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Ball Game Downball

Ball Game, Physical Play and Play with Equipment/Props

Downball is a gamewhere the first player bounces the ball on ground, to rebound off wall. The second player must hit ball the same way after only one bounce. Everyone must do the same until they miss - then they are out.


At School 14

Players: Several
Boys and Girls
Age: 10-11
Props: Tennis Ball and Brick Wall

At School 05

Players: Several
Age: 10-12
Props: Small, hard rubber ball, painted court (not a Downball court)

There are several versions of this game, depending on which court it's being played. The chequerboard court is used for the game which has four players in four squares, with a number of other players ('waiters') watching from the sidelines until someone goes out and one of the 'waiters' can play. A stick marks the centre of the court and mentally divides it into four squares.

The handball court is used when there are two players, or when playing 'doubles' (one person at one end vs. two people at the other end). When one person is playing against two, the single player gets a 'chance' instead of going out straight away.

Basically, one player serves the ball to the player at the other end by hitting it to bounce in his own square once and then in his opponent's square. The opponent must return it the same way - by bouncing it in his own square first. A player who lets the ball double-bounce, or who hits it out of court on the full or who makes any other mistake is out.

There are many rules and even more verbal lore to this game. Some of the lore has to do with the names for different kinds of bounces and shots:

  • 'Fireballs' = really hard hit
  • 'Snakeys' = a very low return
  • 'Skinners' = looks like it's rolling along
  • 'Cannonballs' = like a 'Fireball', but harder
  • 'Normals' - normal return
  • 'High tower' = hit into the air
  • 'Ace' = the same as in tennis, where the serve is unplayable
  • 'Air ball' = hit up into the air
  • 'Trick' serve = not the usual serve, designed to catch the receiver off-guard
  • 'Must accept' serves = the receiver must accept the serve, no matter what
  • 'Vault' = a bad serve
  • 'Out of court' serve = stand on the asphalt surrounding the court to serve
  • 'Doubles' = double bounces when referring to a shot, or one player against two when referring to a game.
  • ''Full' = ball goes out without touching the other side of the court
  • 'Enters' = someone runs in and distracts a player. Triggers a replay.
  • 'Late entries' = a player comes in to substitute for another player
  • 'Funny bounces' = the ball hits something and goes the other way
  • 'Cherries' = 'the ball can fall on the other side'
  • 'Footsies' = to kick the ball instead of hitting it with the hand
  • ''Practice' = said if eating or a shoelace comes untied - means the person doesn't go out
  • 'Chance' = when playing 'doubles', the single player gets a 'chance' instead of going out the first time
  • 'Versing' = playing against someone, e.g. "I'm versing you next game."
  • 'Waiters' = the players waiting on the sideline for a turn

Additional notes:
One boy had lost his ball on the roof, but he wasn't worried because, "Every Friday a man goes up on the roof and gets all the balls down, and we can get them back. I just have to get there early before someone else takes it."

The ball used is a small, hard, rubber ball. The boys say they get them at Rebel Sports for around $2. They are identical to the balls used by the boys at School 04 to play Handball, and they also said they buy them at Rebel Sports.

At School 06

Players: 10
Age: 11-12
Props: Small Ball

Ball game played on asphalt area. Ball not allowed to bounce 4 times. If it hits the fence on the full it is out. Ball can be kicked/hit with hand.

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