Behind the Mat Game
Behind the Mat Game

Games: Behind the Mat Game

Pat Aitken

Behind the Mat is a dodgeball variation that teaches passing, throwing, quickness and teamwork. Of course, soft, nerf-type ball must be used and no throws can be made above the waist.

Each game requires five players, a soft ball and a folding gym mat partially opened and placed on end.  Have three players form a circle around two target players and the mat.

How to Play
The outside players attempt to hit the targets with the ball. They can throw or pass to a partner who has a better angle.

The targets stay in the center of the circle and duck behind the mat to avoid being hit. A target who gets hit joins the perimeter players.

Perimeter players can retrieve balls that come to rest in the center of the circle, but must return to the perimeter before passing or throwing.

When a set period of time has elapsed or both center players have been hit, two perimeter players become the new targets.

Caveat and Adaptations
Be aware that PE organizations such as NASPE and AAHPERD warn against using Dodgeball games such as this. However, there are many situations in which the skill level, age, attitude and composition of your group make such games appropriate - especially if played with a soft ball and with below-the waist contact rules. And some teachers might find this game less stressful for unskilled students than learning sports skills in front of their peers. Whether and in what situations to use this game is where the judgement and skill of the physical educator comes into play.

The game might also be adapted to make it even less stressful for the target - for example, by requiring the ball to be rolled.

For more discussion on this topic, go to our Facebook page at:

1. André Larouche,  150 Games for All, Positive Publishing, 1996. 
2. Dr. Joanne Margaret Hynes-Hunter (Author), Temoc Suarez (Contributor), Grant Scheffer (Contributor), Nick Kalisperis (Contributor), 6-12 Physical Games & Activities, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2013.

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© 2013, Physical Education,

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