The Best Sport EVAR:
Well, we've reached that mid-point of the summer, but fear not! There are still many weeks of nice, sunny weather left. The type of weather you can spend outdoors if you're so inclined. The kind of weather where you might venture to, say, a park that has a nice, flat(ish) grassy area where you could set up a net and play the bestest sport evar invented:
How do I know this is the best game evar invented? Probably because I helped invent it. But I know it's good because it was invented in the early 1990s, and I still try to play it at least once every summer. And I usually hate playing any sport whatsoever.
But enough about me; this article is about Two Sticks! How do you play?
- A badminton or volleyball net (preferably badminton)
- (8) badminton racquets
- Some shuttlecocks/birdies (number dependent upon how many you think you'll lose)
- (4) people who want to play!
- Someone who is willing to referee.
- Find a nice, grassy area big enough to set up a net so you'll have two decently- and equally-sized playing areas on each side. Make sure that it's free of things like trees and bushes so you don't hurt yourself when you're running around trying to swipe at the shuttlecock.
- Set up the net so it bisects the middle of the area.
- Reach a consensus as to what is "out of bounds." Be generous; don't make it so that if it's one millimeter past the edge of the net. The best way to decide what out-of-bounds are for Two Sticks is whether or not the birdie is "gettable" without running into any trees or bushes or rocks or roads or paths.
- Divide yourselves into two teams of two players each.
- Each team MUST name themselves. The name of your team MUST start with the word "Team." For example: "Team Terraformers" or "Team Too Much Brandywine." See "Some Notes on Team Names" below.
- Each player pick up two badminton racquets, one in each hand.
- Before you start the game, each team must say their team name in the form, "We are Team _______." You only need do this at the start of the game, not before each serve.
That's right! Up until setup step 6, this could have been just about any racquet sport. But now you know why the game is called "Two Sticks" instead of something else: each player holds two racquets (sticks)!
How to Play:
- Someone (it doesn't matter how you decide) serves to start the first round. You can serve from anywhere on your side of the net that you want, but you should probably be 5-10 feet away from the net. You must serve underhand, whether or not you have a racquet. As you serve, you must cry out, "Two Sticks!" If you do not, the serve doesn't count (but is not a fault) and someone should say, "Do-over." The server then has to try again, saying "Two Sticks" this time.
- After the shuttlecock is served over the net, the opposing team attempts to hit it back. It does not matter which player hits the shuttlecock, nor with which stick.
- Each player may hit the shuttlecock as many times as it takes in order to get it over the net. Hitting the shuttlecock multiple times one the same side is not considered a fault, unless it is considered "dribbling" (see "Dribbling" below).
- The teams try to hit the shuttlecock back and forth over the net.
- Play does not stop until the shuttlecock hits the ground, is declared "un-gettable," or a team is considered to be "dribbling" the shuttlecock.
- If the shuttlecock gets entangled in the net (or a tree or something), it is considered to be still "in play" and should be swung at unless it is considered out of bounds. A shuttlecock lodged in the net can be swung at only by the team at which the shuttlecock's nose is pointing. If the shuttlecock cannot be hit out of the net, the referee should declare that the shuttlecock is "un-gettable."
- You may throw your racquet at a shuttlecock that is out of your reach, although this never actually works and you would be better off just not swinging at all, unless the shuttlecock is stuck in a high tree branch but still in-bounds, in which case it is considered still in play and you should throw your racquet at it in order to dislodge it (make sure your teammate is ready to hit it over the net when it drops out of the tree). If repeatedly throwing a racquet at the shuttlecock doesn't seem to be able to get it dislodged, then you can ask the referee to declare the shuttlecock "un-gettable."
- If the referee declares the shuttlecock to be "un-gettable" then neither team is considered to have faulted and the round starts over with whichever player is closest to the shuttlecock as the new server.
- After the shuttlecock comes to rest on the ground, the round is over and
whichever player is closest to it becomes the new server for the next round.
- OPTIONAL RULE: If the shuttlecock hits the ground but bounces, it is still considered to be "in play" and may be swung at until it comes to rest on the ground. You should use this rule carefully with an especially alert referee to avoid players "golfing" the shuttlecock off of the ground and claiming it was still in play.
- Play continues until one team wins (see "Winning" below).
- If the server fails to get the shuttlecock over the net (either by hitting it poorly or missing it entirely) twice in a row, that is considered a fault.
- If a player swings at the shuttlecock and misses and the shuttlecock
subsequently hits the ground, then the player who swung at it has faulted,
even if the shuttlecock subsequently lands out of bounds (if it is going
to land out of bounds, then don't swing at it if you don't want to get faulted).
- "BASTARD" RULE VARIANT: If both players on a team swing at the shuttlecock and miss, then BOTH players have faulted. This is a very mean way to play, but can be a lot of fun.
- If neither player swings at the shuttlecock, whichever player is closest to the shuttlecock when it hits the ground is considered at fault (unless the shuttlecock lands out of bounds).
- If a player throws his racquet at the shuttlecock and miss so that the shuttlecock hits the ground, then the player who threw the shuttlecock is considered at fault.
- If a player hits the shuttlecock so that it lands out of bounds or becomes entangled in something that is out of bounds without anyone first swinging at it, then the player who hit the shuttlecock is considered at fault.
- If a team fails to hit the shuttlecock over the net, then the player who hit it last is considered at fault.
- If a player grabs an in-play shuttlecock with his hand, then that player is considered at fault.
- If a player purposefully "dribbles" the shuttlecock, then that player is considered at fault (see "Dribbling" below).
