Not the next Olympic sport perhaps, but don’t tell those growing legions of dodgeballers

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The Great American Dodgeball Bash at Kiwanis Park Recreation Center managed to draw what, to me at least, seemed a huge turnout. It was a tournament-style, double-elimination contest, with the open-division winning team walking away with $1,000 ($500 for the co-ed division).

Even though I don’t consider myself a dodgeball authority, it didn’t take long to get caught up in the excitement, based on the sights and sounds of chaos, fun and just a bit of oddity.

The price of entering the tournament was a reasonable $150 for one division, $200 for two. Each team numbered nine players; each match consisted of three games. A best-of-three tally determined the competitors’ next match.

Decked out in neon green, gray, white, black and red t-shirts, the teams drilled to the sound of dodgeballs as they reverberated through the gym with startling kur-thumps. Although the atmosphere was indeed fun-filled, it seemed obvious that the players considered strategy a challenge not to be taken lightly.

During a drill, I watched in mild astonishment as a white-team member found herself pushed against a wall, forced to quick-step as balls, thrown by her teammates, hurtled at her. It was a tableau reminiscent of a firing squad.

In team huddles, captains whispered formation and strategy with determination. Dodgeball, it turns out, is not for the underachiever.

As one conditioned to believe that dodgeball is primarily a sport reserved for summer camp and elementary school phys-ed classes, I was surprised by my observations of the adult teams warming up with athletic gear, knee pads and a look that was more menacing snarl than competitive scowl.

The knee pads are worn, I’m assuming, as a way to better fling oneself out of danger’s way, which I can appreciate. These dodgeballers are not to be trifled with.

The players appeared to range in age from teen to 30-somethings, covering a broad spectrum of skill. There was one terrifying dodgeballer on the white-team whose 6’4″ frame, muscled arms and hard, glinting eyes would surely do some poor opponent serious harm. Then again, it seemed to pay to be light and quick of foot.

I noted, by the way, that the co-ed teams always seemed to have a girl still standing at the end of the match, an observation that suggested, despite earlier conclusions, that serious players don’t all end up in body casts. 

Dodgeball, I’ve decided, is an inexpensive, fun and healthy way (if you discount the bruises) to meet people and expel frustrations and stress. Why not gather eight of your friends, make some t-shirts and do something different?

You might even see me out there.

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