Dodgeball, a sport many individuals have played growing up, whether in school during gym class, outside during recess, or even outside of school in a recreational or competitive league. Growing up and even until this very day, Dodgeball is an absolute passion of mine, almost a lifestyle. Everything down from playing, to rules, to statistics, even to refereeing it – I do my best to be stay active in this sport everyday. Without further ado, let us explore this and analyze what it has to offer.
Just before we begin exploring, I do want to say that there are many variations of the sport and the way I explain it is what I believe to be the most popular and quite frankly, the most fun. I will speak of other ways of playing but it will be clear as to which method I focus on.
Rules and Objectives – CoEd Recreational vs CoEd Competitive
As mentioned, Dodgeball has various rules to it. Some variations allow players to travel all around the court while I will focus on the most efficient and popular way of playing it. There are also some similarities in rules between recreational and competitive, however I deem it clear which ones differ and which ones are found in both.
With a maximum of six players playing at once, the objective is simple; eliminate all opposing six players by hitting them with the ball or catching one of their throws. Now, considering this section includes both male and female, otherwise known as Co-Ed Dodgeball, then of the six players on the court, a minimum of two need to be female. With six aside, some methods of play have the players run (once the referee blows the whistle) to collect the balls that are lined up at the center line, while other ways have each team begin with two balls aside. Playing with four total, eight inch balls, players ideally communicate and make sure they either target a certain individual or they just go ahead and throw at random. If a player catches a throw, then the player who threw that ball is out and subsequently first to return if that player is the first of the 6 on the court out, while the player who caught it brings back one of his teammates that were already eliminated, if any were sidelined. Once a player picks up a ball or catches one, they have a maximum of 10 seconds to hold it. During this 10 seconds, they can use the ball they are holding for protection (deflecting a ball coming at them) or they can try to quickly strategize with their teammates. If a player throws the ball and it is deflected off the opponent’s ball because he/she is blocking, and that ball continues to travel and hits someone before it touches the ground, ceiling or wall, then that player IS out. However, if the same situation occurred but instead of being hit, the ball was caught; that means the thrower is out and that catch brings in a teammate – if one was already eliminated.
Another way of being eliminated is a rule that as a Dodgeball Referee I dislike calling but I have to do so; stepping on the line while throwing. Although this rule is very important and must be enforced, it is also a rather silly way of being eliminated. I respect this rule and every Dodgeball player should. It keeps the individuals at a distance and confirms nobody can step on or over the line, however you are allowed to reach over the line to try and grab a ball.
The controversial “head-shot” rule really depends on how and who you play. If a player throws the ball and an opposing player gets hit in the face then usually the player who threw it is out, however there are times where it may be called simply a “dead-ball” which means nobody is out and the game continues, depending on the severity and other circumstances. If a player is ducking however, and gets hit in the face, that player who is ducking is out as he/she put himself in that position. Whether a player is ducking, jumping or even dodging in some other way, and is hit in the face, he/she will be called out. The only way around it is if it is a blindside head shot, a player not seeing the ball or the ball coming way too fast for someone to react.
If two players remain, one on each team, a 60 second countdown begins. After this countdown, if neither of the two players are eliminated, the first players who were eliminated from that round are allowed to come back on. This is done to add intensity to the game and to also speed it up, if you will.
Although it is recreational, the games get very intense and very close and the intensity alone is enough to make you feel like you are in a competitive atmosphere. Dodgeball alone is very competitive and continues to increase in popularity.
Like Recreational Dodgeball, six players (minimum two girls) need to be on the court per team while playing Competitive Dodgeball. Instead of four, eight inch balls, six – seven inch balls are used, three placed beside each other on the opposite corners of the center line. Teams need to run and collect three, hence why they are on opposite sides – three are for one team to collect and the other three are for the other team to collect. Now, strategy and ball control is so important while playing Competitive Dodgeball. With six balls in the picture, can you imagine what it would be like if six players on the opposing team decided to target and throw at you? It would be hard to dodge and catch, however this is why players decide to play competitive, to test and possibly enhance their pre-existing skills against other highly skilled Dodgeball players. There is no limit on how long players can hold a ball for however if one team has four balls and the other has two, the “advantage” rule comes into play. This means, the team with four balls must throw at least one ball before the referee finishes his countdown. A minimum of one ball can be thrown while players holding the other three are allowed to continue to do so. Many different players have many different tactics in this scenario. For example, if one ball is being thrown, players on that throwers team will often fake throw and pretend to throw at someone to throw them off a bit – sounds basic but it really is a good tactic, especially for those who are so good at it.
