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Wiffle Ball: Turning a Backyard Favorite into an Appropriate Physical Education Unit

Todd Layne

When people reflect on their childhood years, they will recall their most enjoyable moments. Many times, these moments involve some type of play. One activity that was popular — and still is today — is wiffle ball. Since the creation of the wiffle ball in the late 1950s, the game, which incorporates the iconic ball and yellow bat, has grown in popularity (Santora, 2003). Leagues have been created across the United States with many forms of the game being played (Kennedy, 2000). National tournaments have been created with teams across the nation competing against one another. In addition, replica Major League Baseball fields and other original field ideas have been created (Kohler, 2014) for league play and to raise money for various charities (Devlin, 2011). Wiffle ball is a game that has been played by people from all walks of life. Regardless of age, it is a game that all can enjoy.

Wiffle ball is intended to be fun and played by all. The physical education classroom is a place to provide students with a developmentally appropriate approach to learning the game. Although wiffle ball has produced pleasant moments for some, memories of playing the game during physical education may not have been as satisfying for others. Often, teachers would divide students into two teams, with each team having more than the typical nine team members per side. Players would have long wait times to bat and would seldom have chances to make plays on defense. Most often, the lack of defensive opportunities was due to the fact that two to three students would dominate play and try to field each ball that was hit or multiple people would be assigned to the same position. Appropriate opportunities to practice the skills were not available to students. The limited opportunities would lead to students not being able to strike the ball being pitched, which ultimately increased the amount of wait time. Consequently, frustration increased and interest in playing during school hours decreased.

During the early 1990s, a campus minister in Middle Tennessee named Kelly Campbell took advantage of an opportunity to play the game of wiffle ball. Wanting to enjoy a childhood favorite, Kelly would organize games on Tuesday afternoons, which happened to be one of his days off from work. A few college students would get together and play wiffle ball in Kelly’s backyard. The game became known as Campbellball. In the beginning of Campbellball, players would attempt to strike out players from the other team. They quickly realized that it decreased the amount of activity and ultimately the fun of the game. The rule was established that the pitcher must lob the ball for the batter to hit. The addition of that rule immediately increased activity and enjoyment for all players involved. Campbellball turned into a weekly event, which continues to be played today by people of all ages — even an 85-year-old person has played an entire game (see

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