What If: the Grip was never invented?

Fire. The wheel. Modern language. The automobile. TiVo.

History is marked by the advancements that have propelled society forward and pushed the edges of technology into areas once thought of only in science fiction.

In our daily lives, we utilize technology so often we can’t imagine an existence without cell phones, laptops and satellite television.

As college dodgeball players, we’re often guilty of forgetting the unique advancements that make our game the highest level of competitive dodgeball in the country.

The rules, structure and traditions of this great game create a flavor of dodgeball that can only be found at the college level.

Arguably one of the biggest differences (the biggest in this writer’s opinion) between NCDA play and every other variety is the prevalence of the famous “Gorilla Grip” in our games.

Also known as “the Grippy,” “the grip” or “pinching,” the Gorilla Grip is the technique of squeezing the ball that results in faster throws and reduced accuracy (at least in the beginning).

Created by Ohio State legend Greg Funk three years ago, the grip allowed OSU to decimate the competition at Nationals and capture the championship that year.

Since then, it has been adopted by every team and is taught as a fundamental skill in dodgeball, much like proper tackling in football or hitting techniques in baseball.

During games, the biggest indicator of new players is those who throw without the grip.

Good pitchers can throw curveballs. Seasoned quarterbacks can throw spirals. Experienced dodgeballers can throw with the grip.

So, what would the league be like today if the gorilla grip had never been invented?

This little trip down hypothetical lane provides a chilling depiction of an alternate NCDA universe.

Just imagine a game where the hardest throw zooms at you with the same velocity as a football thrown on its side.

Catches would increase dramatically and headshots would lose all significance.

Every throw that couldn’t be caught would be blocked and players could take a quick nap before having to dodge an incoming throw.

There would be no learning curve for people making the jump from PE dodgeball to the college game.

While this may seem good for acclimating new players, the most competitive souls love the challenge of mastering a sport they’re not good at right away.

A world without the gorilla grip would make it even harder to keep players from losing interest once they realized college dodgeball was essentially the same game they’d played their entire lives.

Fan interest would also decrease because, honestly, everyone just wants to see a player get drilled below the belt or above the shoulders.

A game played without the grip would be like watching professional bowling with the gutters blocked off or a NBA game on a six-foot goal.

Worst of all, the WASA dodgeballers from Wreckreation Nation would probably give us a run for our money!

That alone is enough to ensure that Greg Funk will be one of the first dodgeballers enshrined in the NCDA Hall of Fame.

For now, college dodgeball players should be thankful their game has developed its one distinct advantage over other cheap imitations.

Without it, those fogies out in Colorado really would be the cream of the dodgeball crop.

Scary, isn’t it?

Dodgeball World Cup

Hey everyone I know its been awhile since I last posted but its the off season so not much is going on. But the biggest event in the dodgeballworld is happening in less than a month, the Dodgeball World Cup, and I felt like this deserved a nice post. I will be going to this event as a freelancer and trying out for the pros although, as most of the NCDA knows, the “pros” are nothing compared to how we play.

I felt like I had a chance to compete and do well in the competition happening August 14th-16th in Las Vegas so I decided to try it out. The DWC has 5 divisions; Open 8.5″, Co-ed 8.5″, Open Stinger, Co-ed Stinger, and Women’s. Personally I can’t wait to see the Women’s division just to experience what females can do when the guys aren’t around. On the other hand I am not excited for stingers. Honestly I don’t even think stingers should exist in the world of dodgeball it takes away the brutal bruises from a traditional 8.5″ which is so much more fun to show around (as far as battle wounds go).

Regardless of my personal preferences I think the DWC will be a blast, even if the pros are chicken shit compared to our league, and I will be posting pics and comments about my experience as a woman in this huge competition.

Raymer: NCDA 5 Year Plan

**These goals are endorsed by WKU Captain Josh Raymer and Alternate Captain Felix Perrone and do not represent the goals of other team captains or the NCDA as an organization.**

THE GOALS

GOAL ONE: Double the number of teams in the league and maintain the teams currently in existence.

GOAL TWO: Create an executive board comprised of representatives from each team who can elect a President, Vice President, Secretary, and other pertinent positions.

GOAL THREE: Have a complete website with Flash elements that is updated daily by representatives from each school.

GOAL FOUR: Assuming Goal One is met: separate league teams into Northeast, Northwest, Southeast and Southwest Divisions.

GOAL FIVE: Assuming Goal Four is met: develop set schedules for each team in the league.

GOAL SIX: Develop a recruitment package for potential teams that includes a video explaining league rules, a DVD with game footage, a contact sheet for the league and a guide with tips and instructions for starting a team.

GOAL SEVEN: Assuming Goals One and Four are met: change the format of Nationals to include only the top two teams from each division.

GOAL EIGHT: Assuming Goals One, Two and Four are met: have members of the executive board decide on a rotational schedule for Nationals among schools from each division.

GOAL NINE: Land a story in a major sports publication, such as ESPN Magazine, Sports Illustrated or Sporting News.

THE PLAN

GOAL ONE: League representative Mike Zimmer will conduct research to find universities where dodgeball events are taking place. He will make contact to request approval for shipment of the promotional package. After that, he will contact the captain of the university nearest the prospect to suggest attending that event. It will be the responsibility of that captain to help establish a program at that school.

