Get Your Class Outside and Moving with Kickball!

Revitalize your class's PE time with this innovative version of the classic game.

By Greg Harrison

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This is the third in a series of articles on PE games that I enjoyed playing with my students. The first two articles described a Frisbee Game and a fun variation of the game of tag. In this article, I'm going to describe how I played my favorite all-class game: kickball!

You might be thinking, "I don't need instructions on how to play kickball. All you have to do is have the kids make two teams, and let them play." Well, you could do it that way, but this is one of the (many) games that I actually played with my students, and I had my own unique way of managing the game that made it fun and fair for everyone. Here's how I did it:

Choosing Sides

Whenever the class was playing a PE game, I always tried to make it fair by making sure the two teams were equal in the talent department. This is crucial to having an enjoyable game. No one likes to be on a team that gets blown out because the other team has more superior players, so I did my best to make the game fair. I made sure that each team had equal numbers of really good players, and kids who hadn't yet acquired many kickball skills. Both teams had equal numbers of boys and girls. My rosters were created in advance, and I would designate the teams before we even left the classroom. This was a time-saver because as soon as we got to the field, the kids knew what team they were on, and whether they were out in the field or up to bat. I also included a list of names and the batting order, and carried both lists out to the field on a clipboard. The kids out in the field were free to choose where they wanted to position themselves. I promise you that all of the preparation and planning ahead will lead to better games, every time!

Establishing the Equipment and the Field

One nice thing about kickball is you don't need much equipment to play. I suggest having some real bases; not the flimsy, thin kind. Thick, heavy-duty bases are best. They will add a touch of class to the game, and it's much easier for the kids who are running to aim for an actual base, rather than just a towel or a jacket. Secondly, it is very important to have a good, properly-inflated kickball. My kickball of choice was ten-inches in diameter. A ball that's too big is hard for the kids to catch and throw. A couple of orange cones come in handy to place down the left and right field lines to help determine if a long fly ball is fair or foul. The bases should be placed about 50 feet apart.

While kickball can certainly be played on the grass, I preferred playing on the blacktop. If you place home plate where two of the blacktop white lines meet at a corner, you've got yourself some nice, straight foul lines going from home to first base, and from home to third base.

Let's Play Kickball!

You will need to know the basic rules of baseball in order to lead a really good kickball game. Believe me, many of the kids will know the rules of the game, and they will expect you to follow them.

I was always the pitcher for both teams. This is good for many reasons:

  • With me being the pitcher, the kids got good pitches to kick — slow rollers, not too bouncy, right down the middle! However, if I made a bad pitch, the batter could choose to not kick it, and wait for a better pitch.
  • It put me right in the middle of the game so I could make accurate "safe" and "out" calls as the umpire.
  • Selfishly, I love playing the game, and it was fun to be one of the fielders!

My games were always four innings long:

  • For the first two innings, I didn't keep track of outs. Instead, I let everyone come up to the plate before switching sides. The last batter of the inning, for both teams, was always me! I would choose someone from the team that was up at bat to pitch to me. After my turn, we would switch sides and start the next half of the inning.
  • The third and fourth innings were slightly different. In the third inning, both teams got four outs before we would switch sides. In the fourth inning, it was only three outs. Just like in real baseball, the first batter up for each team in the fourth inning was the batter who appeared in the order right after the person who made the last out in the third inning. 

The nice thing about this system is that it ensured that all of the kids, even the ones at the bottom of the batting order, got an equal number of chances to come up to bat. It also made the game more like "real" baseball by keeping track of outs in the last two innings, and it made the end of the game more exciting. The kids always loved when I came up because I would (usually) send the ball sky high, and way out into the outfield. Many times, the kids got me out which was so exciting for them! Speaking of outs......

Ways to Make Outs

The five ways to make an out in my version of kickball are:

  • A pop-up that is caught before it hits the ground
  • A force-out at any of the bases
  • The runner being "pegged" by the ball when trying to advance between bases. One note on this rule: Sometimes, by accident, a runner was hit in the head by the thrown ball. If that ever happened, I allowed the runner to be "safe," and to advance to the base. This rule makes the kids more careful with their aim when they're trying to peg someone.
  • A "strikeout." The same rules of baseball apply. Three strikes and you're out. If a batter had two foul balls, then completely missed the ball when kicking (it happens!), that batter struck out. By the way, I didn't allow bunting. I insisted that each batter tried to forcefully kick the ball and not try to sneak a base hit by lightly tapping the ball into fair territory. A bunt attempt was ruled a "strike" by me.
  • If the batter kicked three consecutive foul balls, I called them out. Hey! The game has to keep moving!

Looking Back

When I reflect back on the hundreds of kickball games I led with my pupils, I realize that all of those hours out on the playground were among the most-enjoyable moments of my career. By playing with my students, I was able to connect with them in a way that was completely different from being their classroom teacher. Plus, I got some really good exercise! I hope you'll consider playing this fun, all-inclusive game with your class. It works for any grade level! 

Kickball-Related Lesson Plans:

Kickball Activity Plan

Young athletes need to hone their skills when it comes to kicking a ball accurately. This resource, created for 2nd and 3rd graders, offers four activities designed to give them practice kicking a rolling ball. These fun activities would be perfect to implement for a few weeks before taking your kids out for the real game of kickball.

Mad Dog Kickball

One knock on the game of kickball is that there's a lot of standing around by the fielders. That's just the way baseball-type games are, I suppose. However, in this version of kickball, all of the fielders have to move in unison to help get the runner out. It is a unique and fun alternative to the traditional kickball game.

Cardio Kickball

Here is another verison of kickball that is designed for middle schoolers. Instead of having just one player at a time kicking the ball and running the bases, this version of the game has many players kicking and running at the same time. Cardio kickball keeps both sides running all over the place in an effort to score runs and record outs. An ingenious variation!