Throwing a tennis ball against the wall was the best part of every school day

Why did we stop doing it?


Some people called it “stinger”. Others called it “fumble” or “red arse”. According to Wikipedia, there are even some people who call it “blue gooch”. Whatever it was known as at your school, throwing a tennis ball against a wall was the only thing worth doing every lunchtime.

The rules were simple. Throw the ball against the wall without it either hitting the ground first or being intercepted by someone. As the ball bounces off the wall, catch it without fumbling it so it hits the ground. Fail to do either of those things and be prepared to run like mad to touch the wall before someone else is able to throw the ball and hit you with it. If they do, you’d have to stand against the wall while people take a free shot at hitting you with the ball. It was the perfect distillation of athletic technique, pain and humiliation.

Every game would follow a similar pattern.

You’d wait for Chris to finally be let out of class because he had the tennis ball

The players have already gathered – the ones who are serious have already taken their blazers off and piled them with bags in a corner – but the game can’t start until Chris turns up with the tennis ball. No matter how many balls get stuck on the roof, Chris can always be relied upon to bring in another brand-new Slazenger tennis ball. Finally, seven minutes after the bell went, he arrives and the game can begin.

Tim would get cocky and drop a really simple catch

The tennis ball has come back off the wall, falling in a gentle arc towards a group of guys who’ve spent most of their time chatting rather than trying to play. Normally, they’d all duck out of the way but this catch looks so straight-forward Tim is convinced he can get it, even if he has got only one hand free while he eats his salt and vinegar crisps. Tim thought wrong. He somehow manages to hit the ball with the ends of his fingers and it drops to the floor. Quick as a flash, one of his friends has jumped on the ball and hit him in the chest with it before he’s even realised what happened. Bad luck Tim.

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Jonny would intercept a throw and chase the thrower around for five minutes while trying to hit them

In a game with dozens of players, these one v one battles were where social reputations were born or died. It didn’t matter how long it took: everyone would stand aside and watch until it was over, taking sides depending on the popularity of the two people involved.

Rather than attempt a really long throw, you throw the ball on the ground and pray you can run fast enough to touch the wall before someone hits you

Yes you knew it was cowardly but you didn’t care. Being judged by everyone was better than ending up on the wall.

An innocent bystander gets hit

Usually it was a Year 7 kid but sometimes it was a teacher. And when it was, you noped the fuck out of there.

More than three people manage to fumble the ball in a row

Pure chaos. There are so many people running for the wall that nobody knows who to try and hit first.

Will breaks the ‘no headshots’ rule

This is a self-governing sport and as much as Will can claim he didn’t mean to aim for the head, everyone knows he’s lying. There’s only one punishment for liars: up against the wall.

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Stephen manages to catch the ball in his blazer pocket by mistake

Stephen can’t throw very well. In fact he’s not even very good at sports. He mostly comes to stand by the wall because all his friends are playing. He dodges out of the way every time the ball comes near him but once, by sheer fluke, the ball will come towards him and somehow manage to land in his pocket. It will never be repeated again.

The ball gets stuck somewhere

Play is paused momentarily while whoever threw the ball last tries to rescue it from under a teacher’s car, the gutter, in a bin or wherever else it ended up.

So many people get hit in the balls

And so many throwers promise they weren’t trying to hit them there on purpose.

The bell goes just as you get hit

Don’t think you’ve escaped your fate, this will be continued tomorrow.

The ball gets thrown on the roof

Well done dickhead, as soon as we get another ball you’re the first against the wall.