Since most kids have never played marbles, you may have to start from square one. The first priority will be to determine what their knowledge

is about the game of ringer and marbles. As a way of introduction to marbles, we usually have an assembly of the kids and we talk about marbles.

We talk about ecology. Kids interested in our environment should know that manufacturers use recycled glass to make marbles.

Using recycled glass lowers the melting point of silica. Using recycled glass is a way of adding color to marbles.

We talk about sociology. Kids have played marbles since the time of Julius Caesar. Until about thirty years ago, all kids played marbles. Why have things changed? What do kids play now? We point out that collecting marbles can be as much fun as collecting baseball cards. Because marbles come in so many sizes, colors and types, it is fun to collect marbles. Once you have a collection you will want to trade marbles with your friends. We show kids a sample of the various kinds of marbles.

We tell the kids about the American Marble Tournament. We talk about the competition that will take place. We talk about all the activities and the other kids. We point out that through practice they could be the boy or girl going to the American Marbles Tournament to compete for a scholarship.

We advise the kids to think about their priorities. If kids do their school work and listen to their teachers, it will be easier to get the help of others. Kids need time to practice. They need the coaching of adults. All of this takes place when kids are good students. If they have the right priorities, parents and teachers will help them learn marbles.

Kids have vision and can see themselves going to West Virginia. As long as they can see the possibility they will strive to attain the goal. As tournament directors and adults, we have to make sure that the competition is always fair and encourages the kids to excel.


Kids can play the game of ringer without knowing all of rules. If they can understand the concept of the game, they can enjoy playing and learn the rest later.


TARGET MARBLE: Marbles placed in the center of the ring. Players shoot at these marbles.

SHOOTER: This marble is used throughout the game to knock out target marbles. Once the game begins a shooter can not be changed unless it is broken. This marble is held in the hand and is propelled forward by flipping the thumb.

INNING: Each player is given a turn to play. After both have had their turn, an inning is completed.

TURN: A player, on his turn, shoots from outside of the ring attempting to knock a target marble out of the ring with his shooter. (1) If no target marble is knocked out, the turn is over. (2) If a target marble is knocked out of the ring, the player gets credit for the marble. In the process of shooting a target marble out if the shooter also goes out of the ring, the turn is over. (3) When a player has knocked a target marble out and his shooter has remained inside the ring, he continues to shoot. The next shot is taken from the point where the shooter rests. After each shot one of these conditions exist and will determine who will shoot next.

GAME: Is six to nine innings long. If a tie exists after six innings, extra innings will be used to break a tie.

WINNER: When a player is able to knock out seven target marbles, he is declared the winner. Otherwise the player who has knocked out the most marbles after six innings is declared the winner.

LAG: Players stand at one side of the court and shoot or roll their shooter toward a line. The player who gets the closest to the lag line (on either side) wins the lag. A lag is used to determine who will shoot first or it may be use to determine the winner of a game that has gone through extra innings. (similar to pitching pennies)

TIE BREAKER: Usually after three extra innings players lag to determine the winner of the game. When playing in the finals, this method should not be used to determine a winner.

(These are suggested rules. Local tournaments may have fewer innings, break a tie with a lag or other changes to speed-up the game.


Not many years ago it was difficult to get streets and highways paved with black top. But today it seems that all of the school yards have black top on them. If you try to roll a marble on black top or even a sidewalk you will find that it doesn't roll like the old clay courts of yesterday. Kids used to find a flat place on the playground, grab a stick and draw a circle in the dirt. Then you were ready to play marbles. Today it is virtually impossible to find that favorite piece of real estate for the classic game of marbles. Because of the mud that follows a rain, it is much more convenient to have a playground on black top that has shed the water and is available soon after it stops raining.

Playing marbles today means that we have to reinvent the wheel. Since the ideal place to play may not be available, we have to assess the alternative and evaluate the compromises. To do well at our American Marble Tournament, it would be best to use the same surface and size of our Tournament (7' diameter mat).

Each local tournament has different priorities and needs that must be considered. Perhaps the easiest and most effective court to use for the begining tournament is a mat that is made of indoor/outdoor carpet. If made approximately 4 foot square it is ideal for the beginner. Using smaller rings would be more enjoyable for beginner shooters.



When starting a new tournament, all of the kids should be on the same level. A novice level of player can be assumed because most kids don't know how to shoot marbles. If none of the kids are proficient in shooting you must consider ways to raise the skill level of the participants so that your players will, at a minimum, know the rules of ringer. If your kids have played in tournaments before, your task is a little easier. You will just have to refresh their memory about the rules and encourage them to practice. The only real concern you will have in structuring the tournament is to make sure that a better shooter is not eliminated because someone is having a lucky day.


The easiest way to determine a champion is to have a one game single elimination bracket. One game is played with the winner advancing in the bracket. Kids are brought to the gym one class at a time and a class champ is determined. Once all class champs have been determined, set up another bracket with all of the class champs. The winner of this bracket will be the school champ. The advantage of this is that it does not take much time. The disadvantage is that a better player may be eliminated because he is having a bad day. If time is not a problem, you should consider playing the best of three games to determine who advances.

Another option would be to use the one game single elimination to determine class champions. Then the finals could use a round robin format. Round robin assures you that the best player is your champion because each boy (girl) plays each other boy (girl). The boy (girl) with the most wins will be the champion.


