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It all started when my oldest son entered first grade.  Before first grade the playground at school was just a bunch of swings, monkey bars, and the occasional game of tag.  First grade would change all that.

In first grade, a mysterious pole appeared protruding from the ground.  This pole towered over him casting a tall slender shadow.  To further his attention on this skinny towering object, a thin rope with a ball at the end appeared as well.  Like a cat being curious about a ball of yarn, this boy was entering a whole new world of entertainment.

My son quickly became a fan of tetherball by learning and playing the game with friends at school.  I began noticing him talking about it more and telling me about how he won some rounds against kids older than him.  His interest in the game became even more evident when he would ask me to take him up to school to play tetherball with me on the weekend.  One of his classroom teachers also expressed how he swings his arms in the classroom pretending to play tetherball.  As a parent I should probably have been worried, but his teacher said that even though this was occurring he was paying attention.  The teacher only knew this because she would as a question, and even though he appeared to be in a deep game of “air” tetherball, he could answer her questions.

As his seventh birthday approached, my wife and I began to wonder what we could get him.  Aside from the typical toys we knew he would like, we knew we couldn’t go wrong with a tetherball set.

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Tire Tetherball Set

We began searching the Internet and pricing different sets.  Most sets were of the type that involved a tire, a pole, and some cement.  Essentially, you fill the tire with cement, stick a pole in the middle, add a ball and rope and wa-la, you have a tetherball set.  However, we didn’t want this setup.  Although this version of the tetherball set could be moved to various locations around the yard, we felt it could potentially fall over easily.  Let’s be honest, between his bother and him, you know someone is eventually going to try and climb the thing!  They’re boys!

Expecting that cementing a pole in the ground would be cheaper and safer, we choose the more permanent setup.  A few Google searches turned up a few possibilities, but some of the poles appeared to fragile, while others were just to expensive for our taste.  One in ground set cost around $200, and that was before shipping.

I did some shopping around and called a few custom shops that deal with long steel poles.  I quickly found out that a 21′ pole would run me about $140.  One of the two shops I called mentioned that their pipe wasn’t galvanized, so it would be an additional cost to get it dipped.  I decided to stop in at our local Home Depot and Lowes hardware stores and landed up settling on Home Depot’s product.

Here are the list of materials we purchased:

Item Quantity Cost
1 1/2″ RIGID COUPLING 1 $5
10′ 1 1/2″(Outside Diameter) Galvanized Conduit Pipe 2 $36 per pipe
Quickcrete Cememt Bag 3 $5 per bag
10′ 1 1/4″ (Outside Diameter) EMT Galvanized Conduit Pipe 1 $9.50
Stainless Steel Spring Link 1 $5
Eyebolt w/Nut 1 $2
1′ Rebar 2 $1 each
Tetherball Kit 1 $15

If you are questioning why we bought two 10′ poles for $36, that wasn’t by design.  Home Depot requires you to buy the entire 10′ pole and then they’ll cut it to size.  Unfortunately, in my case I wanted a 38″ section to be cemented in the ground, so I had to buy two sections and just eat the cost.  However, buying two poles at $36 was still cheaper than buying one 21′ section for $140!

So with about $125 invested and after he opened the actual packaged tetherball on his birthday, we waited for the rain to let up so we could start the project!

The first phase of the project involved drilling two holes through the 38″ piece of pipe that would be cemented in the ground.  This allowed for two pieces of 1′ rebar to be inserted through the pole.  The holes were drilled in a manner so that they created an X like pattern and would offer stability to the pole.

Once those were set and ready to go, the tedious job of digging the 36″ deep hole with approximately a 6″ radius, began.  The 36″ hole depth will prevent any ice from forming under the pole and pushing it up.  Digging this deep is what’s known as being below the frost line.

If you plan to create your own tetherball in-ground setup, I highly recommend a post hole digger.  Although I got the job done with my shovel, maybe spending the $25 on a post hole digger would have been worth it.  I only talked myself out of the purchase because I felt I wouldn’t get my use out of one past this project.

Once the hole was at it’s desired depth, I added some gravel to the base of the hole.  This will allow for water to drain more easily and act as another safe guard and allow water to drain more easily.

Of course, we couldn’t pass up having some fun before filling the hole.  My daughter stuck one leg in the hole just to get an idea how deep 36″ really is.  Let’s just say she needed my help to get back out!

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With my daughter out of the hole, we set the 38″ section of pipe in place.  Checking that the pipe was level on several sides, we began to pour the Quickcrete concrete mix in the hole.  It was amazing how much stability the dry concrete powder offered when it filled in around the pipe.  I was afraid the pipe would still move, but it didn’t.  From there we added the necessary gallon of water per 5o pound (1 bag) of Quickcrete.

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Even though the concrete is supposed to set within 20 minutes, we gave it about 48 hours before attaching the 10′ section of pole that would act as the actual tetherball pole.  We then attached the coupling, inserted the 1 1/4″ 10′ pole to provide further stability (in case they decide to climb the pole one day), and then put the 10′ section over top of the 1 1/4″, acting like a sleeve.

spring linkWe put the finishing touches on by attaching the tetherball rope to the stainless steel spring link and then attached that to the eyebolt at the top of the pole.  Before I could even step back and even begin to admire the work we had done, the kids were already playing their first game of tetherball!

It’s amazing to see that in the first few days of having the set, my son hasn’t thought twice about his video game system!  I don’t expect this trend to last forever, but one thing I do know is that it was worth the investment to have him do something he loves and be active, rather than hearing him say, “I have nothing to do, can I play XBox?”  In addition, although my daughter doesn’t talk about playing at school like he does, I’ve caught her enjoying the set as well!

Leave some comments below!  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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