The main form of entertainment for the Mayans was a type of ball game played in special courts constructed in an I-shape. Two teams opposed each other in trying to get a rubber ball through stone hoops attached to the sides of the courts or at opposite ends of the court. The entire community became involved as players, spectators, sponsors and gamblers, and priests performed ceremonies before and after.
Ball courts consisting of long narrow alleys with side walls have been discovered at many Mayan archaeological sites. The ball was made of hard rubber and varied in size. Normally, players were not allowed to hit the ball with hands, feet or head, but only with their hips. Because the sport could be extremely violent and dangerous, players wore helmets and protective coverings of leather for padding on their arms, chests and knees. They also wore yokes of leather or wood around their hips.
The games were sometimes played between rival communities and cities as a way to settle disputes without warfare. Winners were assured of prestige and wealth. Losers were not only humiliated, but sometimes ritually executed. Sometimes the losing team would be spared, but its captain would be decapitated. Despite the violent aspects of game-play and consequences of defeat, the games were cause for widespread celebration and feasting for most of the community..