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How to Play Shotball for both Competitive and Recreational Games

Okay, since so many of you want to learn more about America’s next great pastime in a sport that’s not being artificially pushed by ESPN, I thought I’d write a little article for you that undertakes the game’s rules and regulations. First off, shotball is a VERY easy game to understand, even if it can be a rather physical and at times violent game.

Bear in mind, you could realistically take the physicality out of the game by playing tag or flag versions of shotball that eliminates the tackling aspect and it’s still every bit as fun, and a great way to get into good cardiovascular shape.

So, I decided to embark on a project that I’m calling the Encyclopedia of Shotball, basically relaying game rules, as this article does, as well as actual strategies, so stay tuned because once I’m finished this product is getting bundled up into e-book form.

The good news for you shotball fanatics is even if the politics of the Lord of Columbia Series doesn’t appeal to your tastes, as it’s a Libertarian-based urban fantasy series that I’m not shy writing influences behind the series (see Libertarian Influences tab), but don’t fear, because shotball will be featured more and more on this site.

So, if you’re a fan of the sport and the Series, we can always agree to disagree on the political aspects and no, I don’t debate online, so don’t even try: I’ve wasted plenty of time doing so in my younger days when I could’ve been doing more positive activities.

I’ll be talking about the game’s history, both how it started in real life (when I wrote the rules of the game), and how it started in the World of Gaia, where Lord of Columbia is set.

I already gave a rundown of the SSL where one of the Northern Conference can be viewed here and the Southern Conference, here, so definitely check that out when you get a chance.

Now, for the rules of the game.

Playing Field

Shotball Diagram

The playing field resembles that seen in American football, one-hundred yards from goal to goal in length, and fifty-three and a half yards in width. There are three lines on the field, one at midfield, or the 50-yard-line, and one line at each quarter of the field, or 25-yard-line.

Two traditional soccer nets are lined up where the end zone would typically be located on an American football field. Keep in mind I do have an international audience, which is why I’ll place ‘American’ before football, since some of us are familiar with Association football (soccer), Gaelic football, Canadian Football, and Australian football, just to name a few.


Players per Side

Each side has eleven players, with thirty-three total players per roster, broken down into lines, kind of like you see in hockey. The starting eleven consists of three attackers, four centers, two defenders, one wanderer, and one goalkeeper.

The attackers line up on the team’s offensive half (zone) of the field and they may not cross the midfield line to the defensive half (zone). There are three types of attackers, the left-wing, center, and right-wing.

The centers play halfway into the offensive zone and halfway into the defensive zone, so the twenty-five-yard mark is as far as they’re legally allowed to go. There are four types of centers: left-wing, left-center, right-center, and right-wing.

The defenders can only play up to midfield in the defensive zone. Each side has two defenders, both a left-wing and right-wing defender.

The wanderer can travel anywhere on the field as if they’re the queen on the chessboard. For defensive-minded teams, the wanderer may be larger and more of a hitter while for offensive-minded teams, the wanderer can be more of an extra attacker, playing more offense.

Finally, we have the goalkeeper, who can only play in the goalkeeper box, a ten-yard perimeter around the goal.


Penalties and Violations

There are violations, which simply result in turnovers to the opposing team. Some of these violations include offsides, losing control of the ball while running out of bounds, and intentional grounding.

Offsides is called if an attacker enters the defensive zone, a center travels too deep in the offensive or defensive zones, or if a defender crosses into the offensive zone.

If one fumbles or is the last one to touch the ball before it heads out of bounds, the opposing team is rewarded the ball. However, if one fully controls the ball and runs out of bounds, the ball stays in their possession.

Intentional grounding occurs when a player throws the ball into a vicinity where no receiver is present within five yards, or if a player intentionally throws the ball out of bounds. Results in an automatic turnover.

As for penalties, there are four classes; two-minute minors, four-minute double-minors, five-minute majors, and game misconducts. Usually, misconduct occurs after the second offense of a five-minute major.

Anyone commits the penalty must head to the sidelines for the allotted amount of time while the opposing team is rewarded a power play, much like one sees in hockey. There may also be a loss of yards gained if the penalty is committed when a team is in possession of the ball.


Two and Four-Minute Minors and Double-Minors

Roughing: blocking a player who isn’t near the ball-carrier. Also, roughing the passer involves hitting a player who had just released the ball. Roughing the passer occurs when a defending player takes two steps and hits a passer after the pass was thrown.

Interference: touching another player while the ball is in the air and heading their way, much like pass interference in American football. Also, results in a fifteen-yard penalty.

Illegal block in the back: also involves moving the ball fifteen yards behind where the penalty took place. This occurs when an offensive player blocks a defensive player in the back.

