Games: Matball Variations

Dick Moss, Editor, PE

Children have enjoyed the game of kickball for a long time.  Matball is a variation of kickball that produces interest from middle and high school students.     

Matball is a good rainy-day activity when classes are forced to share the gym during bad weather.  For the adventurous, it can also be used as an outdoor game, even if it rains. Just use something other than mats for bases.

If you're already familiar with matball, check the last section of this article for some fun variations.

Equipment needed:  

  • Four floor mats
  • One indoor soccer ball
  • Flag football flags (rags work, too)
Place the four floor mats on the gym floor as if setting up bases in kickball (each mat is a base). Divide your class into halves; one team is in the field, the other is batting. They  play innings as in kickball.

Batting rules  
  • The ball may be kicked any-where on the field. 
  • For each kick, there are two runners: the kicker and a teammate.  Each runs the bases after the ball is kicked.  Having two runners increases the amount of activity for each student.
  • Runners must stay on the baseline or it's an out.
  • Once on base, runners are allowed to run at any time.
  • More than one person may be on a base at any given time.
  • Players may stop on a base for as long as they like, but if they step off the base, they must continue to the next base (even if they just barely step off).
  • Runners must round the bases twice.  As they round home base the first time, they pick up a flag (or a rag) to signify that it's their second time around.  Reaching home with a flag scores a point.
  • If all runners are stranded on a base and there aren't two players left to kick and run, it's an automatic three outs.
  • If the batter misses a pitch it's an out.  The teacher can determine the number of bounces required to be a good pitch (two or three bounces works well).
  • Bunting is allowed.
Fielding Rules and Outs
  • Outs are made by a fielder tagging a runner or throwing the ball and hitting a runner.  The throw may be on the fly or on a bounce.
  • It's an automatic out if the kicked ball hits the ceiling.
  • Fielders may be anywhere in the field, but must be a designated distance from the batter (for safety, as  determined by instructor).
  • In order to be a good pitch, the ball must go over the home base (mat).
  • Pitchers may fake a pitch to draw runners off the base. (Remember, once they step off the base, they must run.)
  • Runners may not advance on a ceiling ball or a foul (if you have fouls).
  • Fielders are not allowed to block runners.
  • There are no force-outs at any time.
Fun Variations
  • Try playing the game with two balls at once. This may require two pitchers.  It could also require four runners instead of two. (This may depend on the number of players on each team.)
  • If you have two players running the bases, try having them run in opposite directions.  Ensure care and safety as students run the bases.
  • Try playing outside with longer base paths.  You can also place obstacles in the base paths to encourage a variety of direction changes.
  • Require runners to perform specific exercises at each base once they decide to stop running.  Each base can be a different exercise. They must complete the exercise before they begin running again.
  • Place targets in the field for designated bonus scores.  If the batter hits the target, they earn extra points for their team.
Matball can be played with grades five through twelve.  Take a traditional group activity and turn it into a new game (or two).  With a little imagination the two-team game can be turned into a fitness activity.  Most importantly, it's fun!  Good luck!

Contributors: Dennis Docheff is an associate professor and Darrin Smith a student at Concordia University in Wisconsin.

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© 2010, Physical Education,

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