Ultimate Dodgeball: Bourbon Ballers Victorious

What a night.

We shouldn’t have won. Really, we were dead in the water. But once again, my resilient group of misfits found a way to snatch victory from the small intestine of defeat.

The misfits in question are the Bourbon Ballers, an ultimate dodgeball team comprised of former and current WKU Dodgeball players. For those unfamiliar with ultimate dodgeball, it’s a 5 v 5 variation of our beloved sport played on a trampoline court. It is incredibly fun and completely exhausting.  Continue reading “Ultimate Dodgeball: Bourbon Ballers Victorious”

NCDA Alumni Podcast: February 2014

In the latest episode of the soon-to-be-renamed NCDA Alumni Podcast, the Aluminati discuss the Michigan Dodgeball Cup, Nationals 2014, and dodgeball outside the NCDA. Big questions are raised – Will Nationals ever get too big? Do the results of the MDC affect your view of the favorites heading into Nationals? – and everyone revels in the chance to make fun of McCarthy’s black eye.


AJP Special: Alumni Podcast Jan 2013

It’s an Average Joes’ Special!

NCDA Alumni Edition:
We’ll just say this is part of Alumni Appreciation Month!

The Alumni talked about upping the roster size for Nationals, on the court etiquette, the All Star Game format, league retention, the future of the NCDA and took guesses at what DePaul’s haka what would be.  Continue reading “AJP Special: Alumni Podcast Jan 2013”


AJP #18

Average Joes' Podcast LogoIt’s our second Newton-free podcast in a row! With the Big Giant Ego an hour away, Felix and Alex recap the UK Invitational, Chicago Dodgeball Open and Michigan Dodgeball Cup. Our hosts also discuss how to run a tournament, preview the new teams coming to Nationals 2011 and bask in the glory of the biggest tournament in NCDA history.


Turn Games into Fundraisers

I was watching an NBA game today when the idea for this column hit me.

During the game, the announcers were talking about how the players wanted to use their position as professional athletes to give back to the community. Mike Breen actually said it was their “responsibility” to do so. It was that particular word that got me thinking.

It isn’t Kobe Bryant status as an NBA player that carries this obligation, as countless musicians, actors and politicians have also devoted hours to benefiting their communities in some way. Instead, it is his platform that necessitates such a responsibility. It is the chance to stand out and be recognized that demands both self-focused and selfless behavior.

This moment of understanding capped off the snowball that had been gathering in my head the last few months. If you have a platform, I realized, you should use to benefit others as well as yourself. Sure, it’s a simple message. But like voting, countless people applaud the merit of giving back but then fail to participate themselves.

Here’s the reason I mention all of this: as college dodgeball players, we have the same platform as everyone else, from Kobe to Kanye to Katie Holmes. It’s not the same size platform reserved for those superstars, but it does exist and carries the same responsibility of its bigger counterparts. While our teams can’t give back millions, we can give back something more proportionate to our meager budgets and limiting status as a niche sport.

As president of Western’s team, I stress the importance of giving back in some way. In my three years at the helm, we’ve had some good opportunities to do that through the Battle of the Bluegrass, the charity tournament for St. Jude and our upcoming Clash of the Commonwealth at the end of this month. In fact, it’s my hope that we’ll raise $4,000 through these three events by semester’s end.

What some teams might fail to realize is that only of those events required extensive planning on our part. The other two only require us to show up and play. So, whether you’re GVSU and have 80 players or Miami and have only 8, fundraising is an option that’s always on the table. Those teams that actively fundraise do so because they’ve recognized two things: how important it is to give back and how many opportunities there are to do so.

Let me explain. During my sophomore year at Western, my major concern was putting a team together that would show up to play consistently. Fundraising wasn’t even on my radar at that point. But then I got a message from UK’s former captain Errol Strauss that basically said, “Hey, come play us at Butler County High School to raise money for their after-prom program. We did it last year, and it’s a lot of fun!” Of course, I agreed, and without even trying, our team was given a chance to raise money for a good cause.

