Rules, Field Diagrams & Governing Bodies
Quicklinks: Baseball | Cricket | Dodgeball | Field Hockey | Ice Hockey | Pickleball | Roller Derby | Roller Hockey | Rugby | Softball | Tennis | Ultimate | Volleyball
Bat-and-ball games are found around the world as far back as the 13th Century and were popular in North America in the early 1830s. Rules were first codified in 1845 in New York City and was soon called the “national pastime”. The story that baseball was invented by Abner Doubleday in Cooperstown, NY, is no longer accepted.
Baseball’s popularity extends from North America through Caribbean and Latin American countries as well as in east Asia. The sport is governed by the World Baseball Softball Confederation, which was established in 2013 as the governing body of both sports.
The origins of cricket are unclear but could have developed as early at the 11th Century. The modern game comes from 18th Century England and spread through British colonists.
While a full game of cricket can take several days, Twenty20 is a popular short form that takes less than two hours, and there are variations for indoor play. The International Cricket Council governs the outdoor sport, which sets the rules with the Marylebone Cricket Club. The World Indoor Cricket Federation governs the indoor game.
There is little information about the origin of dodgeball. After the 2004 release of the movie Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, interest in the sport rose significantly. It is a common sport in gym classes and at summer camps, and 32 schools participate in an intercollegiate league.
Field hockey originated in Europe in the middle ages, though hockey-like games may have been played much earlier. The modern game was developed in English public schools in the 19th Century, and the International Hockey Federation (IHF) was founded in 1924 to oversee the rules. Artificial turf entered the game in the 1970s and is now the most common playing surface.
Field hockey in the U.S. is primarily played by women, particularly at the high school and college levels. Outside North America, participation among men and women is evenly balanced.
- Official Rules & Field Diagrams
- USA Field Hockey
- International Hockey Federation
Games of ice hockey were played on frozen ponds and lakes in the 1700s, British soldiers and immigrants introduced the game to North America in the 1800s. Eventually the game transitioned from using a ball to puck.
The International Ice Hockey Federation oversees the sport, though the North American game uses a variant of those official rules.
- Official Rules & Rink Diagrams
- USA Hockey
- International Ice Hockey Federation
The first evidence of roller hockey comes from Austria in 1938. The first rules in the U.S. were derived from an NHL rule book, and the game has since evolved from using roller skates to using inline skates.
While related to ice hockey, roller hockey uses one fewer player per team and tends to be less physical – fighting is banned, and body checking is a penalty. The International Federation of Roller Sports is the governing body.
Pickleball was created in 1965 by congressman Joel Pritchard and a friend. They were looking to play badminton but did not posess a complete set of equipment. They improvised rules based on what they had – ping-pong paddles, a perforated plastic ball, and a net.
Today, pickleball is played by more than 2.5 million people across the United States and is governed by the International Federation of Pickleball and the USA Pickleball Association. It is especially popular with middle-aged people and seniors, as the game is less physical but allows them to be active.
Roller derby evolved from banked-track roller skating marathons in the 1930s and quickly became popular. In the mid-20th Century, it transformed into a form of sports entertainment that was more theatrical and scripted, though those elements have since been abandoned.
The modern game uses flat tracks and is predominantly all-female, though there is increasing participation in men’s and coed leagues.
Rugby developed in 19th Century England as a version of football (soccer). Disagreements led to a split in 1895, resulting in the two versions that exist today: rugby league and rugby union. American football is derived from rugby union.
Rugby sevens is a popular small-sided form of the game, featuring seven players per side and two seven-minute halves.
Major League Rugby, an American professional rugby union competition, launched in 2018 with sanctioning by USA Rugby.
Softball started as a pick-up game in Chicago in 1887; a rolled-up boxing glove was used as a ball and a broomstick as a bat. The soft “ball” was fielded bare-handed. Rules were set for the game, and it was played as “indoor baseball” for players to keep fit during the winter. As the game spread, it was picked up in Minneapolis and modified to use the now-standard ball size.
Rules varied across the U.S. until they were standardized in 1936, and the name “softball” stuck. Today, the game features fastpitch and slowpitch variations and is governed by the World Baseball Softball Confederation.
Tennis finds its origins from a 12th Century French game in which players hit a ball with their bare hands. Over the years, the game evolved to using gloved hands and eventually racquets, and it moved indoors to enclosed playing areas.
The modern game began in the mid-1800s in England when the game called “rackets” (similar to squash) was combined with a Spanish ball game and played on a croquet lawn. Rules, overseen by the International Tennis Federation, have remained largely unchanged since 1924.
The origins of Ultimate can be traced to the early 1900s, where pie tins and cake pans were used by college students before the introduction of plastic frisbees. Development of the game occurred in the 1960s when students used a frisbee combined with aspects of American football, basketball, and soccer.
USA Ultimate was founded in 1979 as the first independent governing body. The World Flying Disc Federation was recognized by the International Olympic Committee in 2015, raising the possibility of the sport appearing in the Olympic Games. Recreational league play does not typically use referees, relying on players to call their own fouls.
While the sport may be known as Ultimate Frisbee, the name “frisbee” was officially dropped from the sport’s name because it is a registered trademark of Wham-O, the manufacturer of Frisbee discs.
Volleyball was started in 1895 by William G. Morgan, a YMCA physical education director, combining parts of tennis and handball. It was designed to be a predominantly indoor sport for older members of the YMCA and less rough than basketball, which was developed several years early in the same region.
Over time, the game developed to include the “three hits rule” and the introduction of the set and the spike. Volleyball made its way to Europe through American soldiers in World War I. The Federation Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB) was founded in 1947 as the governing body.