Holding: When an offensive player grabs a defensive player’s jersey or holds onto them in any way. This can also occur on the defensive side as well. Ten yard penalty on either side.

Illegal hands to the face: Occurs when a player places their hands in the face of an opponent.

Tripping: Intentionally tripping an opponent. Incidental contact is not ruled as a trip.

Contact with the Goalkeeper: Occurs when a player contacts an opposing goalkeeper before the ball is thrown or kicked into the goalkeeper box. Contact is legal after a ball is thrown or kicked into the goalkeeper box.

Taunting: Occurs when a player commits an unsportsmanlike act to an opponent. Second offense leads to a misconduct, or ejection. Also, known as unsportsmanlike conduct.

Excessive use of the above penalties also results in a double-minor, or four minutes on the sideline. For instance, if one holds and lets go, it’s a two-minute penalty, but if the individual holds an opposing player and tackles them to the ground, it’s a double-minor.

In other words, if the infraction is more severe or is deemed flagrant, a double-minor will occur.


Five-Minute Majors and Misconducts

Late Hit: Occurs when a player hits or tackles an opponent after the play has been blown dead. If the player’s momentum results in incidental contact, the foul is ruled off.

Targeting: Occurs when a player targets an opposing player’s head or neck area. Second infraction results in a game misconduct a possible suspension for the following game. An injury to the individual may result in immediate misconduct.

Chop-block: Occurs when a player intentionally takes out another player’s knees. Second infraction results in a game misconduct. Injury to the opposing player may result in immediate misconduct.

Piling On: Occurs when a player leaps onto a downed player after the play has been blown dead. Injury to the opposing player may result in immediate misconduct.

Fighting: Occurs when two players fight during the play. Fighting either results in a major, or in other leagues, immediate misconduct.


Advancing the Ball

The ball can be advanced in any way. Forward passing, backward passing, handoffs, punts, kicks, any method can be used to advance the ball as long as there’s a clear targeted recipient downfield.

The ball can also return behind a line. For example, if the center throws past the twenty-five to an attacker, the attacker may throw back to the center behind the line. The ball can also cross behind the midfield line as well.

There are three ways to score in shotball: Throw in, which is worth one point, a kick or punt in, worth two points, and a drop kick, where the player drops the ball on the ground and kicks into the net, which is worth three points.


Length of Play

This can vary. In Northern Knights during the Intra-Complex Tournament, the game is divided into two, twenty-minute halves. During the actual SSL season, the game is divided into four, ten-minute quarters.



High school football fields are great venues for shotball games.

Q: Can play occur on shorter fields?

A: Yes. For recreational use, any field will do.

Q: Can fewer players play?

A: Yes. For instance, nine-player games can take away two centers. Eight-player games can take away the wanderer. Seven player games will take away a third attacker. Six-player games will take away a defender.

Q: Can we use flex rules?

A: Of course. You can do an ‘anything goes’ version, where everyone but a goalkeeper is basically a wanderer. Kind of like a backyard version of the game.

Q: Can we play up to a number?

A: Yes, you can do something similar to pickup basketball, where one plays to ten, or even higher.

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Published inShotball!


  1. GomerGomer

    I love reading your stories and it’s a good break to read about a different topic now that is about playing shotball. This is new to me and quite stunned by how the sports work. What is more popular here in our place is football and baseball, and this is the first time that I’ve heard about shotball. I searched on Google and Wikipedia, unfortunately, they know nothing about shotball. The results that I got are information about softball. Can you attach in a reply here in the comments a picture of how this game is being played?

    • Todd MatthewsTodd Matthews

      Shotball’s simply a made up game, to be honest. I created it far back in 2009, but can trace its origins back to 2001 when I was starting out in middle school. I can see Google mistaking shotball for softball at the moment because of the similar names. I actually went with warball and thrashball before settling on shotball. I’ve no photos at the moment, unfortunately, but a good idea would be if one has ever watched a game of rugby, it would be very similar, with a few differences. However, the concept is identical. 

  2. AshleyAshley

    I love that you have included how to play and all the rules of SHotBall.  It really helps the reader connect with your writing.  This game actually sounds like a TON of fun too! It is like all things go soccer mixed with football.  Is there any sort of tackling involved? Sorry if that is a dumb question, I did read the penalties, but wondering just how rough the sport can get.  I am very impressed with the details you have provided, including setting up Northern and SOuther conferences.  it really allows your readers to get into your novels.  Thanks again for the breakdown.  This website is like a free bonus to buying your books. 

    • Todd MatthewsTodd Matthews

      It’d be a blast to play in real life. There can be tackling involved, but it’s to the discretion of those playing. The sport can be rough, or it can be more recreational-based. 

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