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Note: this page first went up about 1998.

The sport of roofball has been around for about 30 or 40 years now. If you've never played it or heard of it, it's probably because we invented it ourselves in the early '60s and I'm only now letting the world in on it.

At the time I created this page, a web search for the word "roofball" yielded only a handful of hits, all of which are very dubious if not downright bogus. One even had a purported photo. Heck, I could barely see the speck of a ball. Anyhow, don't bother trying to claim that you've been playing it all your life. Just forget it.

HISTORY: Who's "we"? Well, I believe I laid down all the important roofball prescripts. But you never know - neighbor friends Raymond and Norville Schisler may have helped with the development, and maybe my brother Steven, and maybe even my brother-in-law Tom. Stranger things have happened. (But not often.)

EQUIPMENT: All you need for roofball is a roof and a ball. It's also desirable to have a paved surface below the roof, like a driveway or something, but you might have a good game on grass if it's flattened enough.

The best roofball ball is one of those cheap, light-weight jobs, about 10 inches in diameter, with all the swirly colors. You find them at the drugstore, dollar store, toy store, and even the supermarket when they're "in season". Of course, you may use any sort of ball that works for you.

Depicted below is a roof, such as on a pavilion-type structure such as you might well find at a park - state or local, etc.

             /                                            //\\
           /                                            //   \\
         /                   (roof)                   //      \\
       /                                            //       __\\
     /____________________________________________//   ___---  ||
    ||--------------------------------------------||---        ||
    ||          ||                                ||           ||
    ||          ||                                ||           ||
    ||          ||                                ||           ||
    ||          ||                                ||           ||
    ||                                            ||            
    ||                                            ||            
    ||                                            ||

BASIC PLAY: The basic game is played by 2 opposing players. They are both positioned on the same side of the building with the roof in question. Let me spell that out clearly in the negative mode: the players do NOT play on opposite sides of the roof.

One player hits the ball up on the roof. Gravity (whatever that is) causes the ball to slow down, stop, change directions, and then start back down the roof, picking up speed as it does so. After it comes flying over the edge of the roof, the other player is obliged to smack it back up on the roof.

As in tennis, a player has the option of hitting the ball "on the fly" - that is, before it hits the ground - or else letting it bounce once on the ground before hitting it back to the roof.

And that's about all there is to it. The players alternately hit the ball back up to the roof until somebody goofs.

LEGAL HIT: Any sort of smack, slap or punch is ok. Just don't catch or "carry" the ball.

Also, you're required to get out of your opponent's way after you make a hit. Otherwise, he can call "Hinder!"

SCORING: As in volleyball, you only score points while you are serving, and you continue to serve as long as you score points.

The server scores 1 point when his opponent goofs.

In a rally where the server himself eventually goofs, no one scores a point; but his opponent then takes over the serve. There is one cool exception to this, which you'll read about in the "Over the roof" paragraph below.

WINNING: Choose any final score you want. For some reason, odd numbers, such as 15 or 11, seem "right". Use smaller final scores, like 9 or 7, if people are waiting to play the winner.

You must win by 2 points, as in volleyball.

We always played it as a running elimination. Whoever won the last game is Roofball Champion and remains Roofball Champion until someone beats him. Whoever wins the last game of the day reigns as Roofball Champion for as many days, weeks, months or years it takes to get up another round of play.

SERVING: There are no constraints on the manner of serving. The player may stand anywhere he wants - even out of bounds - and hit the ball as hard or as soft as he wishes.

The server gets only one chance to make a good serve. If he goofs the serve, his opponent takes over the serve.

BOUNDS: You have a choice as to how to handle bounds. The originally-developed rules stated that the ball must come over the front edge of the roof. Any ball that comes over the front edge of the roof is in bounds; any ball that goes over one side edge or the other is out of bounds. If a ball is hit out of bounds, the rally stops and either a point is scored or the serve switches to the other player.

Regarding a ball that comes off the roof over one of the corners, it's in bounds if "most of it" comes over the front edge. Of course, this can give rise to disagreement in some cases. (I'm still flabbergasted at how cock-eyed my brother-in-law Tom could be.)

So you might want to mark the boundaries on the ground instead of worrying about the path of the ball in flight. Just make a line that extends out from the corner of the building at about a 45 degree angle. You can adjust this to whatever suits you. You might use a hose or rope to define the boundary.

In addition to being in bounds, a ball must have hit or touched the roof "coming down" to be a good hit. This comes as no surprise, but must be spelled out for the sake of balls that just glance the front edge of the roof. If the ball glances the edge on an upward trajectory, it is no good; if it glances the edge on the way down, it is a good hit.

OVER THE ROOF: Oooo, this is a goodie. We very quickly noticed what a pain in the neck it was to chase down balls that go over the roof, so we implemented a rule that whenever a ball goes over the roof, the opponent of whoever hit it over scores 2 points. No exceptions. Even if the server is the one who hit it over, his opponent immediately scores 2 points, and takes over the serve.

Not only that, but whoever hit it over has to go chase it.

RAIN GUTTER: A rain gutter adds an exciting touch to roofball. You can't be sure how the ball will come off the roof. For example, if the ball hits the gutter, it may go flying over the head of a player who was positioned up close, ready to play the ball on the fly.

