Have a Ball

Filed in Recreation by on April 3, 2014

backyard volleyballSummer is the perfect season for barbecues, boats and brats. But it’s an even better time for playing backyard games. Whether it’s just you and your partner or the whole neighborhood, there are plenty of games to choose from. Here’s a list of our favorites.


Traditional net games are easy to set up and easy to play. All you need is a net kit (available at most big box or sporting goods stores) and some white spray paint. It may take you a morning to put the net up in your yard, but once it’s up you can leave it for the whole season if you like (and if the wind allows). The white spray paint comes in handy for drawing an outline of your grass court. And don’t worry about the lines becoming permanent; they’ll disappear when you mow your grass.

Volleyball can be played with as few as four people or as many as 12. You also may want to invest in a softer volleyball so wrists and arms don’t get bruised.

Badminton can be played in a singles or doubles format. Again, you can find rackets and birdies at most sporting goods store. Be sure to buy extra birdies, though – those little flyers have a way of getting lodged in trees!


croquetThis game with mallets, balls and small metal hoops is ideal for players of all ages and fitness levels. As long as you can navigate your way through the course and swing the mallet, you can complete.

And complete you will. Although croquet has a sometimes stuffy and boring reputation, the game can heat up in a hurry! Here’s why: You can knock each other’s balls out of the way to clear a space so your ball can make it through the hoop.

The goal of the game is to be the first to make it through the course, so there is a lot of bonking of balls along the way. All it takes is a little skill and a lot of luck!

Croquet is limited to six plays per set and can last for at least an hour. You can find sets at most sporting goods stores.

Kick the Can/Capture the Flag

These retro games cay be something you remember from your school days, but there is no reason not to give them a try again this summer. They involve skill, strategy and stealth. Best of all, they use limited equipment, most of which can be found lying around your lake cabin.

To play kick the can, all you need beside people is, well, a can – preferably something bigger, like a bulk coffee can. Someone gets nominated (or loses a bet) and is named king of the can. The rest of the people split up and devise ways to try to kick the can. If the king tags you before you succeed, you go to jail. Different versions of the game allow players to break people out of jail, so you’ll want to discuss rules as a group before the game begins. But if no one kicks the can and everyone ends up in jail, the king wins.

Capture the flag is the ultimate team game, pitting teams of at least 4 people against each other. The teams outline a playing field and then divide in half. This is a great opportunity for neighbors to play against one another. Each other’s yard is their half of the field.

Each team picks a flag – anything from an old t-shirt to an actual flag. You show the other team your flag and then hide it on your side of the field (although a piece of the flag must be visible at all times). Once the flag is hidden, the game springs to life. Like a military operation, players try to infiltrate the other team’s area, capture the flag and bring it back to their side of the field. If they get caught, as in kick the can, they go to jail. In this game, though, if your teammate springs you from jail, you must go back to your side before trying to capture the flag again.


ladder ballOften called Norwegian golf in our region, ladderball involves a freestanding ladder with three rungs (you can buy a set in a sporting good store or make your own out of pvc pipe) and two sets of six golf balls (divided into pairs) connected by a least a foot of rope. The balls are tossed at the ladder with the goal of wrapping them around a rung, with each rung worth a pre-determined number of points. The game can be played as singles or pairs. Prior to the start of the game, players agree on a winning total (often 11 for short games or 21 for long versions). The first person or team to reach the total is the winner.

Throwing the golf balls takes some practice. If you over- or undershoot the ladder, don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it eventually. You’ve got all summer to practice!

by Patricia Carlson


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