Remember how in Recreational if you were the first eliminated you are the first back in if your teammate made a catch? Well in competitive (depending on the league), there could be no order of return. If your teams strongest player was out third, but someone on your team made a catch, he/she is eligible to be the first person to come back, a pick and choose kind of thing. Most competitive leagues however follow the “first out, first in” rule. Also, remember how once one player on each team remains, the 60 second countdown begins? Well, in competitive, there is a “no blocking” rule. This means that as soon as one player on each team remains, the referee blows the whistle and gives the players three balls each. From there, after both players confirm they are ready, the referee blows the whistle and now no blocking kicks in. No blocking means that if a throw is coming towards you, you are not allowed to use your ball to deflect it or block it. If you do block it, it will count as an out. Everything remains the same except this rule is implemented only on a one on one contest.
Communication is very key as well, hence my earlier mention of strategy. The “fake-throw” is a great method of distraction but aside from that, there are many others. To mention a few;
1. Target Selection: Making sure that players who are holding a ball on your team aim for the same opposing player, therefore giving you a greater chance and higher percentage of eliminating that selected opponent.
2. No Look Throw: Looking one way but throwing the other. For example; looking left but throwing the ball to players on the right side – a great play to deceive and keep opponents on their toes.
3. Fake and Throw: Close to the center line with another one of your teammates, both of you are holding a ball. You talk and confirm that when you are going to throw the ball, only one will actually throw it while the other will fake it – confusing the target and also providing the thrower with protection as a teammate is right beside you holding a ball. Although, this can occasionally back fire as if the opponent throws a ball, considering the proximity between you and your teammate, it can result in both of you being eliminated if it hits you both. This is referred to as a “counter” by the opposing team.
The above strategies can be used in both Recreational and Competitive, however they are utilized more in Competitive as there is no 10 second time limit with the ball for every player, as there is in Recreational.
Types of Players and Positions
Many different types of people play the game itself. This can range from players who have never played a sport before to players who excel at other sports, giving them an advantage. It also includes players who excel at one aspect of the game but struggle on others. For example, one player can be a really strong thrower but a weak catcher and dodger. Aside from throwing, catching and dodging, there are also three main positions. These positions consist of Corner, Center and Sweeper. These all will be positions which I will elaborate on.
Below is a quick breakdown of what to expect from those (mentioned above) players. I believe all of these aspects are specialities and provide much to any team.
Exactly what it sounds like, throwers are the players who have the arm to deliver a powerful throw. With many different types of throwers as everybody throws differently for a variety of reasons, below are a quick list of popular methods of throwing.
1. Overhand: Overhand throwers are those who release the ball when their hand is over their shoulder. This results in a very strong (if executed properly) straight and direct throw – little movement to them.
2. Side-Arm: Just like in Baseball, side-arm is when players release the ball for a throw when their arm is parallel to the ground. This has been brought into question as it is said that continuously throwing like this will eventually damage your arm as the ligaments will tear and possibly bring on tendinitis. Those crafty side-arm throwers tend to have a curve to their throw, making it much harder to judge, dodge and catch.
3. 3/4 Throwers: A somewhat unknown method of throwing, 3/4 is sometimes considered side-arm, at least a sub-category of it. 3/4 throwing is when the players hand is roughly about 45º from the ground when the ball is released.
4. The Spinning Backhand Throw: A unique throw in Dodgeball where an individual spins his/her body very quickly sideways and releases the ball in the opposite manner he/she would during a regular throw, which is to say it will be released with momentum switching to the spin motion while moving 360°, rather than spinning your body forwards. This method of throwing uses different muscles and is very hard as an opponent to judge where it will go. It is very powerful and not too many are capable of doing it, however those who can are quite strong at it.
Throwing is of course a big part of the game. Those who excel at throwing can manipulate the ball to do what it is they want, especially depending on how they hold the ball. That can be from curving to dropping (sinking) on their opponents. Some players are also ambidextrous, meaning they can throw with both their left and right arms – an impressive feature. This only makes that player even more dangerous.
