The great debate of 2021… dodgeball or kickball? This tweet kicked off the discussion for the best recess game, but the focus of this Top Ten Tuesday is on PE/gym class. So, what were/are the best games to play in gym class?
Soccer, floor hockey (inside the gymnasium on the hardwood), four square, and types of tag were among the games not to make the list. Softball gets the nod because of its variations—you could go with Wiffle ball, hand ball, or even play with a massive dodgeball/kickball ball instead of an actual softball. It might have felt bad if you took a big swing and miss (especially if you were supposed to be a good athlete), but softball games can allow students to shine at the plate, in the field, and on the base paths.
A combination of tennis, badminton, and table tennis (all of which, with the exception of table tennis as it is probably not in many schools, could have their own spots in the top ten), pickelball is easy to play in 1v1 or 2v2 fashion. It can be played at all competition levels: from just hitting the ball back and forth, to actively moving around and trying to deliver crafty serves and kill-shots.
8. Ultimate Frisbee
Most people can get the hang of throwing a frisbee, so ultimate frisbee—despite it perhaps sounding quite extreme—is accessible to just about everyone while also keeping the elements of competitiveness found in sports like football and soccer. Now termed “Ultimate”, the sport is actually eligible for the 2028 Olympics.
Sticking with the same spirit as ultimate frisbee, speedball is another game where you try to move from one end of the field to another to score points. But speedball combines many different sports—you can either throw or kick the ball, there’s a goal (instead of an end-zone like scoring zone), and the scoring changes depending on how you get the ball into the net. Many different types of athletes can come together and form a successful speedball game.
6. Disc Golf
Disc golf has gained in popularity over the years. It’s been around for a while, but it felt like it really started becoming more mainstream in the past decade—and you might have played it in your PE class during high school or middle school. Disc golf is like golf, but you use a frisbee instead of a golf club and golf ball. It’s not very costly to set up and play compared to golf (and not as challenging), so it’s a natural fit for schools around the country.
Basketball is one of the quintessential games in gym class. Of course, almost all gyms have at least a couple of basketball hoops—and often times maybe six or more of them—so it’s easy for gym teachers to roll the ball out and let students shoot around. Whether it’s a 3-on-3 game or a round of knockout, PE basketball is pretty simple.
Some gym classes can take volleyball pretty seriously. I remember learning from an early age in like elementary school about the proper rotations throughout the game. As much as any game played in gym class, volleyball takes teamwork—the squads that properly set each other up for saves and spikes were typically tough to stop. And it’s one of the top sports where both boys and girls can be at around an equal playing field in many cases.
This is obviously either flag football or two-hand touch. Playing inside within a gymnasium can be limiting (because of the lack of space and deep passes) but interesting, almost like scaled-down arena football. But football was undoubtedly one of the top outside sports to play in PE in my opinion. It’s not for everyone, but it’s a cool moment when a kid you might not expect comes through with a catch. We’re talking about America’s favorite sport. It belongs in the top three. Also, just a special shout-out to recess football, which countless kids enjoy to play in middle school and elementary school.
Finally, we’re down to kickball versus dodgeball. Strong cases can be made for each. Many people certainly have vague memories of smashing a kickball to the back wall of the gymnasium, which is arguably peak achievement in gym class. You could also make spectacular plays in the field in kickball, and pitchers could spin the ball and frustrate hitters. Kickball is definitely an all-time classic gym game that will always be around. However…
Nothing against the rest of a worthy list, but dodgeball is the clear No. 1 for me. Nothing else in gym class gets the excitement and buzz that dodgeball does, at least in my experience. Sure, you could be the target of fastballs coming your way, but you could also go on the defensive and make Matrix-like dodges or spectacular catches. I’ve never heard of kickball tournaments, but dodgeball tournaments (volleyball, too) are a common theme throughout schools around the country (and even into colleges). Dodgeball probably had more people that despised it (you could probably find them standing at the back of the playing area while hoping to just take a soft hit to the leg), but it was often the top game choice for those that actually looked forward to PE class.