Proposed Rule Change: Throw Line Distance

Proposed by Kevin Bailey

It’s pretty simple: What is the biggest issue with the current NCDA ruleset?  Most people would argue it is often too slow paced, or that there are not enough points scored each game.  People often complain about stall-ball, and I concur that this is a major concern for our league.

There have been many proposed rule changes that are intended to combat this issue, attempting to make games faster and more exciting.  Sure, there are countless ways to go about fixing the slow-paced style that plagues our league right now, but in my opinion, no rule change will be as beneficial as this one.  The throw line (attack line) needs to decrease from 30 ft. to 25 ft. in the rulebook.

In the current NCDA ruleset, the throwline is designated as 30 ft. from the back line:

( Attack Line – A line clearly marked 30′ from each baseline. Players may cross Halfcourt and move up to the opposite Attack Line. Blue painters tape may be used to mark as it is least likely to ruin the finish on the court.)


I propose that this be changed to 25 ft. and there is quite a bit of rationale behind this proposition.

First off, the most obvious reason: speed of the game.  I have played in dodgeball formats where the throw line is closer than the NCDA (as low as 20 ft), and let me tell you, it makes games much faster.  Having the throw line move up 5 ft. will generate higher thrown out percentages, causing points to be won at a faster rate.  People would much rather see a 5-4 game than a 1-0 game.  If the throw line is closer, more people will get hit, and points will be quicker.

On top of this, the shorter throw line will also decrease stall ball.  I have noticed first hand that teams like to throw one ball per shot clock, and throw it where it is not catchable at all, then they back up and wait for their opponents to make a throw.  This style of play is very common in close matches when a team is up by one.  With no need to score anymore, they can just sit on their lead and stall the rest of the game.

With a closer throw line, that is less likely to occur.  The reason for this is because teams can’t rely on just staying in anymore.  The throw line is 5 ft. closer, so they are far more likely to get hit by throws.  This will force teams to continue to play to win rather than to stall, and cause them to make purposeful throws instead of stall ball throws that are always out of reach.

In Elite Dodgeball, the throw line is 20 ft. for Open Division and 25 for Pinch Division.  In this style of dodgeball, you almost never see a throw that isn’t meant to hit someone.  In other words, there is basically never a throw that is intended just to reset the shot-clock and force the other team to throw.

I think what it all boils down to is that with a closer throw line, the throwing team is at an advantage.  The offensive team has the advantage.  In our current NCDA, if your team just stays back and plays conservative, that is all they have to do, because from 30 ft. away they can dodge or catch most throws.  The defensive team holds the advantage in our current NCDA ruleset.

I’m not saying that I want to take away the catching in the game of dodgeball.  In fact, in Elite Dodgeball, skilled catchers are even more valuable because catching is tougher from closer quarters.  This rule change will benefit strong throwers, but it will also make good catchers more valuable.  As a whole it will just make dodgeball games more dodgeball, and less stall-ball.

If we want to see faster paced games with more excitement, making the throw line closer will help significantly.

I mentioned that this change would be more beneficial than other changes, and I should explain myself.   Everyone is trying to create a rule that will make the NCDA faster paced and higher scoring, but not all of those rule proposals will have a positive effect on the NCDA.

First off, I am 100% on board with Dylan/Wes’s idea about eliminating dirty blocking.  That change is long overdue.  It also helps speed up the pace of the game, it makes blocking a skill more, and it also makes it harder for cheaters to cheat.  No doubt we need that rule to pass.  But bottom line is this: the dirty blocking rule alone won’t make this league fast enough or exciting enough.  We need to add on to that change with the rule I am proposing in order to truly make the NCDA a better form of dodgeball.

I know some people will argue to just make it 10-second shot clock all game long.  That is a silly proposition.  If it were 10 seconds the entire game there are some unintended consequences that the league will face.  First off, people’s arms will fall off.  Most people complain that a 4-game tournament is too much because their arms are dead by the end.  Now imagine if you had to throw 50% more often than you used to with 6-15 players on the court…

On top of that, I hope everyone realizes that the quicker shot clock will force people to make more rushed throws, often resulting in throws that are too short and just intended to reset the shot-clock.  We don’t want more shot-clock reset throws, we want more purposeful throws.  If the game was played with a constant 10-second clock, there would be too many rushed throw attempts rather than people giving 100% effort to get an opponent out.  Yes, I understand that this rule proposal is in an effort to speed up the game, but it would also decrease the quality of dodgeball that is being played.

I have heard propositions in the past that the roster should go down to 10 or 12, but as I mentioned a year ago, that would be bad for the sustainability of the league.  I explained that if teams were that small, and there were 7 or 8 seniors, a team could go defunct more easily.  Sure it would be slightly easier to start up a team, but teams would be less likely to remain up and running with only 10 or 12 players.  It already is hard for some teams to pass the leadership down and keep the team going with 20 people on a roster, so taking it down to less than 20 would be a risk.  If someone wants to start a team, the difference between 12 and 15 players won’t stop them.  But if a team is losing all their club leaders, and they go from 12 people on a team to maybe 5 or 6, that will cause them to go defunct most likely.

I’ll conclude by saying this:

Our league right now is in a unique situation.  When top level teams play each other, the games tend to be slower and lower scoring.  This is the exact opposite of what it should be.  Big time matchups cause teams to play with more strategy that will help them win.  That strategy too often is to stall.  The rule change that will have the most positive effect on the NCDA and will eliminate stall-ball is to change the attack line distance from 30 to 25 ft. from the baseline.  I look forward to hearing other opinions on this subject.  I hope everyone is able to realize how important a change like this is for the future of the NCDA.

Author: Kevin Bailey

Current NCDA Chief of Content. Former Captain for Grand Valley State University (#4).

3 thoughts on “Proposed Rule Change: Throw Line Distance”

  1. I think it’s an interesting proposition, but I would also propose the idea of 27′ throw lines instead for a couple of reasons. First, the basic idea that it would make the throws line closer but would not be quite as drastic. The spring semester we play about a foot closer due to gym restrictions and just one foot makes a significant difference in catching ability due to reaction time. Second, I think the making the change less drastic would also be better for the opening rush, as it keeps the middle balls a little closer to the first lines of balls. I think the farther the first line is away from the middle line, the more likely a team walks away with seven balls on the rush. Third, from a recruiting standpoint, 25′ may have a negative initial impact on first time rookie players.
    But, overall, I think it’s a very interesting proposal but I would just suggest 27′.
    The dimensions on an official sized court would also be 27′, 40′, 27′, and for whatever reason I think the neutral zone of 40′ just looks better.

    1. I discussed this with Dylan actually, but decided to leave it out of the initial proposal. I have a feeling if it passes it will be with a smaller amount like 27 or 28. I assume the vote will give options for throw line between 30 ft and 25. I’m interested to see what people decide. But any change is a step in the right direction.

  2. Any change in this direction would be great. I’d also point out that even if the NCDA went all the way to a 25 foot throw line, it would still be functionally a longer throw than in Elite because of Elite’s “hard” out of bounds rule. The NCDA’s “soft” out of bounds rule (only having to keep one point of contact in) adds a foot or two to any throw line.

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