Not too much to break down here, catchers are those who specialize in catching the ball. What makes them stand out is that in Dodgeball, catching is easily one of the most key aspects. It not only takes one of the opponents players out but it brings your teammate back in. The only thing that catchers face that is a tough task is the catching itself, considering you have throwers who are highly skilled and can predict and manipulate the ball to make it go where they please. This can be low or high, and very quick. Quick reactions and quick with your hands are two characteristics one must possess to excel at this. Always being aware and always knowing your surrounding is very important as well. Positioning your body to receive a ball in the “bread-basket” area may hurt, but also makes it easier as you can smother the ball a lot quicker. Lastly, never giving up on the ball – this means if you are hit and the ball has not touched the ground you can still make the catch! Although throwers seem to get most of the attention due to their force, catchers are a must and are sometimes overlooked. Rarely would you want to risk throwing only one ball at a strong catcher. A team of catchers is just as threatening as a team of throwers, is it not?
Well, why not – I will say it. Dodge, duck, dip, dive, and…dodge! “The five D’s of Dodgeball” made famous by the movie Dodgeball that was released in 2004. Dodgers are those who just continue to find ways of getting out of trouble by constantly dodging the ball, no matter what. Eventually, yes this player will be out or this player will be the one to eliminate the opposing team’s players by him/her catching or throwing at the other team. Players are so often irritated because the dodger just continues to follow the five D’s of Dodgeball and continues to evade the ball! Many players see a dodger as everybody on the court at some point, throwers and catchers will have to dodge as well and I agree with that. However, I do personally believe some are just better dodgers than others. But if time is a factor, then a dodger is good to have.
One of the most overlooked aspects of the game – blocking. Exactly what it sounds like, blocking is using a ball in hand to block an incoming throw and direct it away from you, protecting yourself. There are many players who may excel at throwing and catching, but have a very hard time blocking. It is a skill and something that if you want to get good at, you must practice – just like anything else. I admire blockers and give them credit, it is quite hard and I believe all Dodgeball players should really never underestimate just how key blocking is.
Corners are players who, depending on how your team decides to play, remains in the corner and always has a ball in hand. They are sometimes known for having very quick and powerful throws, but are mostly recognized for their quick release and accuracy. Simply put, the Corner has outstanding court awareness and focuses mainly on the opposing team’s Corner. As soon as one Corner throws their ball, it is the opposing team’s Corner’s job to eliminate him/her now that he/she is vulnerable. Aside from that, the corner is also somewhat of an intimidating factor. This is done by continuously faking a throw to keep the other team on their heels and to perhaps prevent them from retrieving a rolling ball, by applying that pressure. They are also known to try and catch other players “napping”. This means that if they see you are not focusing or are looking elsewhere and seem unprepared, they will throw their ball at you and catch you off guard.
The big guns, the threatening arms, the power throwers, call it what you would like but the Center position is usually played by those who can throw the ball like a rocket. These are the main powerhouses (although not 100% of the time the case) and opponents look to eliminate them first. Although they may excel at other aspects of the game, they have been recognized as major threats by opposing teams and they are then identified as the number one targets.
Looking at this from another perspective, Centers must also have some sort of ability to either dodge or catch, or even both. If you are being targeted, you need to find a way to remain in the game. How you may ask? Finding a way out of that trouble could possibly come from attempting to catch one of the balls thrown by the other team or by dodging balls coming at you. That’s the name of the game!
Those sweepers, ever so unsuspecting but dangerous and an asset to any team who possesses one. A sweeper is someone who stops the ball from going back to the opposing team and therefore keeps it for his/her team. The reason these sweepers are an asset is because if players on one team are tired (for example) of throwing, simple things like bending down to pick up a ball require energy. Imagine having played for 45 minutes and you are throwing a ball and the ball hits the wall and it comes back to you. You bend down, pick it up and throw it again. What if that was interrupted and instead the sweeper stole the ball and now has an opportunity of eliminating you? Would you have the energy to try and dodge quickly or be prepared for an incoming throw? Sweepers are usually relatively quiet and hidden players who run out, sometimes sacrificing themselves, to retrieve balls for his/her team. Corners are sometimes responsible for scaring them away with their threatening fake throw although Sweepers are very quick in thinking and in speed. Another strong specialty every Dodgeball team should possess.
Once again, depending on the level you and/or your team play, this can range from simple athletic wear to a team jersey/uniform. To start, players are often seen wearing athletic wear and something they are comfortable in. This does include track pants, shorts, T-shirt, or long sleeve shirts, although the latter causes a lot of warmth. Athletic and indoor shoes are required. Some players do wear Basketball shoes but running shoes are more recommended.
