Friday, September 23, 2022

Dodge Ball

Do you remember Dodgeball?  That was a game where a circle of young boys and girls with a ball to throw at those in the middle.  Now we have a sport with rules and a way of keeping score and both fun for the participants and the audience.

 Dodgeball is one of many sports competing for a spot at the Olympic circus.  My son developed a strong interest and as he was visiting Edmonton to participate at the world championships it seemed a good time to learn more.  Never did master the rules, but did come to appreciate that skills, physical fitness and strategies are important and it is fun to watch.  

The basic idea of hitting your opponent with a ball and avoid being hit has been retained.  One innovation is to catch the ball.  With a definite format we can have international contests.

Some of us (not me unfortunately) saw a movie that used Dodgeball as a vehicle, "Dodgeball" (2004).   Judging by the comments, it generated a lot of laughs with its plot and action.  Unable to locate it from my usual sources it seems that it did not advance the serious side of the sport, but must have stirred some curiosity. 

Rules are confusing (unless you read the written ones).  There are two versions:  one with a cloth ball and the other with a foam ball.  Both could be viewed g at the World Dodgeball Championships in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The cloth version uses a harder ball that is more painful. 

There are 6 players per side with 6 balls in total.  Initially teams line up at opposite ends of a court and race for their 3 balls.  Strategies have developed to take advantage of this unique starting situation. As soon as you have a ball you can shoot at the opponents, but you also leave yourself vulnerable.  When a player is hit they must leave and stand by the sidelines. After that each team is given opportunities to fire on the other.  The object is to hit all six opponents while they try to do the same to you.   In a sudden death situation each team is given three balls on their back line to help decide the winner.  

After a set is completed the winning team is credited with one point.  Then another set is started with perhaps a change in personnel.  The object is to win the most sets.

Ball retrievers or shaggers play an important role. In practice each team has three, one at the end line the others at either side.  They are not allowed to pursue balls on the court while players are not allowed to go off the court.  Their role is to give their side a steady flow of balls which is a key factor in attacking and even for defense. Sometimes this means chasing into the audience, calculating which way a thrown ball will end up and at other times watching the ball roll to the opposition.  Two New Zealand players decided to help the short handed Irish team and shag for them.

Two referees in the middle, one blowing a whistle to start the game--they confer on disputed calls and check each other for greater visibility--there are also four other referees at each side of the court to catch deceptive angles.  Referees  discussing disputed call.  Accredited referees are critical for the game's credibility.   Very little contesting judgments, but as the level is more competitive, players do dispute and many situations are marginal.  

On the attack.  Advance using subterfuge;  for example looking in one direction and hitting someone in another direction.  Two balls for quick followup or blocking.  90% of the attackers seem to be right handed.  Fake shots force a change in position, perhaps making the target more vulnerable.




Head for safety.  On defense one can jump, duck, bend, step aside or best of all catch the ball. Catching the ball is rare, but sometimes a game changer.   The person who threw it is out and your team can bring back a player who had been out.  Sometimes a ball will bounce off a player, but if they can catch it before it hits the ground it does not count as a hit and you are allowed to bring one of the outed players back.  At the end of the game there is often only one player per side and often the game might appear to end when one player apparently has hit the opponent, but if the ball is caught the game reverts. 

In addition to the cloth and foam versions the modern version has three competitions within each version.  One for males, another for females and a third for mixed.  In the mixed it might be assumed the females are the weak link, but that has been proved delusional.  The Olympics are looking for more gender equality and Dodgeball does offer that.

 Dominant teams were from Britain, Austria  Malaysia, Canada, and the United States.  Several countries were unable to get visas for tournament resulting in no African or South American entries.  The poorer countries are handicapped in raising money.  A catch 22 situation;  if an event is considered an Olympic sport it is easier to get govt support, but in the meantime it is harder to raise support.

Excitement- levels run pretty high.  We met participants from different countries, -Ireland, France, Britain, the U.S.  plus a Canadian referee.  All here for love of the sport.

Goodwill was displayed.  The New Zealand team performed a hakka at the beginning of each day.   I don't think too many were intimidated, but appreciative.  Helps build team cohesion.



Some teams were so excited about the game they invited the opposing players to join them in  a dancing circle and finally collapsing.  Goodwill is an important part of any sport.


Is it going to make it to the Olympics?  As one American player said, that is not important.  It offers a lot for participants.  To be taken more seriously coaching also has to be developed.  One colleague suggested a key factor in coaching is teaching.

Check earlier blog on water polo

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