Speedball (American ball game)

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Speedball is a quick, fast paced sport that is simple to teach and combines many aspects of other sports. Points are scored by throwing or kicking the ball into the opposing goal. It is played with two teams of five, each with one goalkeeper on a basketball court or football/soccer field.


The game was invented by Elmer D. Mitchell in the early 1920s at the University of Michigan.[citation needed] Elmer was a physical education professor, who sought to develop a game that was not restrictive to the rules of any one sport. He also created the sport to involve more students, especially those who were not as athletic. The sport was popularized and later reformed by players and coaches at Millburn High School in New Jersey. The sport became so popular in the Millburn area that it became an official gym class elective any student could take. Today, it is played in many American high school physical education classes. The sport is still struggling to turn into an actual sport played by club and high school teams.


The main objective of speedball is the objective of soccer/football. There are two goals, each guarded by a goal keeper. Each team attempts to throw the ball into the netted goal. However, unlike soccer/football, there are multiple ways goals can be scored. Goals can be scored by kicking the ball into the net with one's feet or throwing the ball into the goal. "Kicks" are worth two points while "throws" are only worth one. The team that scores the most goals by the end of the match wins the game. In speedball leagues, whether they are at school or for a local speed ball team, wins are worth three points, ties are worth one point and a loss is worth none.

The field and the ball

  • Generally played on a basketball court (can be played on a soccer field).
  • The size of the goal should be about 6 ft wide by 2.5 ft tall. However, different size goals can be used; the larger the goals, the faster the game generally goes. Hockey goals are also commonly used.
  • A soccer ball or volleyball may be used.
  • When playing indoor, most popular form of speedball, indoor soccer shoes or basketball shoes are usually worn.
  • When playing outdoor, players can wear soccer cleats or American football cleats.


Speedball can be played on a soccer field but there can only be a max of five on the field at a time, and usually the entire soccer field is not used but rather a small portion of it. The positions are usually as followed

  • Goal Keeper (GK) - Guards the goal
  • Center (C) - Moves with the ball - can play offense or defense
  • Right Winger (RW) - Plays in the upper right corner of the court/field - crosses the ball in to the center
  • Left Winger (LW) - Plays in the upper left corner or the court/field - crosses the ball into the center
  • Defensive Back (DB) Plays defense - tries to gain possession of the ball


  • Game starts by having a jump ball in the center of the court
  • The field players are allowed to move anywhere on the field of game play
  • The field players are permitted to touch the ball with any part of their body at any time EXCEPT their arms/hands (see next rule for details)
  • Field players may use their arms/hands as long as the last thing the ball touches is not the ground; one may not pick up the ball from the ground or catch it after it bounces off the ground.
  • If a player does touch the ball with their arms illegally, then it is considered a handball penalty and will result in the ball being turned over to the other team's goalie
  • If the player has the ball in his/her hands, they must make every effort to stop moving as fast as possible (if one keeps moving it is considered a travel and the ball will be turned over to the other team's goalie)
  • Once a player has a ball in their possession, they can pass it off, attempt to score, or drop the ball in order to utilize other parts of the body to move the ball
  • Goalies must stay on their side of the court (can't cross half court line)
  • Goalies can touch the ball with ANY part of their body, meaning that they have the power to pick up the ball off the ground without it being considered an "illegal" move
  • It is still illegal for goalies to travel when the ball is in their hands; however they can dribble the ball while moving

Penalties and Fouls

A penalty is when a foul is committed in the Goal Box and the other team gets to take penalty kick. A foul, committed anywhere except the box, results in a free kick for the player fouled upon. If the ball goes outside and is no longer in bounds the last player to touch it must give the ball up to the other team. The team receiving the ball can throw it in like a throw-in for basketball. Unlike soccer/football there are no yellow cards in Speedball. A player, who commits an obvious and unnecessary foul receives a red card. Unlike soccer, a single red card does not mean the player is kicked from the game. The player receiving the card must sit in a penalty box and must stay out for at least five minutes. Three red cards for a single player and he is kicked from the match.

  • Handball — if a field player touches the ball with his/her hands after it touches the ground
  • Traveling — when any player takes steps after coming to a complete stop while the ball is secured in a player's hands
  • Unsportsmanlike Conduct — viciously assaulting another player with no intention of going after the ball
  • Goalies Passing The Half-Court Line


Villa Park High School (California) in the 1970s had a Speedball league one quarter out of each year:

  • Played on a Soccer Field with a goal and goalie
  • Played with a Soccer ball
  • Caught Pass over the end zone line = 1 point
  • Throw into the net = 2 points
  • Kick into the net = 3 points
  • You could kick the ball all you wanted
  • You could pick up the ball, you could pass it to others
  • You could only run 2 steps without passing the ball or throwing it on the ground (like traveling in basketball.)

Springton Lake Middle School (Media, PA) - Physical Education department introduces a variation of Speedball during their Cultural Activities Unit.


  • Played on a basketball court, with a goal in the center at each end and a folding mat laid out in opposite corners of the court
  • Played with an indoor soccer ball, slightly deflated outdoor soccer ball or modified trainer volleyball
  • Played by two teams, consisting of 5-8 players per side


  • Game starts with a jump ball in the center of the court
  • Whenever the ball touches the ground, it must be played like soccer
  • Whenever the ball bounces off of a body part or a wall and caught by a player, the game must be played like handball
  • The last thing the ball touches before a player catches it CANNOT be the floor
  • When playing like handball, the player with possession of the ball is allowed to take two steps
    • Self Pass - a player with possession of the ball is allowed to make a Self Pass. To do this, the player must toss the ball above their head and catch it. This allows the player to take more than two steps. However, a player is not allowed to make more than two Self Passes. Defense is allowed to defend Self Passes by stealing them.


  • 1 point for a touchdown - successfully catching the ball with two feet on the other team's mat
  • 2 points for a handball goal - successfully throwing the ball into the other team's goal
  • 3 points for a soccer goal - successfully kicking the ball into the other team's goal


External links