Health Perspective, Physical Fitness/Exercise, Anatomy Analysis and Advantages/Disadvantages of Dodgeball
Like many other sports, Dodgeball offers many health and fitness benefits for the human body. I will discuss both the advantages and some disadvantages for the human body while participating in Dodgeball and also touch on the fitness aspect of the sport. All of these topics will be intermingled and intertwined.
1. The short bursts of intense movement, whether it be running, jumping or diving, can improve the cardiovascular system of the players. This is done by lowering blood pressure and improving blood circulation, all while burning calories. Dodgeball is a sport that involves constant movement, from your eyes to your entire body.
2. Probably the most obvious advantage; the improvement of agility, balance and anticipation. While playing, players are running but not only running, they are running and are watching to see if a ball is headed their way which will force them to use their body in a different way. The different ways can consist of using your leg muscles (more specifically the quadriceps and calves) to jump hence dodging the ball, or having your arms prepared for a catch in which you need quick reflexes. Certain players’ body will adjust at a more rapid pace depending on other factors such as weight, height and anticipation levels.
3. Considering the size of the court, which really depends on the location, players could possibly be throwing the ball roughly 30-40 feet, if not more. The repetition of this action/motion allows individuals to utilize different muscle within the body. I will outline these muscle below.
Shoulder Muscles – Primarily the deltoids and rotator cuff – which allow your shoulder to rotate back and forth when winding up and throwing, they also provide stability for the shoulder.
Back Muscles – More specifically the latissimus dorsi (lats) which provide stability during the motion of throwing and also providing power to the throw.
Core Muscle – Your core which consists of abdominal muscle, lower back, gluteus muscles, pelvis and hips; these muscle also have an influence and assist you with balance while being able to transfer weight from one leg to the other, all while going from backwards motion to forwards.
Arm Muscle – The triceps, a three “headed” muscle group hence tri, provide much power while releasing the ball and increasing it’s velocity and speed while pushing it forward.
Constantly throwing, dodging and catching a Dodgeball with the above benefits in mind, also provides for much endurance and muscle build up. See the anatomy diagram below, identifying all the mentioned muscles and a little more.
Anterior View – Identified/Mentioned Muscles
All anatomy and other experts please, I encourage you to comment and express your thoughts on these explanations and on these diagrams.
Posterior View – Identified/Mentioned Muscles
4. Ball dodgers, throwers and catchers develop, if they did not possess it already – great hand-eye coordination. There is no need to explain why dodgers and catchers need this as it self-explanatory in my opinion, throwers require this because while throwing they need to anticipate where their target might go, therefore forcing the thrower to try and add a curve to their throw or another method of throwing.
5. With most games being played for an hour, aside from Tournaments, Dodgeball does indeed promote weight loss. Dodgeball works almost your entire body and will require you to sweat a lot, depending how hard you play and how much you enjoy the sport, or even how warm the playing environment is. The constant dodging can last quite a bit of time if you are really good at doing so, hence you constantly burning calories.
6. As mentioned, the constant moving, twisting, jumping and so on really improves an individuals flexibility. Whether it is a simple motion like ducking or a movement that a player did not even think possible to be done, flexibility is very key.
In my personal playing experience, I recall a player on my team throwing at this specific opponent and he (from his knees) went flat on his back and within a matter of seconds he got back up – ninja style if you will. That alone made him a deadly opponent and a tough target.
7. Dodgeball provides much for the human body and mind, but an important one is the fact that it can relieve stress. Whether you are throwing with anger (instead of proper mechanics and motion) or you are just feeling better because you are with your friends laughing and playing, Dodgeball, as a team sport, can provide the feeling of reliving stress. However with that in mind, depending on how competitive of a player you are and how much you want to win, it can bring you down.
Personally, I am down only if I feel as though I did not contribute to my team’s success or if I single handedly lost the game for the team. Also, losing to a team that broke the rules is not fun for anybody involved. For those reading, make sure all rules are respected. There will be times where it is a tough call or hard to see for everybody, but honesty is the best policy and is appreciated more than one would think.
8. As I touched upon, Dodgeball improves an individual’s reflexes very quickly. Whether you are a full time athlete or a first time player, your reflexes constantly improve with each passing minute.