When game day arrived, Western and UK played a game that counted toward their records and Butler Co. HS made over $1,000. After the game, we were met with adoration and an invitation to do the same thing the next year. Kids cheered us from the stands and wanted our autographs afterward. All of that happened just because we showed up to play.

The first Battle of the Bluegrass had a big effect on me. Before I’d even seen an impact on Western’s campus, our team had made a difference in the lives of those Barren County folks. The game helped me see that just because we were a small fish in a small pond, didn’t mean that Western Dodgeball couldn’t use its tiny platform to give back.

I started paying attention to the multitude of causes that needed support on campus and in town, and the results were astounding. In just one year, there were hundreds of causes and fundraising events that needed support. Check it out next time you read the newspaper, pass by the bulletin board in your dorm or get on Facebook. Once you start looking, the opportunities are almost endless.

That being said, the easiest way I think the NCDA can help give back is through playing. While hosting events like Western’s charity tournament and Kent State’s tournament for Haiti is nice, teams don’t even have to put in that much work.

My suggestion is to pick a game on your schedule and talk to a high school in your area about making the game a fundraiser for the cause of their choice. Assuming most of the players attended high school in the state where they go to college, each team has a nice base of about 10-15 schools where connections exist. Pitching the game shouldn’t be hard if you say something like, “You can do something cliché like a car wash to raise money, or you can host a college dodgeball game and entice spectators with a sport they thought only Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller play.” Trust me, they’ll see the light.

Once schools agree, they’ll form a little committee to decide on logistics and promotional ideas. They’ll call each team if they have questions or need to run something by them. In the meantime, captains get to focus on practicing instead of planning for a home event. A few months later, both teams will drive to the host school, turn in their rosters and play. The game will be unlike anything they’ve played in before because it’s a packed house and the crowd thinks every headshot and diving catch is the coolest thing ever. Kids will ask for autographs after the game and teams will be fed pizza for their trouble.

Tell me what part of that last paragraph didn’t sound like something you’d want your team to do? I thought so. No worries, either – this isn’t some gimmick I’m proposing. There’s no catch. Raising money can be that easy and fun for everyone involved. In fact, it’s my hope that someday all NCDA games will be played as fundraisers.

Wouldn’t that be putting our platform to good use?

Five steps to make the NCDA go big

On Sunday, Nov. 15, this league accomplished something I wasn’t sure it was capable of doing.

Facing a mid-season crisis regarding Nationals (only our biggest and most important tournament of the entire year), we didn’t panic. We remained calm and formulated a plan to fix a very serious problem.

Two schools, SVSU and BGSU, stepped forward as potential hosts. I called for a vote to decide who would get the Nationals bid.

I doubted (as did many others, I’m sure) that a ragtag group of college students could organize itself enough to put out a fire like the inferno we were facing.

Sunday came, the votes rolled in, and the door to my skepticism was slammed shut.

12 teams emailed me their vote on Sunday. Eight of them voted for BGSU, making the “Dodging Falcons” the host for Nationals in 2010. That was that.

More than anything, our league’s ability to mobilize and solve a national crisis (literally) proved to me that we have enormous potential for growth.

I’m not just talking about a handful of new teams in the next couple years. That would be nice, of course, but my sights are set a lot higher than that.

I’m talking about the type of exposure that will garner consideration for games on an ESPN network. The type of recognition that will have video game companies taking notice (because everyone knows an NCDA video game would own).

I know what you’re thinking – “Josh, we’ve been down this road before. The league is still too young to accomplish those types of goals.”

Very good point, Mr. Fictional Critic. I’m not arguing that.

What I want to do is accelerate the growth of this league and transform those goals from pipe dream into an achievable reality.

It can happen. It will happen. And I’m going to tell you how.

I’ve been sitting on this list for a while, but after Sunday, I think this league is finally ready to step up and help legitimize itself.

Ladies and gentlemen, for your consideration, I present the “Five Steps to Help the NCDA Go Big.”

1. Film every game and put it on YouTube

Think for a second about the NFL, NBA, NHL or MLB. Think about the fond memories you have from any of those sports. Do the majority of those memories involve stories, pictures or podcast recaps of your favorite games? I didn’t think so.

