The first few articles in the series will be come from the team sharing their experiences and thoughts in the league. We will first hear from Leon Rockamore who plays for Cleveland State University.
Dodgeball has always been a favorite sport of mine growing up. Whenever I got the chance to play in school or at after school clubs, I was ecstatic. There was always something about the premise of the sport that was so hype to me. And I can remember all of the epic depictions of it in my favorite TV shows, where one person would go against an entire team dodging every ball and making clutch catches to secure the victory. The sport was just epic to me. However, due to the inherently dangerous nature of it and existence of more popular sports, I never got to play it much. So its rarity made it even more of a gem to me.
During my first semester at CSU, I found dodgeball again. A bunch of guys and girls were playing in the gym and I was more than excited when I was invited to join in. I didn’t even have the right shoes on and was wearing sunglasses, but I went in anyway and had the time of my life. I’d join them every Tuesday and Thursday, and overtime began developing my skills in the game. One of the leaders at the time, Eric Boehm, approached me about the club and asked if I wanted to join. Up until this point, dodgeball had mostly been a source of fun and relief in between my engineering classes. I had never considered doing it at a competitive level and was honestly kind of nervous at first. Eric believed I was turning into a great player and wanted me to travel with the team and get a feel of what it’s like playing it as a college sport. I agreed and traveled to my first tournament in Spring 2018.
I was all nerves at that tournament, but I had a great time. What stood out to me immediately was the disparity in diversity. Most of the players on any team were white and men, despite the sport being co-ed as well. Some teams had one or two members that were black or another minority, but it wasn’t often as far as I could tell. Besides that, the comradery from every team was amazing, and I was surprised how friendly everyone was considering the sport was so competitive. CSU’s team seemed to be on very good terms with other Ohio teams, such as Akron. While I didn’t do too well at my first tournament, I had a great time, and it only drove me to do better at every tournament following.
With my few years of experience playing in the NCDA, I’ve had many great experiences and found my passion in the sport. Upon first glance, one can see the overall lack of diversity that exists in the league, but in my opinion, it’s not staggering. Since I’ve joined, I’ve seen way more minorities join as the league has grown, on other teams and my own. What I believe can be most attributed to the lack of diversity is simply interest in the sport. I don’t see a lot of people like me get hype for dodgeball; and if they do, after trying it out they don’t stick around very long. It’s sad because I’ve seen some great potential talents come and go. To me the NCDA is very welcoming and accepting to everyone, regardless of ethnicity or background. I hope that through sharing my experience it’ll encourage more people of different backgrounds to give dodgeball a chance and find out what the sport means to them. As the NCDA continues to grow in players and staff, I feel its outreach to more diverse players will grow as well.
I want to help the NCDA reach out to more people so it can expand and develop into the major sport I know it can be. Everyone’s experience with dodgeball is different and I want as many people to find theirs as possible. For me, the sport has become my passion and I strive to be the best player in the world someday, on and off the court. Whenever I’m on the court I know that the only thing that matters is skill, and anyone with it can shine. That’s what I love about dodgeball.