Monday, November 22, 2004

In Defense of Dodgeball: How to Save This Sport From A Modern-Day Athletic Witchhunt!

I was going to write about this yesterday, but it slipped my mind, so tonight I will address an issue that really irritates me as a Kinesiologist: the villification of the game of dodgeball. I was reading the Sunday paper over breakfast yesterday when a story caught my eye. Apparently, a lawsuit in Albany, NY was being heard regarding a 7 year old girl's broken elbow as the result of a fall on a gym floor during a game of dodgeball.

Okay, so I can understand that there may be legal wranglings over faulty gym facilities, but the article goes on to highlight a movement that is afoot to banish dodgeball from P.E. classes everywhere. Their contentions?

"But the game is also being targeted as unfair, exclusionary, and warlike for school-age youngsters. Some schools in Maine, Maryland, New York, Virginia, Texas, Massachusetts and Utah have banned dodgeball or its variations, including war ball, monster ball and kill ball."

Okay, so essentially they are saying the game discriminates against those who are slower and less athletic, breeds and encourages predatory behaviour in kids, and "promotes" war as a fun activity.

I'll address these one at a time:

(1) Dodgeball discriminates against those who are slower and less athletic.

Critics make this claim because slower, smaller, out-of-shape, less athletically-inclined kids may be easy targets. I hate to break this to you guys, but they have just described sports in general. Success in basketball is much more difficult to attain for shorter people, slower and less agile players end up getting hit more often in football and in hockey, people with bad eye-hand coordination find it hard to hit a baseball. This is just the nature of sports; part of the character-bulding aspect of it is learning how to cope with defeat, and then how to learn to overcome that defeat. To counteract the propensity of slower kids getting hit (and therefore being considered 'out'), a jail of "captured" dodgeball players should made to hold the hit kids, where they would be able to throw any dodgeballs that come their way at a member of the opposing team, earning them their freedom. This would eliminate the "5 seconds and done" concern that people have about the game, keeping ALL kids engaged in the action at ALL times.

(2) Dodgeball breeds and encourages predatory behaviour in kids.

Another concern parents have is that in games of "every man/woman for him/herself" dodgeball, the players instantly go for the weaker players, geting them out first, and doing so with bravado, and sometimes with unnecessary ball force. I couldn't agree more. What needs to be done is to ban the previously-mentioned derivative of the game, and to only allow the team-based component of the game. In this setup, the kids work together instead of hunting each other down. Slower kids can take up the rear of the playing field, relaying the dead ball to the attackers up near the dividing line, allowing everyone to contribute an invaluable skill to the team. And if bravado still emanates from some idiot on the other team, the teacher should expel him/her from the activity, and send them to the office. Do your job guys!

(3) Dodgeball "promotes" war as a fun activity.

This slant on dodgeball by the bleeding hearts (don't call me a neo-con, I'm a liberal and proud of it, but I realize that our side can go overboard sometimes too!) applies to sports in general, as George Orwell once proclaimed that sports are like war, minus the shooting. Now, I hate unnecessary armed conflicts as much as the next peacenik, but this really is a case of trying to read something in between the lines that really isn't there. Yes, sports strategy can be analogized to war strategies, tempers can flare on the pitch, etc. But sports, especially in these days, are becoming much more about socializing with other people, building self-esteem and confidence, among other positive aspects. Comparing dodgeball to war cannot be done without lumping in just about every other team sport alongside dodgeball. It's time to move past antiquated cliches.

And finally, about the ball? Make it softer and less dense. A matter of simple ergonomics (gotta use my degree for something!).

In the meantime, I hope the concerned groups hoping for dodgeball's demise see the bigger picture. If they take down this sport, they gotta take down every other team sport that's the same or worse in intensity. They won't get far, I think, and hear's hoping they see the light before then.

I gotta watch Dodgeball: An Underdog Story one of these days...


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