If it is possible to determine the number of kids that will be competing in the tournament, it will help determine the structure of the brackets. To involve parents and to inform them about the marbles tournament, an entry form could be sent home to get parents' permission for their child to participate in the tournament. A deadline a few days before the tournament, will allow you time to determine how many will be participating.

Some schools don't use the entry form and tell the kids that all will be participating. Either of these methods will tell you how many kids will be participating in the tournament.


Using a one game single elimination and a round robin final on eight to ten mats, between two and three hundred kids can participate in a tournament that will take three hours to complete. In our schools there are usually three or four classrooms in each grade. They also include grades K through 5. By including 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades we have between 200 and 300 kids.

Younger and older kids may be included. In our situation the 6th, 7th and 8th graders are at other schools. We have a tournament just for that age. Younger kids don't usually have the dexterity nor the attention span of the older kids. We have chosen the arbitrary group of 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades. You may find it better to include the younger ages. If more than 250 kids will be participating, you should consider having a two day tournament.


The number of marble courts that you are able to use will also influence the structure of your tournament. Since having more courts will allow more games to be played at one time, you may decide to increase the number of wins required to advance in the bracket. More games will help prevent a better shooter being eliminated because someone is having a "lucky" day.


Having a lot of courts to play on won't help much, if you can't find enough judges. A minimum of one adult should be placed at each mat to assure that play is conducted properly and that scoring is fair. Ideally you should have a judge to call the game and another person to score the game. If this team is not available, one person can judge and score a game.

Children are anxious to play and often shoot immediately after an opponent's shot. They should be instructed to wait until the judge gives them permission to shoot. The judge must assert himself to control the flow of the game. Otherwise a judge will be recording while a player is shooting and not be able to determine whether the shot was legal.

The best way to recruit help is to contact a Civic Club. Lions clubs have been very helpful in providing interested volunteers to judge. Usually senior citizens are very anxious to participate as judges. They all have fond memories of marble play as youths and they are not restricted because of a work schedule.


In order to have a successful tournament at a school you must have the cooperation of all teachers. Most children will play in the tournament during their phys. ed. time. However, some kids who make it to the finals will have to be called from their classes. Kids need to know that this is a sanctioned activity of the teachers.

Teachers should be encouraged to learn the rules of marbles so that they can motivate their students to excel. Their class champs will be representing their class in the school tournament. The students who excel should be praised for their accomplishments.

Because kids want to practice and play marbles, they will excel in other class activities so that they will have more time for marbles. Marbles can be an integral part of the class.




Make-up: People willing to promote marbles, People daily involved with the kids, Or people with demonstrated interest in kids.

Purpose: Structure a tournament that will:

seek community support of the program, make best use of funds from the community, make it easy for all kids to play marbles, be fair to all participants, make all players want to be the champion, produce the best marble shooters.



1) Implementing the plan of the tournament committee.

2) Recruiting and training volunteers.

3) Set the names on the brackets.

4) Co-ordinate play by scheduling games.


The jobs given to volunteers will depend on the number of people willing to help. If you have a lot of people, you will be able to assign specific jobs. Otherwise a volunteer might have to do many of the following jobs.


A judge must take great care when supervising a game because a judge can influence its outcome. Encouragement or compliments will discourage an opponent and enhance the performance of a player. Cheering should be left for spectators who are not at ring side.

A judge should review the local rules for both players to insure that they understand what is expected.

1. How to advance in the tournament. (best of three)

2. Where the lag line is on the court.

3. Warnings and penalties.

4. Extra innings with a tie.

5. Tie breakers.

A judge should also review how he will conduct the game.

1. How the lag will be conducted.

2. Must wait till judge says to shoot.


The number of volunteers will determine who will be performing this function. If volunteers are in short supply, the judge will record points earned after each turn so that a score can be given at any point during the game. Once the game is completed, the winner will be recorded on the score sheet and then given to the director.

If someone is skeptical about judging, he can begin by recording the score. By observing a few games he will then realize how easy it is to judge a game. At the beginning of the tournament you should begin with a few courts and let the volunteers observe until they are comfortable about judging. This method of orientation is better than spending a lot of time reviewing the rules.

After the lag, record the players' names on the score sheet. The score sheet is a series of boxes. One box per inning. This box has a slash through it. The top part is for recording the inning score and the bottom part is for recording the running total. Using this method will give you the score at a glance.


A lot of time can be wasted if the volunteers have to wait until the next class is brought to the gym. The runner will attempt to anticipate the need for more kids and bring the next class to the gym at the right time. If the kids need to be called from class to play in the finals, the runner needs to know which class the kids are in and where the classroom is located.

Once a game is completed the judge will need the names of the players in the next game. The runner will work with the director to hand out names for un-played games and help the judges determine whether players are available to play. If you have a large tournament, you may have to have several runners to insure that time is not wasted.


It is difficult for kids to comprehend how they are doing in the tournament. If you have the means to display a bracket on poster board and mount it on the wall, it will help the kids to see where they are in the competition. They need to know how many game they have to win. Even the kids who are eliminated will be able to see if their friends are doing well. This job is optional but would add a lot to your tournament.


Rules | How to Organize a Tournament | Shooting American Marbles, Mountaineer Style |