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Dodgeball is a team sport in which players on two teams try to throw balls and hit opponents, while avoiding being hit themselves. The objective of each team is to eliminate all members of the opposing team by hitting them with thrown balls, catching a ball thrown by an opponent, or induce an opponent to commit a violation, such as stepping outside the court.
The sport is played informally (in schools and pick-up games) under varying rules; and formally as an international sport, under rules that vary among international governing bodies, such as the World Dodgeball Federation (WDBF) and the World Dodgeball Association (WDA). The National Dodgeball League is an organized league in the United States.
Modern dodgeball may be based on a game first observed in Africa about 200 years ago, where the players threw rocks at each other with the aim being to injure and possibly even kill other players. Defending injured players while trying to retaliate taught teamwork, endurance, and hunting skills. The missionary Dr. James H. Carlisle saw them playing this game and returned to teach at St. Mary's College, Norfolk, where he transformed the dangerous African game into a safer game with a leather ball instead of rocks. In 1884, Phillip Ferguson of Yale redesigned the game with a faster pace like modern dodgeball. In 1905, he returned to America and wrote the first official rules. American colleges started playing each other and the sport grew rapidly into what we now call dodgeball. 
Most games in the United States use rubber balls, such as 8.5-inch playground balls, but some of the National Dodgeball League competitions, termed "No sting" events, typically use foam balls. The WDBF specifies a foam ball, and the WDA specifies a cloth-covered ball. The dominant international form of dodgeball is cloth.
The WDA and WDBF both specify the use of five balls; certain national rulesets, such as in Austria, specify six. Amateur games typically use from three to ten balls, the number tailored to the size of the court and the number of players. More balls generally adds to the amount of action in a game, but can result in stalemate with many blocks. If there are too few balls, the element of stealth is removed, as players can see all the balls that might hit them.
Dodgeball can be played on any surface that has clearly marked boundaries and a center line. A typical game is played on a basketball court, volleyball court or fenced area. The NDL specifies adjacent 30 feet (9.1 m) areas for each team (nearly the size of a volleyball court), where a zone 4 feet (1.2 m) wide at the junction of the areas is a neutral zone.
Informal matches of dodgeball are typically played until all players on one side are out. In WDA and WDBF guidelines, matches last a total of 30 minutes. These are split into two 15-minute halves, during which as many frames as possible are played. A frame lasts a maximum of 3 minutes, or until all players on one side are out. If the frame runs for the whole 3 minutes without a team being eliminated, the team with the most players remaining on court wins the frame. Teams switch sides at halftime.
In informal dodgeball, balls are initially distributed to players by one of the following methods:
In this last option, players then rush toward the center line to grab one of the balls. This is called the opening rush. It is never legal to immediately throw such a ball at an opponent; a player grabbing a ball on the center line retreats or throws it back to a teammate.
In WDA and WDBF regulations, the ball must be returned behind an "attack line", roughly a third of the way from the back of court. In WDA regulations, players may only run for the two balls to the left and the center ball, with a maximum of three players running per team. This means only the center ball is contested.
Following distribution, players aim to hit one another. A ball is considered "live" from the moment it leaves a player's hand up until it touches the floor, wall, or ceiling, when it becomes "dead". If a player is hit by an opponent's live ball, they are "out"; if the ball is dead, there is no hit. If a player catches a live ball, the opponent who threw the ball is out and a player on the catcher's team is "revived" from the outbox; however, if they fail to secure the catch, leading to them dropping the ball, the failed catcher is out.
In WDA and WDBF regulations, players may "block" a throw with another ball. In this situation, the thrown ball remains live, as it has not hit the floor or a wall, and so can be caught or can still hit a player out. If the blocker drops the ball used to block, they have failed to keep their ball secure and are out.
Dead balls that leave the court can only be returned to players by each team's designated ball retrievers. Stepping outside the court, including stepping on a boundary line or entering the opponents' zone, is a violation. Other violations include kicking a ball, displaying bad sportsmanship, and stalling (having a ball for over ten seconds and doing nothing with it). The penalty is that the violator is out.
Optional rules may be in effect in informal games of dodgeball or in open matches by agreement:
Useful skills in dodgeball include the following:
The following basic tactics are useful:
Many local teams and international teams develop their own tactics and calling systems specific to their style of play. These become more complex in higher leagues, which often requires specific training for the players in calling positions such that they can make rapid, tactical decisions.
In some American idioms, the act of avoiding something or someone mildly unpleasant can be referred to as 'playing dodgeball.' Additionally, in a variant of the same concept, the term "dodgeball" is sometimes used to describe a situation in which an individual is caught between two untenable positions, in a reference to the version of the game in which players from the same team can surround opposing players from two opposite sides.
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