STRATEGY: "Rollers" - balls that roll down the roof - have a better chance of hitting the lip of the gutter and creating problems for your opponent. "Bouncers" are much less likely to catch the rain gutter. Rollers are hard to do, though. You have to aim your shot so that it skims along the surface of the roof. That's dangerous because, a fraction of a degree too low, and your shot will bounce off the front of the gutter - no good!

Also you want as much speed as possible on the roller when it gets back down to the gutter. To do that, you need to send the ball as far up the roof as possible. But then you risk hitting it over the roof, and handing your opponent 2 points! Man, this is a great sport.

TEAMS: For the most part, roofball is played one-on-one, but if you have a fairly long roof you can play teams. I doubt teams of greater than 2 players will work well.

As in tennis, either member of a team may return the ball to the roof for his team; members of a team are not constrained to taking turns. (In other words, it's not like ping pong.)

Whether or not you play with teams, a player must return the ball to the roof with one clean hit. In other words, it's not like volleyball, which allows 3 hits.

DELUXE ROOF: We were fortunate in having an ideal garage roof with which to invent the great sport of roofball. See the picture below. What makes it extra special for roofball is the wall on one side. That can be used strategically for bank shots. There are no requirements about whether or not a shot must hit the roof before the side wall.

                           /\                             \
         _________________/  \                             \
        /\                \   \                             \
       /  \    (deluxe     \   \                             \
      /    \      roof)     \   \ ____________________________\
     /      \________________\   |                            |
     |      |  ____________  |   |                            |
     |      | |            | |   |     __     ___     __      |
     |      | |            | |   |    |  |   |   |   |  |     |
     |      | |            | |   |{}  |__|   |  .|   |__|     |
     |      |_|____________|_|   {%%}        |   |            |

The sidewall keeps almost all the shots on that side in bounds, and gives rise to a much wilder style of play.

Also, there are shrubs in front of the house right beside the driveway, and they could be used strategically by an advanced roofballer. If your opponent is playing back in a defensive mode, waiting for the bounce, you might direct your shot to land just at the foot of the shrub so that it gets caught there and doesn't bounce. When your opponent sees that coming, he has to make a desperation attempt to get to the ball on the fly.

Another nice feature is the overhang (not apparent in this picture.) The edge of the garage roof is several feet out from the garage. This allows a greater flexibility of movement. You might find yourself under the roof for a variety of reasons, such as inertia after running up to make a shot; for getting out of the way of your opponent; and for making fancy hook shots!

One of the really neat things about roofball is how the strategy and "flavor" changes depending on the roof and court you use.

You can still visit the Birthplace of Roofball. It's at 7529 Clays Lane, in the Hebbville area of Baltimore County, Maryland, near Woodlawn (which has heard of you even if you haven't heard of it because that's the home of the Social Security Administration.) Stop by; there's almost sure to be some neat, collectible stuff for sale on a table or two by the road in front of my folks' house. Astronauts get 10 percent off. [It's August 2013, and times change. :-( Both parents are gone, and the house is now out of the family. Here's a real photo. DS]

Original roofball court.

After all these years (writing in September 2006), I figured it couldn't hurt to go a little high-tech and add a real roofball photo to this page. This is a picture of me and my nephew Stephen Bossom playing roofball on Christmas day, 2005. Note the nice rainbow. This was the day after Mom died.

Roofball, with Christmas rainbow.

Also, we were playing teams recently with a larger, heavier ball that was more difficult to get back up to the roof, so we implemented the volleyball rule where a team was allowed multiple hits to return the ball. It worked great. In fact, we put no limit on the number of hits, as long as the same person didn't hit it twice in a row.

Now would you like to visit another good roofball site (that came along after this page)? Go to . They have a really neat way to play round robin.

Here's a real nice way to play roofball with a group of players.

From: Mike Crichton-Struthers
Date: Apr 2005

I played roofball all the time when I was a kid at summer camp. There was a small building about 30 feet wide and 7 or 8 feet tall with a great roof. We would play with 7, 8 or 9 people and if you missed a return you would get a letter; usually we would play to "R O O F". Like in your version if you went over the top of the roof you would get two letters against you. Our roof was shingled and when you served you had to have the ball hit an area that was in the center of the roof height wise, at least 3 rows of shingles from the top and bottom. Your serve also couldn't go off the ends. These two rules helped keep the number of "aces" down and made for more interesting rallies.

The best shots were always ones where you would go up to spike the ball sideways, skimming across the bottom of the roof. If you could get some spin on the ball that was awesome, if you could fake out your opponent and go the opposite way, that was deadly.

I think the most interesting part about our roofball court is that there was a lake about 50 feet back from the roof, so every once in a while someone would have to go swimming for the ball.

Roofball is one of my favourite memories of games as a kid, and I don't know where it was invented [I do! DS], but it still has a loyal following up in Canada! I've been searching for another roof as good as the first for years. [Hmmmm... $$$, ka-ching!!! Anybody want to start a chain of roofball clubs, offering a variety of roof styles to suit various tastes and player numbers, and get sickly rich in the process? DS]


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