The Origins of Dodgeball: A Sport with a Surprisingly Ancient History

If you’ve ever played dodgeball in school or watched it being played, you might wonder who came up with this exhilarating and adrenaline-pumping game. The truth is, dodgeball has a surprisingly ancient history that dates back centuries. In this blog post, we’ll explore the origins of dodgeball and shed light on the individuals who played key roles in its evolution.

The Early Roots: An Ancient Pastime

Dodgeball can trace its roots back to ancient civilizations where similar versions of the game were enjoyed by people thousands of years ago. These early forms had different names but shared similar concepts – players trying to avoid getting hit by balls thrown at them.

Ancient China: The Birthplace?

One theory suggests that dodgeball originated in ancient China during the Qin Dynasty (221-207 BC). It is believed that soldiers used to play a primitive form of dodgeball as part of their training exercises to enhance agility and reflexes.

Ancient Greece: From War Games to Playgrounds

Another compelling theory points towards Ancient Greece as one possible birthplace for dodgeball. It was common for Greek armies to engage in physical training exercises known as “phaininda,” which involved throwing rocks at each other instead of balls. Over time, these war games evolved into more recreational activities for children and adults alike.

Roman Influence: Trigon or Harpastum?

Influenced by Greek culture, ancient Romans also had their own version called “Trigon” or “Harpastum.” This sport involved teams using a small ball made from animal bladders while attempting to hit opponents without being caught. While similar to dodgeball, it had its own unique rules and characteristics.

The Modern Dodgeball Renaissance

Fast forward to the 19th century when modern dodgeball began taking shape. England played a pivotal role in codifying the game we know today. It was during this time that “dodge-ball” gained popularity as an organized sport.

Dodging Across the Atlantic: The American Influence

In the early 20th century, dodgeball made its way across the Atlantic Ocean, finding a new home in America. With immigrants bringing their sporting traditions from various parts of Europe, including England, versions of dodgeball took root in American schoolyards and community centers.

The National After School Sports League (NASL)

In more recent history, the National After School Sports League (NASL) played a significant role in promoting and popularizing dodgeball as an organized sport among youngsters worldwide. NASL’s efforts have not only increased participation but also provided standardized rules for competitive play.


While there might not be one definitive answer to who exactly invented dodgeball, it is clear that this exhilarating game has evolved over thousands of years across different cultures and civilizations. From ancient China and Greece to modern-day schools around the world, you can see how dodgeball has stood the test of time with its fast-paced action and thrilling gameplay.