Switchball improvised at the Happy Start Up Summer Camp 2019 in England. Photo © Becky Rui

Switchball (Short Rule Guide)

Playing this 21st century sport on little fields the easy way.

Floris Koot
Nov 2 · 6 min read
Playing with improvised goals works just as well. Though pyramids are the real thing!

Switchball vitalizes players on a physical, mental and soul level.

This is a short guide if you want to play Switchball in an improvised setting, much like street football or on a little field.

Sport for 5–34 people. Time 60–120 min. Requirements: field fitting group size . 5 portable goals. 20 goal trophies*). Ball, Rugby ball, Frisbee, or other. People of all genders and ages may play at the same time.

*) Instead of goal trophies, you may use the goal itself, like make a goal out of four pistons or chairs, and make the goal smaller after each point is given away.

Game Purpose: everyone playing at their best throughout the game!

Keep Switchball playful, fun, activating for everyone. Like everyone applauds a score or brilliant safe by another team and celebrate all winners together.

Game Set Up.

Create 5 teams. They do not need the same size, nor be equal to each other! It helps though if they’re recognizable from each other, like in clothing.

Teams put their goal somewhere in the field (yes, free choice) as long as it’s 4 meters from the side or other teams. Goals can be scored from all sides.

Teams vote which sport will be played first. Teams vote as one at the same time. One hand high up: handball. Flat hand above head: frisbee. Hand shoulder high like holding a rugby ball: rugby ball.

Watch, act, but don’t touch any player or even the ball if someone is holding it.. #Photo © J. Hoffenreich

Game Play

Every game takes place over four game rounds of each 12 to 20 minutes. In between rounds there may be short breaks, like 2 to 10 minutes. Immediately after breaks all teams are allowed to relocate their goals according to wish. Then teams vote again on what gameplay follows next.

The game starts with someone kicking the ball very high into the field.

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.

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. The game continuous when the receiving team has placed the trophy in their goal, or perhaps enlarged their goal with an added goalpost.

The team that was scored against then restarts the game from their goal.

Because ages and gender can play mixed, high respect between all players is essential. Physical contact during gameplay is forbidden. Small accidents will happen, but conscious touching, let alone slamming into another player is a foul. Take care of each other. Apologizing for accidents is a desired custom.

There is no referee. Players have to work it out among themselves. Together they keep the rules and also guard the nature of the game. Beware that some players, may try to be smarter than the rules. This is a bad sign, as the winning is an excuse, not the main point of the game.

*) Never grab a trophy you’ve won. Always wait and accept it with gratitude. Also applaud goals or brilliant saves, even when made against your team.

Play Rules

  • 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 only with one little finger.
  • One cannot walk with the ball, or frisbee. Only one step to stop when receiving is allowed.
  • The ball or frisbee can only be played through the air, and never be passed on by hand.
  • 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. When a foul was made against a specific player, then he or she plays the ball. Free balls cannot be scored directly, unless teams decide it’s a penalty.
  • Players committing hard fouls leave the game for the rest of the round, unless the player it was committed against forgives him or her sooner.
  • When two teams want a time out, by making the time out gesture over their head, this is given for three minutes.

Feel free to adjust rules to local conditions or custom if need be.

Note: When you’re with too many players, play with substitutes. Players may run out of the field and tap a substitute in, or a substitute run in and tap a player out.

A winning hero gets the votes with hands on her shoulder. And yes, men, woman en children can play it mixed!

How ‘winners’ are decided.

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?

The Hero, Buddha and Fool are decided in three rounds. In every round all players place their right hand on the shoulder of their favorite to the title of that round. The one(s) with the most hands on their shoulder becomes the Hero, Buddha or Fool, depending of the round.

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.

Players take pictures of the winners, heroes, buddha and winning team. Watch the mood of those that ‘lost’ towards the ones who celebrate ‘winning’ and titles. You may take pictures of the winners and place these on the internet, . Hero in a heroic pose. Buddha with hands in a Mudra. Fool as happy as possible. Teams as they like. Photo © by Johannes Hoffenreich

Special rules for different styles of play

  • Frisbee or Handball: No extra rules.
  • Handball with a Rugby ball: No extra rules, except that a kick out of the hand is allowed. Kicking with players too close is dangerous play.
  • Dodge Ball: You can pass the ball or 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. After a score everyone is back in the field.

Enjoy the Game!

About Us:

Switchball has been developed by Jan Paul de Beer and Floris Koot.

A Buddha of the game poses for the camera.

Exercises, Models & Social Inventions

Practical ideas and approaches to work with groups

Floris Koot

Written by

Play Engineer. Social Inventor. Gentle Revolutionary. I always seek new possibilities and increase of love, wisdom and play in the world.

Exercises, Models & Social Inventions

Practical ideas and approaches to work with groups

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