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October 3rd, 2000


I think that the childhood gym class game that left its players most prone to injury would have to be that stress-filled dodgeball-on-crack known as “Bombardment.”

Though I couldn’t find “official” rules anywhere, the way I remember it is as such: players would split into two teams (usually through the agonizing popularity contest of picking teams). One team would get a number of red kickballs and the goal was to “peg” (yet another game requiring “pegging”) someone from the other team. Once you were pegged, you were out. If you happened to catch the ball that was thrown at you, the thrower was out. With enough kids, an honor system of sorts was required since there was no way that a gym teacher could keep up with a half-dozen flying kickballs.

The game continued until one team had no remaining players. Often, if the teams were unusually lopsided, it might end up with four on one situation — this was often where the star Bombardment player would show his/her skills, dodging a number of throws at the same time.

I enjoyed this game a lot as a kid, apparently (there are a number of tapes of me as a first grader trying to get my younger sister to say the word), but looking back, this, like many other gym games, really left the door open for injuries. One thing I will say, though, is that the teacher of the class immediately following Bombardment was usually quite happy — everyone was too sore and worn out to be disruptive.

A few Bombardment links…

  • A piece of Bombardment fiction (or perhaps a recall of childhood)
  • The Artful Dodger,” a great remembrance piece about the non-jock that was the King of gym class Bombardment.

Posted in Childhood Memories

FROM: Old Fezziwig
DATE: Tuesday October 3, 2000 -- 9:41:06AM
This is what we simply called "Dodgeball" and was always a thrill! To add some flair to the game, our gym teacher set boundaries - lines on the floor that we could not cross until he yelled out 'move forward'. At our school, the honor system mentioned above didn't always work; there would always be some punk-ass that would get hit and not sit out of the game. I remember many games where the smallest, meekest girls in the class would just get wailed on with multiple red kickballs at once, resulting in nose bleeds and lacerations
Now that I think of it, I took a Personal Fitness class in college and the instructor had us play this for a week. Instead of sitting out when you got hit, you had to do pushups and situps and then get back in the game.

FROM: Paul
DATE: Tuesday October 3, 2000 -- 10:08:45AM
It was the same for us, Fezz. Dodgeball: what a game! Each team got 5 of those red balls and had to peg everyone on the other team. I always artfully (or, luckily) avoided getting hit and would often be the last one on my team - taking on, say, 8-10 on the other side. :)

Having poles in the gym (basement) of my school added a nice twist, although you couldn't hide behind the poles for long.

FROM: Ryan
DATE: Tuesday October 3, 2000 -- 10:17:19AM
I thought dodgeball was with only one ball (hence the reference to "dodgeball-on-crack")...

FROM: Robert
DATE: Tuesday October 3, 2000 -- 11:22:12AM
Ryan--Do you know from personal experience that crack makes you see multiples?

FROM: liz
DATE: Tuesday October 3, 2000 -- 4:21:53PM
man, i hated this game. i always got my ass kicked. or hit in the head really hard.

FROM: Maria
DATE: Tuesday October 3, 2000 -- 9:16:22PM
This sounds very much like my favorite gym class game: Prison Ball.
We played it on the basketball court with yellow foam balls that were pretty hard despite being made of foam. There were probably around 15 balls on the court at once and if you got hit by the ball, or if someone caught your throw, you had to go stand in the free-throw key ("Prison") on the other team's side of the court.
If you caught a ball thrown to you by your team members, you could get out of prison. If someone made a basket, all of their team members would be let out of prison. That was always the most exciting part--when everyone was in prison except one person and then they miraculously made a basket and everyone was freed.

FROM: Robert
DATE: Tuesday October 3, 2000 -- 9:55:14PM
In elementary school we played "Pony Express", another variation on dodgeball:

One runner starts at one cone (Virginia) and makes a mad dash for another (California) set some yards away. Lined up on either side is the other half of the class not on your team. They play the "indians", armed with black foam balls (I think the teacher actually called them arrows). The objective: deliver mail to California and return to home without getting hit. It was as hard as it sounds. In the dozen or so times I played I don't think I made it more than twice, and I was always good at these games.

DATE: Wednesday October 4, 2000 -- 7:36:42AM
You know... Prison Ball sounds a bit familiar. I sorta remember playing something like that... But I think I've done what I could to block out memories of gym class, so I'm not sure.

FROM: Ryan
DATE: Wednesday October 4, 2000 -- 9:22:56AM
Both Prison Ball and Pony Express sound familiar to me as well... I think I probably only played them once or twice, though. Pretty cool premises behind both of them.

FROM: Patricia West
DATE: Thursday October 11, 2001 -- 6:18:49PM
Ping on Oct 3, 2000 referred to Bombardment article on my daughter's web site. URL has change to
Could you update the link, please.

Thanks you

FROM: Ryan
DATE: Thursday October 11, 2001 -- 9:47:31PM
Done -- thank you, Patricia.

FROM: Dave Walls
DATE: Thursday April 24, 2003 -- 11:54:28 pm
Holy crap, searching the archives brings yet another gem..BOMBARDMENT.

At the school I went to, we would always play bombardment in gym, boys vs. girls. Sounds lopsided, except our gym teacher, a 30 year old stud athlete who could whip the ball at lightning speed, would play on the girls side. Needless to say, one by one, the guys would get picked off.

One of my brightest moments came in the 4th grade, though. I was the last guy left, and the girls kept feeding the teacher the ball. So I held my arms out, closed my eyes, and braced for the worst. Somehow, the ball hit my gut so hard, it stayed there, I caught the ball, and freed my entire team. I had the respect of every guy, and several girls, for the rest of the afternoon.

Havent played the game since 5th grade, but everytime I see one of those balls while walking through a store, I smile.

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