Tetherball History

Tetherball History – Who Invented Tetherball? (All You Need to Know)

Tetherball has been a popular game played in playgrounds, school grounds, backyards, and camping sites for years as it requires little space.

Sometimes we want to know how it all started, the origin, the Tetherball History, who made it happen, and how it evolved over the years.

Tetherball is a game played when two opposing players strike a ball attached to a rope on a pole to snake the rope around the pole. Tetherball is a low-maintenance game and serves as a means of vigorous exercise.


Tetherball History

Tetherball was invented in Britain as early as 1875, though it may have been invented in Ireland. It then moved over to England by 1880 and then into the United States by 1881.

In the 1990s, tetherball became more popular as different companies created different versions of tetherball and a new set of rules.

Tetherball was initially played with a tennis ball and a racket and was formerly referred to as tether tennis or swingball.

Tether tennis had one advantage over the normal tennis game; there was no need to chase down balls or hassle.

Somewhere in around 1912, someone figured out that it could be played with the bare hands (that genius probably left his racket at home and then made this exciting discovery).

The hand version was then very common, in Missouri at least. Then by 1920, it was installed into school playgrounds all around, and tetherball became a normal game played by everyone.

In the year 1897, tetherball was still referred to as new because it was not widely adopted.

But then the year 1899 tetherball was recognized when United States National Lawn Tennis Association’s official rule book, Wright & Ditson’s Lawn Tennis Guide, first mentioned the game in its 1899 issue:

A new and interesting English Game for ladies and gentlemen was introduced last year called “tetherball.” It is played by two persons, and a great deal of amusement, exercise, and skill can be had from the game. It is a capital sport. See advertisement behind Guide for rules, etc.”

In January 1990, the New York Tribune reported that “tetherball is a very popular game. And in the year 2004, tetherball was again made more popular by the movie Napoleon Dynamite.

Tetherball Origin

It is unclear how tetherball came to be, with many people suggesting a lot of interesting theories. Some of these origin stories seem too impossible to be true, and others are more reasonable.

We will briefly discuss the proposed origin stories of tetherball and the possibility of it being true.

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Who Invented Tetherball?

The inventor of tetherball is unknown from when it began, just like its origin. Although twenty years after its rise to popularity, credit was given to Mr. Lehmann of Oxford University.

The Earliest Theory

The earliest Theory is quite fascinating as it suggests that in the 9th century, the Tatars— who were inhabiting the area that is now known as the Russian and Ukrainian territory— would hang their enemy’s head from a pole and then whack it with a stick back and forth.

It was said that they did this for fun and to celebrate their victory. This Theory suggests that tetherball originates from a Barbarian culture.

Though it is quite unclear how such a vile act done for fun later inspired the creation of tetherball.

Maypole Theory

While some had believed in the earliest Theory, others believed tetherball originated from the practice of Maypole dancing in medieval England and northern European countries.

Still, they were done mostly by Germanic pagans as a fertility ritual.

During the maypole dancing, the villagers would hold ropes or ribbons hung from a tall pole and dance around the pole to celebrate early harvest and fertility.

The setup of the maypole celebration was similar to that of a tetherball setup. Here is a video showing the maypole dance.

Most likely Theory

Because the ball used is somewhat similar to a volleyball, people assumed that the game was developed sometime after 1895, when the volleyball game was invented.

People started mixing tether tennis with volleyball, and eventually, a volleyball was used to play a game of tetherball, but it was then replaced by the softer tetherball we know today. We might never know the true origin of tetherball, as there are so many other propositions.

Modern Tetherball

Modern tetherball is now an outdoor game that can be played in your backyard. It has no official league or set of rules.

In 2007 a tetherball championship was held with general rules observed, but there haven’t been any other tournaments since then. There is no official body governing tetherball.

Why is Tetherball a Sport?

Tetherball History

Tetherball is not recognized as a sport. Some call it an informal sport, but there is no professional tetherball organization; hence it is not recognized as a sport.

Although some sources claim that tetherball has been signed as an official sport, there has been no evidence to back it up.

What Countries Plays Tetherball?

Swingball is an alternate version of tetherball, and a tetherball game is called a swing ball in the UK. Tetherball (swing ball) is played in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.

Although tetherball can be played by anyone in-country, they are mostly played in these areas.

Is Tetherball Still Around?

Of course! A lot of people still play tetherball. It can even be constructed easily in your backyard and playgrounds.


Tetherball is an easy game with a complicated origin. The earliest and maypole theories are reasonable and possible assumptions, but they are not completely accurate.

Tetherball is mainly played in some parts of the world and has not been declared an official sport as it has no governing body or organization. However, several people are still playing and enjoying tetherball to date.

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