Spotlight on the Sports… we’re finding out more about ‘Matball’

  • 21


    Spotlight on the Sports… we’re finding out more about ‘Matball’

    Welcome to the latest in our monthly series highlighting some of the weirder sports the world has to offer. In this article, we take a look at a game inspired by the more traditional sports of rounders and baseball, but one that perhaps bears closest resemblance to the American sport of Kickball. With flexible rules and the ability to be played both indoors or outdoors, Matball has the potential to be run in schools across the country and to be enjoyed by everyone.


    Matball can trace its routes back to 1981 when it was officially invented by teachers Dave Hudson and Mary Jo Andrysiak. However, many similar variations also exist – such as ‘Soccer-Baseball’ in North America, ‘Balyagu’ or ‘Kickbase’ in Asia, or ‘Football-Rounders’ in England – check out our Secondary intra-school Rounders School Games format for more information on that one. 

    The more traditional and well known game of Kickball dates back as far as 1917 when it became popular in the playgrounds of Cincinnati, Ohio. Within five years it had made its way into schools as a popular way to teach young pupils the basic rules of baseball. It also proved to be a well-liked pastime amongst American troops during the Second World War, with variants of the game reported throughout the early 1940s.

    Like kickball, matball is known as a ‘safe haven’ game, with the key difference being that the bases are larger and can accommodate multiple runners at one time – leading to the sport also becoming known as ‘big base’ in certain parts of the world. The term ‘matball’ comes from the common practice of replacing the bases with large gym mats – marking out the safe territory within.


    There are no hard and fast rules of Matball. One of the game’s biggest plus points is that it can flexibly adapted to meet the needs of the participants. However, the common themes are relatively simple: two teams take it in turns to either kick or field. Each member of the kicking team attempts to complete a lap of the mats, or bases, in order to score a run. The team that scores the highest number of runs wins.

    A player can be prevented from scoring by their shot being caught by a member of the fielding team, by failing to reach the first base before the ball, or by being ‘tagged’ by an opposition fielder holding the ball whilst they attempt to run between bases. An innings will come to an end when a pre-determined number of players are out or when everyone on the kicking team has had a go. A game can consist of either a single inning or multiple innings depending on the time available.

    Matches can be played inside – typically in a gym with mats – or outside, where even a group of cones could serve as a base. To make the game harder, more rules can be introduced, such as having a maximum number of runners per base or preventing the kicker from putting the ball in the air – encouraging precision and placement to avoid fielders rather than brute strength. It is also common to see an additional base introducing, making the pitch area into a square or rectangle, rather than the traditional baseball diamond.


    As referenced above, Matball is a game that can be freely adapted to meet any end, and should allow PE teachers the creative freedom to design their version in whatever way they see fit to meet the needs of their young people. The game is extremely inclusive, allowing any team size and competition across genders and year groups, but can also be dialled up for those of higher ability.

    In fact, Matball has the potential to be extremely tactical, as the batting team collate several runners on a single base to better their chances of completing a run – whilst the fielding team must act quickly to prevent the opposition progressing.

    We hope you enjoyed this Spotlight on the Sports piece; we’ll be back next month with more.