What you most likely remember are the games you watched in person or on television. You can recall in detail the moments that defined your sports fandom because you watched it unfold. The NCDA is missing out on that element of popular sports. We aren’t seeing the games that matter, going crazy after the big headshots or memorizing the performances that transcend the game.

We can’t get our games on TV (yet), but YouTube provides a great alternative for watching teams pummel each other all season long. I know we have some teams that routinely post their games on YouTube, but that’s not enough. We need every team to provide footage.

Take it from someone who knows – setting up a camera, paying someone to film the game and uploading that footage to the internet is insanely easy. The guy who filmed WKU’s game against UK got 10 bucks. It took me about two hours to edit the footage and post it. That’s it! There’s no reason we shouldn’t have footage from every game. So, my challenge to every team is to stop making excuses and get those games on YouTube.

2. Mandate uniforms for every team, including shorts

What ensures that you don’t look out of place at a job interview? Sunday school? A swimming pool? I’ll give you a second…that’s right, the appropriate attire. If you showed up to a job interview in jeans and a T shirt, you would continue to remain unemployed and embarrass yourself at the same time.

As a league, we’ve done a decent job thus far of dressing to impress. Most teams have jerseys and those that don’t at least have some type of team shirts. But if we want to go big, “decent” isn’t going to cut it anymore. We need uniforms for every team in the NCDA. That means not only matching jerseys, but shorts, too.

“But Josh, my team is new and we don’t have the money for uniforms.”

Bullcrap. Money should never be an obstacle for a team when it’s trying to get uniforms. Even if by some chance your team can’t get a dime of funding from the school (highly unlikely since most schools throw money at clubs), you’re telling me each of your members doesn’t have 14 bucks? That’s right, each member of your team can buy jerseys and shorts for as low as $14. Don’t believe me? Check this website:http://www.epicsports.com/. I just found 20 jerseys and 20 pairs of shorts for $269.59, including shipping. That’s exactly $13.48 a person. If your members can’t afford that, then we’ve got much bigger issues going on then playing dodgeball.

Not only are they cheap, but uniforms for every team will instantly make the league more legitimate. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “You guys have jerseys and everything!” from our fans. Uniforms work wonders. If your team doesn’t have them already, I strongly suggest they look into it.

3. Elect a board of representatives that can be efficient in decision making

I know we’ve got the captains, but one thing this Sunday illustrated was the need for a decision-making council in the NCDA. Not just one with fancy titles and special privileges, but one that could mobilize quickly and pass decisions without prolonged delay.

Even if it were just the captains who comprised the board (my suggestion), that group needs to nominate officers to help the proceedings run smoothly. The positions I recommended in my 5 Year Plan were President, Vice President and Secretary. Basically, I think we need a face for this league (president) and someone to assist them or fill in when the president is absent (vice president). We also need someone to keep records of our voting and decisions (secretary). Another important position would be head recruiter, or the person who received all the inquiries from new schools about starting a team.

Electing captains to these positions wouldn’t be difficult. We could do it at the Nationals meeting this season. We could do before then in another email vote. Whenever we do it, the important thing is that we get it done quickly. Having leaders at the forefront of the league, guiding its progress, is too important to do without.

4. Create season awards and have players vote on the winner

Who doesn’t like to be rewarded for their work? I know I do. So do athletes. The major sports leagues have awards for everything – most valuable player, best comeback player, best rookie, etc. In dodgeball, we have the potential for so many awards it’s not even funny. Let me demonstrate:

Most valuable player, killer of the year, best hands, most hated player, toughest out, best blocker, fastest arm and play of the year – I could keep this up all day. The point is that we need to start recognizing our best players for their accomplishments. This wouldn’t be tough to do.

First off, we’d need footage of each game so the league could see other teams in action. Before Nationals, we accept nominations for each major award. Then we let the people vote. Whether this happens at Nationals on a paper ballot or online through a poll question on the website, the end result would be the same. Players would get recognition, bragging rights would be established and rivalries would become more interesting. After all, who wouldn’t want to see the match-up between the NCDA’s fastest arm and its best set of hands?

