Mormon Ball

When I was in college, a couple buddies of mine were with me on a Wednesday night with nothing to do.  So, we invented a game based on an ancient Maya ball game.  Here follow the rules of the game.

Each team is to put the ball into their goal without using their hands or feet. Games are usually played to three points, and may be won by a margin of one point. Traditionally, the winning team was sacrificed the next day to the Aztec Gods. It is suggested that this portion of tradition be ignored.


The official Mormon Ball court is 40’ by 50’ with a goal at each end. The goal is 16’ wide, 3’ deep, and 3.5’ tall. The opening of the goal is on the top, not on the front. It can easily be constructed by setting up two long tables and laying them on their side with the feet of the tables touching the back wall of the court.



The first team to serve is determined by a coin toss or agreement of the team captains of both teams. When serving the ball, at least one half of each team must be touching the goal they defend, the server included. The server may use his hands to start the ball but may not throw the ball as a serve. The ball is not considered “in play” unless it has touched a legal part of the server’s body. In order for the serve to be valid, it must pass the half court line. After the ball has passed half court, the teams may move about freely on the court. The serving team may not score until the receiving team has touched the ball.


Handling of the ball excludes the use of hands and feet. The hand is technically from the elbow to the fingertips and the feet are technically from the knees to the toe tips. However, the referee is free to judge hands and feet and players must respect the referee’s decision. When a player has possession of the ball, he may not walk; he may pivot on one of his feet, but is ‘traveling’ as soon as he picks up the stationary foot. Any penalty results in change of possession of the ball on the exact spot where the penalty occurred (a pop), unless the penalty occurs within six feet of a player’s defending goal. In this case, the change of possession occurs six feet from the goal and the defending team is said to have a ‘level 16’ penalty. On the second six foot penalty, the penalty level rises to 26, on the third 36. If the penalty level is already 36, the defending team must leave their goal unprotected. As soon as the offending team begins play, all players may move freely. This action brings the defending team’s penalty level back to ‘06’.


A pop is used to bring the ball into play. It is similar to a serve except that a pop may occur anywhere on the court and it is not required that any of the players be touching their defending goals. A pop is allowed any time there is a penalty and therefore a change of possession, or whenever the referee deems it necessary. For example, the referee may call a pop when the ball is in the corner and it is obvious that hands will be needed to get it out, or in any similar situation. A player may use his hands to put the ball into play but may not throw the ball. The ball must touch a legal part of the body for it to be considered “in play”.


When the ball enters a goal, one point is scored for the offensive team. The ball may bounce out, but is still considered dead and a point is counted as long as the ball touched the ground within the goal. If the ball, directly prior to entering the goal, touched the ground and bounced into the goal, two points are scored for the offensive team. The defending team may not enter the goal to prevent entry by the ball. Once per game, the offending team is allowed to pivot on one foot and place the ball into the goal. For a one-on-one game, the scoring team receives the serve after the score. When there is more than one person per team, the scoring team serves.

Ball Choice

The original ball used to play the game was a leather volleyball. For different game play, a similar sized ball made of light rubber may be used. Later on, it was discovered that an over-sized rubber ball was significantly entertaining. Ball choice is up to the players.

Where it Comes From

See for for more information on the origin of the game. The modern day version of the game can be played virtually anywhere, with flexibility for goals, house rules, etc.

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