9. A very important aspect in all team sports, the building of teamwork. I am a firm believer that although certain athletes may be stronger in one sport, and yes perhaps that person can beat a team, there will always be instances and games where if you do not play as a team – you will lose. To quote Michael Jordan; “Players win games, teams and intelligence win championships”. A very touching and very true quote that applies to almost every sport and in this case, Dodgeball. Teamwork provides a team with a method and strategy to try and take down your opponents but also builds and reveals character and leaders are displayed, whether silent or verbally strong ones.
10. Dodgeball as a sport itself is simply just FUN. Whether you do it to meet new people, whether you participate because you are new to a city or town or whether you do this to impress your coworkers and propel yourself in the professional workplace, Dodgeball brings people together and provides much fun. Just like any other sport, it does cause frustration among some but this is a sport and that cannot be predicted.
Well, I will spend very little time on this section but still, it is important to identify a few disadvantages. In my closed mind, there are no disadvantages to playing/participating in Dodgeball but realistically, yes there are.
1. The first and most important disadvantage is those who do not respect rules and decide to use Dodgeball as a “legal” way of bullying and causing harm with the intent to injure an opponent. Usually this would be fueled by a previous action in the past between certain individuals nonetheless, I would love to see no bullying in Dodgeball or at all ever.
2. Some believe the sport is too violent and can cause pain to others. Yes, unfortunately this is true but what one needs to remember is that all sports are dangerous and one must take all precautions while participating in any sport, whether you are a veteran of the game or a beginner.
3. If a player does not properly monitor his/her body, he/she can feel pain after the game due to lack of stretching, simple carelessness or overuse without taking a break. The body is a temple and should always be repaired if needed. If one feels pain from too much throwing, or feels pain from being hit very hard by the ball, this is something to contain right away. Keep each other safe, care for each other and make sure everybody is doing well, including yourself. This sport may not be for all but the pain is what should be eliminated. Maintain your physical exercise and participate by keeping your body intact. In the end, Dodgeball brings a community together and creates it’s own. All players/members should care and continuously help and support each other.
Although I have been playing for several years now, I decided to select the pictures below as a brief example of how popular Dodgeball is. The first picture I selected was taken while I participated in the well known “Forest City Dodgeball Invitational Tournament” that takes place in London, Ontario. This was the 5th installment of the tournament and was a great experience for me, especially playing against players and teams from northern USA and various cities throughout Canada. It was also great to be among individuals who share my obsession, my passion for Dodgeball. These games were classified as competitive and therefore used competitive rules, rather than recreational.
Forest City Invitational Dodgeball Tournament – Strategy Discussion Amongst Teammates
The second picture I selected was taken during the National Dodgeball Tournament in Barrie, the largest in North America and perhaps in the world, from what I hear. I can easily say this was the most beneficial tournament for me and for anybody to learn what skill is out there and how to prepare yourself. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and learnt so much, I am glad to have participated. Although sadly I was unable to grab a full team picture, below are both myself and some of my teammates getting ready to begin the game. This team was registered in the “Co-Ed Competitive” division and the team was named “Hot Dodge”.
Team: Hot Dodge – National Dodgeball Festival
The following two pictures below are from a tournament that took place in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. This tournament is known as the “2V2 Tournament” and is held once a month, usually during the summer months. This tournament was played in July (Picture 1) and took place in batting cages and is held to two teammates and had three division; Men’s, Women’s, and CoEd. This picture is of my teammate and I, strategizing our next move.
Picture 1 – July 2V2 Tournament – Men’s Division – Discussion Amongst Teammates
The following picture (Picture 2) is the same 2V2 Tournament but this took place in August, new teams, new competition!
Picture 2 – August 2V2 Tournament – Men’s Division – Teammates
Lastly, the picture below (Picture 3) is myself with one of the best Dodgeball players I have ever had the pleasure of sharing the court with. I was given the opportunity to wear her jersey and I felt a great amount of support and proudness to do so. The support I received from her was unbelievable and I had a memorable time at this 2V2 tournament. Although we were not teammates, we were always there watching each other’s game and lending advice if necessary. I am happy to say, we share a very special connection that is unmatched.
Picture 3 – Starstruck!
I strongly encourage individuals to get involved in playing Dodgeball within their community. Not only is it an incredible sport, but it also allows you to meet new people and in turn, make friends. It is a unique sport that has a lot to offer and I hope to see it continue to grow and attract worldwide attention.
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