Recently I attended a men’s basketball game between DePaul and Northern Illinois, both of which also have dodgeball clubs. NIU may play a game or so sometime this season. Anyways, DePaul barely won this basketball game. I don’t think it’s any surprise as to how inept DePaul men’s basketball can be. Towson, I do feel your pain.
But it made me think about a comparison to NCDA dodgeball and NCAA basketball. Coming from DePaul, we don’t have the biggest fan base. Some people might call that school spirit, a lack of. But at large urban campuses, school spirit and sport team commradery are entirely different things. There’s much more to do, to be worried about, something else to keep track of that isn’t student athletes and performances. Chicago is indeed a proud sports town, even through great stretches of ineptitude.
The same spirit that comes from being a sports fan is applied to direct action on a club level. Chicago has been a collection of doer’s; bar kickball and dodgeball leagues, adult 16″ softball, and the multitude of Club Sports at DePaul reflect the need to participate. Friends, classmates, workmates, even students from other schools play together. I think this contributes to a lack of attendance by young adults attending the big, college sponsored/funded sports. We’d rather play and participate rather than watch and spectate.
NIU young adults outnumbered DePaul 2-1 at a DePaul home game. The presence of DePaul home fans compared to NIU’s away game tourists leads me to this: We are alone. Dodgeball teams are alone. We play an represent our schools, but the nature of the dodgeball game results in a certain solidarity In our brand of high volume dodgeball, its hard for a casual fan to follow the action. The League started with college students wanting to play dodgeball together, to travel and all that entails. Increasing the people on the court brought more friends along, thus increasing the potential for fun.
It’s not like our school overlords funnel money into dodgeball clubs. Many teams will likely front their entire expenses on the backs of those doing the traveling, the playing, those bleeding at the fingers. This won’t change in the next four years. But its what gives college dodgeball its charm. NCDA tournaments are organized and run by students. On a good day, we are young adults traveling to play 3-4 hours of dodgeball, punishing our bodies and arms beyond entirely sensible limits, causing calluses and bloody fingers. Then sleeping (kind of) and doing it again the next day.
Regardless of the end outcome, this whole dodgeball thing should be done for the experience. With me coming from DePaul, I’d say that it should be for the fun experience. Most teams just aren’t going to do well in the end standings. There aren’t pro scouts. A college dodgeball student athlete is on his or her own after graduation. The only difference is that their dodgeball team likely provides that player a solid background, a solid friend base. A Lifetime worth of memories to look back on.
Unless you’re one out of twenty on the National Champion team, (1 out of 500 this year), you’ll likely have an even better memory that made the pain worth it. Concede the victory or concede the loss. Dispatch of the limits on dodgeballs in play and players on the floor, invite the fans, the parents, and the Officials to play for the rest of regulation time. Regular practices and dodgeball nights are the bread and butter of teams, even more so than NCDA matches. Bring that regular commradery to the NCDA court among other teams – friends and rivals alike – and you will validate your travel expenses and you shall have fun. Possibly even remain Undefeated.