SPUD (game)

SPUD (game)

SPUD is a popular children's game where players try to eliminate each other by catching, throwing and dodging a ball. As few as three may play, with no upper limit. To play, all that is required is a playground-sized ball and an open area to run.


To begin, one player is designated as the 'number-giver', and gives a number from 1 to however many players there are to each participant. Sometimes additional numbers are included that are not assigned to any player; these are known as 'ghost numbers'. One player is determined to be 'it'. The other players form a circle around 'it.' The 'it' throws the ball straight up into the air. When the ball reaches the apex of flight, the 'it' calls out the number of one of the other players. If there is an owner for that number, they must catch the ball, either in flight or on the rebound. If there is no owner for the number (it was a 'ghost number'), it receives a letter and must throw the ball again.

In some variations, if the owner of the number catches the ball without a bounce, they become 'it', and can throw the ball immediately. As one player is rushing to retrieve the ball, the others scatter as fast as they can. When the ball is caught, the player that caught it shouts "STOP!"(some shout "SPUD!") The players running away must then stop, and the catcher throws the ball at any one of them.

If the catcher hits another player with the ball, the player who was hit receives a letter of the word "SPUD," S the first time they are hit, P the second, etc.

When a player receives all four letters of SPUD, they must sit out until a new game is started. The last player to sit wins.

Variations of the game

In one variation of the game, the player catching the ball selects the player he or she wishes to hit and then is allowed to take four giant steps toward that person, while calling out the letter S-P-U-D.

Additional variations:

  • Instead of standing in a circle around the player throwing the ball up, a large circular "base" is drawn on the ground, and each player must place a foot on the base. If a ghost number is called by the thrower and anyone leaves the base, those who leave get a letter.
  • If the owner of the number catches the ball without a bounce, they can throw the ball straight up into the air and call another number. In this variation, only when the ball is caught on a bounce does the "catcher" then call out "STOP" (or SPUD), and all others running away stop where they are. The catcher then takes four giant steps toward a person he/she wishes to hit (while calling out S-P-U-D) and throws the ball at the targeted player. If the targeted player catches the throw, the "thrower" gets the letter.
  • When a player gets all four letters (SPUD) and is technically out of the game, they get one more "free ride", or "poverty" and the next "letter" puts them out of the game.
  • When a player is "out" of the game (having gotten all four letters of SPUD) they then go through the "paddle wheel", where all players line up, and the ousted player crawls on hands and knees through the legs of the other players and gets a whack on the back-side as they crawl through.

Often, as SPUD is a children's game, games are restarted before a precise winner is determined, so that more players are included at once and losers do not get bored waiting for a new game.

Origins of the Game

The creator of SPUD is not exactly known. There are several theories to where the idea originated from.

  • Many children in the New England area and other parts of Northeastern United States will give credit to Joanne Fitzgerald, a mother of four that claims to be the creator.
  • Down South, several individuals have said than an anonymous individual in the Orlando area created the game.

Without any hard evidence of the creation or rules of the game, we may never truly know the inventor of the game SPUD.

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