Consequences of Faulting:
- The Team at Fault:
- If a server faults, the server must immediately drop the racquet with which he served.
- The player who swings at a shuttlecock and misses so that the shuttlecock hits the ground must immediately drop the racquet with which he swung. In the case of two players on the same team swinging and both missing, then only the last player to swing must drop the racquet with which he swung (unless you are playing with the "Bastard" rule, in which case both faulting players must drop the racquets with which they swung).
- If the shuttlecock hits the ground in-bounds without first being swung at, whichever player is closest to where it landed it must drop a racquet. If that player holds both of his racquets, then he may decide which hand's racquet to drop.
- The player who throws his racquet at the shuttlecock and misses so that the shuttlecock hits the ground must leave that racquet on the ground UNLESS he is able to pick it up BEFORE the shuttlecock hits the ground. In that case the player may choose which hand's racquet to drop.
- The player who hits a shuttlecock that lands out of bounds without anyone first swinging at it must drop the racquet with which he hit the shuttlecock out of bounds.
- The player who fails to hit the shuttlecock over the net must drop the racquet with which he last hit the shuttlecock.
- The player who purposefully "dribbles" the shuttlecock must drop the racquet from his dominant hand (see "Dribbling" below).
- If you have been forced to drop both of your racquets, you may still
play with your hands by directly slapping the shuttlecock with the palm
of your hand. Alternately, you could have your teammate pass you one
of his racquets (see "Passing Racquets"
below). If you grab an in-play shuttlecock with your hand, or attempt
to slap it but miss so that the shuttlecock hits the ground, then your
teammate must drop one of his racquets. If your teammate has both of
his racquets, he may decide which hand's racquet to drop.
- The Team that Caused the Other Team to Fault:
- Whichever player last hit the shuttlecock over the net before the opposing team faulted is considered to have "caused" the other team to fault. If the player who caused the fault is not currently holding two racquets, he may pick one up. If he is already holding two racquets, but his teammate is missing one or both of his racquets, then the player who caused the fault may pass one of his racquets to his teammate (see "Passing Racquets" below) before picking up a racquet. If both players already hold two racquets each, then the team that caused the fault takes no action (they can't very well pick up any more racquets).
- If a player faults by "dribbling," then both players on the other team may pick up a racquet.
- A player who drops a racquet from one hand but still hold another racquet in his other hand MAY NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES switch the hand with which he holds his remaining racquet. If you are forced to drop the racquet from your dominant hand, then that's just tough luck; you'll have to play with the stick in your non-dominant hand.
- If one player on a team is not holding any racquets, but his teammate still holds both racquets, then the player with two racquets may pass the racquet from his DOMINANT hand to the other player's NON-DOMINANT hand, so that both players now have one stick in each of their non-dominant hands.
Though it is legal for a player to to hit the shuttlecock as many times as is necessary in order to get it over the net, the tactic of purposefully hitting the shuttlecock to yourself more than once in order to gain better control or better positioning is highly frowned upon. This practice is called "dribbling" and is considered cheating. Lightly bouncing the shuttlecock repeatedly off of your racquet (so that it only ever goes a couple of feet up in the air) is also considered dribbling. Two teammates purposefully repeatedly hitting the shuttlecock back and forth between each other is also considered dribbling. The only reason you should hit the shuttlecock is to try to get it over the net or get it to your teammate so he can get it over the net. Purposefully dribbling is considered incredibly bad sportsmanship in Two Sticks.
If you suspect that the opposing team is dribbling (it's usually pretty obvious), then you should immediately shout, "Dribbling!" The referee (who should have been paying attention) will immediately decide whether the accusation is accurate or not. If the referee thinks that a player has been dribbling, then play is immediately stopped (even if the shuttlecock has not yet hit the ground) and the dribbling player must drop the racquet from his dominant hand (whether or not that was the racquet with which he was dribbling). A referee may decide that both players on a team are guilty of dribbling and force both of them to drop their dominant hands' racquets. The shuttlecock is then given to the team that was not dribbling and a new round is started. If the referee does not consider what is going on to be dribbling, then he should call out, "No dribbling!" and play should immediately continue.
- A team is declared the winner when they cause the opposing team to fault when the opposing team is not holding any racquets (i.e., neither of them is holding any racquets at the start of the round, and then one of them faults).
- The winning team is declared "Current Two-Stick Champions" and will remain Champions until they are defeated by another team.
Some notes on Team Names:
- Once two players have decided to form a team and have chosen a Team Name, those two players MAY NOT change their team name for the duration of the entire day, but preferably for the duration of the entire summer.
- You may team up with any person and may be on multiple teams, but each combination of players MUST have a unique Team Name. You cannot take your Team Name with you if you partner with a new player. I cannot be "Team Awexome Sauce" when partnered with Jill if you were already "Team Awexome Sauce" when partnered with Jack.
Two sticks is awexome sauce. Games can be incredible see-saw affairs, with one team reduced to no sticks and yet still battling back and winning. It also has a surprising amount of strategy. Is it better two have two players each hold a stick in their non-dominant hand, or one player with two sticks and one player with none? Is it better to swing with your non-dominant hand so that if you miss you still have the stick in your dominant hand? Or is it better to swing with your dominant hand so you're more likely to actually hit the birdie? And since a team may hit the shuttlecock more than once per side, it makes for some crazy saves as a player dives for a shuttlecock that falls just short of the net or is about to go out of bounds.
It's the most fun you can have outdoors during the warmer parts of the year... with your clothes on.