5. Designate rivalry games and broadcast those games live on the website

Nothing gets a sports fan more heated than a rivalry. Ask any Yankees/Red Sox, Lakers/Celtics or Colts/Patriots fan what happens when their favorite team suits up against their sworn enemies. It’s what sports is all about.

As a league, we’ve seen the beginnings of great rivalries, but we must take an active approach to fostering those games and promoting them everywhere we can. That means coming up with games that have cool names. Right now, the only two games like that the NCDA has are the “Battle of the Valleys” and the “Battle of the Bluegrass.” I might be missing a couple, but even if I am, we still need more. I don’t want 5 rivalry games. I don’t even want 10. I want 20, 30 or hell, maybe even 40.

It’s a simple fact the rivalries mean bad blood, closer games and more intense action on both sides of the court. Teams don’t just want to win rivalry games; they want to destroy the other team. Flatten them. Make them wish they’d never been born. Pick your cliché because they all work here.

That means each team needs to figure out which teams they hate. I don’t mean hating individuals players on that team, but teams they want to beat the cat piss out of (to borrow a phrase from Mr. Zac Newton). To give you an example, we here at WKU are rivals with UK and UofL. Every time we play them, we want to stomp them into the ground. I love the guys on their team, but that doesn’t stop us from wanting to smash them once the game starts. To use a Bill Simmons term, teams need to have “sports hate” for their rivals, meaning you don’t actually hate them in real life, just when you see them on the dodgeball court.

The time for high fives and hugs is over. I want some bloodshed. I want some carnage. I want teams that are gunning for their opponents on every point. I want rivalries. Captains, let’s make this happen.

There you have it. I’ve racked my brain, and those are the five biggest things that I think can legitimize the NCDA in a jiffy.

It may not get us on ESPN right away, but if we implement these steps, it won’t be long before the Worldwide Leader starts calling.

Guess that means we’ll need new phones, too.

Cardinals Looking to Improve

As Grand Valley continued its march toward another inevitable national championship last year, brutally destroying every team that stepped in its path and averaging more fans than some professional sports teams, another team in the college dodgeball heartland was making some noise of its own.

Saginaw Valley State, despite the stiff competition from GVSU, Delta College and Michigan State, continued to prove why it belonged amongst the NCDA’s elite teams.

But despite the recent success, the SVSU dodgeball squad wasn’t always associated with winning.

The team got its start in the fall semester of 2006. They suffered through a winless regular season their first year only to surge during the national tournament and take home a sixth place ranking and a fresh wave of confidence.

Under the fearless leadership of team founder and captain Bryan Janick, the Cardinals returned for the 2007-2008 season with a mission: to beat Grand Valley and win the national championship.

“The obvious school rivalry between SVSU and GVSU naturally makes us want to beat them, and we figured if we beat them we could have a good chance to win a national championship,” Janick said.

Unfortunately for Janick’s squad, GVSU derailed both of his team’s ambitions as they beat the Cardinals twice during the regular season and again during the national tournament.

The Cardinals finished the year with plenty to build upon, though, ending with an impressive 9-5 regular season record that included a notable overtime victory over Delta College.

Their hot streak continued into the postseason, where they racked up a 3-2 record on their way to the team’s first ever final four appearance.

“Last year was our first full year playing college dodgeball and to make it to the final four was amazing for the team,” Janick said. “Most of the team was freshman and sophomores, so we feel like we have a good chance to win a few national championships before we’re done,” he said.

Perhaps the most important accomplishment for the Cardinals last season wasn’t reflected in their overall record. Despite losing to GVSU three times last season, each loss came by smaller margin than the one before it.

“We are a young team and we’re getting better every time we play. I feel like we have a good chance to upset them this year, especially with the new students coming in this season,” Janick said.

Only time will tell which “Valley” team will emerge victorious and claim dominance in the college dodgeball capital of the world this season. Their first clash, which takes place on September 12, should offer anxious fans some clues about this intense rivalry.

No matter which team comes out on top, don’t expect the outcome to stop Saginaw Valley from striving toward the ultimate prize of winning the national championship.

“Winning the championship is more important because we would be helping the prestige of the club sport and Saginaw Valley State University.”