. Only the coach can sometimes be a bit critical or discuss negative effects players are having.
Enjoy the Game!
Trophy: In Switchball the score is being kept by Trophies. Mostly these are little red ribbons hanging visibly in each goal, but also blocks of wood or bricks have been used. After each goal one trophy will be taken out of the goal and handed over to the one who scored. Who most likely will have to give it away again.
De Côte: The beach or coast before one enters new land. Here preparation takes place. The Côte is a zone of mental and organizational preparation. In Switchball it’s mainly used to (re)place goals and vote on what sport to play.
The Bear: It’s hard for a Bear to strike, but when it does, it strikes hard. The Bear is both the player and the glove symbolizing the Bear. The Bear wins two trophies when he scores.
Hero: the one who surpasses him or herself. The one who makes the most beautiful actions, the one whose story of contribution is the most inspiring, the one who is an example for play to all others. Think Messi of the game, or oldest/youngest player with the biggest commitment.
Buddha: The one who regardless of the team, most contributed to a game of fair play, balance and peace among players. The one who best dealt with losses, most helped others to shine and or mediated when there was need. The one who cared about others, before results.
Alliance: Because there are several teams in Switchball, some teams can join forces and or decided to not attack each other.
The Beautiful Betrayal: Teams that work together can also break the alliance. This can come as a knife in the back, though a switching sides can also be announced. While betrayal sounds bad, in a locked game, where outcomes seem fixed and some teams lose heart, such betrayal can help to open up the game to new energy and possibilities. In such cases it stimulates excitement, adventure and fun. So such an act, to betray in order to bring new life to a game is called beautiful.
Colours: Each team has their own colour and should be recognizable from a distance. In this moment the official colours are: White, Black, Yellow/Orange, Red, Blue.
Signals: Within Switchball choices or respect is being signalled, like votes for a certain play or sign for beautiful behavior by others.
Jimmy: The Jimmy is the triumph movement or dance of someone who scores. Some from soccer are world famous. People in Switchball may have personal, team or even game Jimmies. The Buddha and Hero pose by winners are also considered Jimmies.
New Play Attitude. Playfully diving into it the game with a ‘yes’ attitude and an openness and willingness to make it work for everyone. You show focus, calmness of mind, fair play and have fun, which makes you feel good after any game
Text Floris Koot & Jan Paul de Beer 2012. Rules latest update 1 Oktober 2014
The People behind Switchball are Jan Paul de Beer and Floris Koot.
Jan Paul de Beer (1984)
Entrepreneur and sports fanatic. Currently he runs several organizations all focussed on sports, activity and or getting people to move, Like SpringLab and the Active Aging project.
Floris Koot (1958)
Creative Innovator and trainer. He helped found Knowmads, a very rule breaking school, designed many events and (role)playing games. Currently working as international trainer/perspective shifter upon request.
NB: The most beautiful pictures #JH were taken by Johannes Hoffenreich.