GOAL TWO: Establish the positions and their responsibilities at the 2009 National tournament. We should look to elect people to these positions before the end of the current school year.

GOAL THREE: Set aside future sponsorship money to put toward a fully developed Flash website. This will probably cost between $2,000-4,000. Raymer has a potential contact for this project, but funds would be needed.

GOAL FOUR: See chart below.

GOAL FIVE: Teams within each division would decide on a set schedule by July 31st every year. That schedule would include at least one game against every divisional opponent and at least two games against non-divisional opponents.

GOAL SIX: Members of the executive board would help assemble the necessary components of the promotional package. Different team leaders could be responsible for creating a guide, a rules video and assembling game footage.

GOAL SEVEN: See pictures below.

GOAL EIGHT: Move the national tournament from one division to another. For instance, have a SW team host in 2010, a NE team host in 2011, a CENTRAL team host in 2012 and a NW team host in 2013. Then repeat the process starting in 2014 with new teams from each divisions.

GOAL NINE: League representative Mike Zimmer would contact various media outlets and promote upcoming NCDA events. Should those outlets be interested, Zimmer would put that outlet in contact with those responsible for planning the event.

POTENTIAL DIVISIONS

Northwest: UWP, DePaul, GVSU, Marquette*, Bradley*
Northeast: CMU, SVSU, MSU, HFCC, W Michigan*
Southwest: UofL, WKU, UK, EKU*, GA Tech*
Central: OSU, Kent, BGSU, Miami, Penn State*

CHAMPION BRACKET* Teams that are expected to join the NCDA next season.

ELIMINATED BRACKET

Sometimes known as “That Cult”

Story by: Ben Rusch

Most teams in the NCDA instantly recognize DePaul as the team who cares only about fun… and we wouldn’t have it any other way. The DePaul Dodgeball club was founded with the intention to allow students to cut loose from their stresses in life, whatever those may be. It initially attracted a wide variety of students from all different backgrounds, and this club diversity became a mainstay in the culture of the club.

Today, our club consists of everything from finance students to musicians and aspiring filmmakers to philosophy majors. Some of us our metalheads, some of us are hippies. There are girls, and there and guys, but we’re all dudes. Essentially, we come together despite our differences in lifestyle, career paths and interests because we all have on commonality; we love this freaking sport. You will never find a more cohesive group of people with more differences in personality, and that’s all because dodgeball has brought us together to hone our aggresive energy into something that makes us feel like kids again. We’re often referred to by lame, isolated DePaul students as “The Cult”, because of our ridiculous antics and overt hilarity. These are all huge reasons why we play the way that we do.

Instead of holding practices, we just play. Everyone is invited, and you’re numbered off into two games like it’s a pick-up game. Non-stop play for 2 hours, thats how we roll. And we have never forgotten the dodgeball, so in the spirit of gym classes all around the country, we attempt to be deviant and goofy as much as possible. Remember that time your gym teacher told you that you were being too aggresive and energetic during dodgeball play??? We burn that teacher in effigy at DePaul. We refuse to put a cap or filter on the fun we have… and this is the exact reason for the phenomenon of “Baby Shark”, trick shots like “The Awesome” and “The Shotgun” and our contradictory moniker “undefeated”. We will never be defeated because we will always have fun. Plain and simple.

Come join us on Monday and Thursday nights and experience the DePaul mantra for yourself. I promise, you’ll never wanna go back to running wind sprints or practicing strategy in your practices again ;-).

The ROB 9000

If you were to sit it out in public, it would attract plenty of confused stares. People would whisper to their neighbor in the hope of determining what exactly they were looking at.

“Is it some kind of funky armchair?” they would say. “Some piece of obscure construction equipment? A new aged torture device?!”

No, no, and definitely not.

To put it as simply as possible, it’s a pitching machine. But not in the way that you’re thinking.

It was an idea that came to me after the conclusion of last season. Our team had just completed a winless season in our inaugural year, finishing up with a thorough thrashing at the hands of Ohio State.

Despite the fact that our inexperience had factored heavily into each of our losses, our team clearly needed to improve in several areas of the game. We were getting blown off the court by teams that made better throws, dodged more effectively, and caught every ball that came their way.

This last issue struck me as the most important area of improvement for our team. We needed to become better catchers if we had any chance of finding success next season. But upgrading our skills in this department had posed several challenges to us during our previous practice sessions.

For starters, we couldn’t practice catching off a live arm for more than a couple throws before that player’s arm was completely dead. We often found ourselves skipping out on catching practice for the sake of having a decent scrimmage at the end of each session.

Replicating the speed and the unique spin of a grippy throw also proved to be rather difficult. The handful of players on our team who could actually make that kind of throw consistently were never keen about burning out their arms for someone else’s sake.

So it became imperative for me to come up with a different solution to our problem.

I got the idea for a pitching machine after returning to what had inspired to start a dodgeball team in the first place: Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story.

The training sequence in that movie featured a dual wheeled contraption that Patches O’Houlihan used to launch balls at the various members of Average Joe’s gym and torture Justin Long’s character by pummeling him unmercifully. This seemed like the perfect answer for our catching woes. Having an automated delivery system to practice with would save our arms and expose us to some serious fastballs.

So I turned to eBay to explore the price range for this particular style pitching machine. The results, to put it mildly, were jaw-dropping. Prices in the upper hundreds and lower thousands jumped out at me. Short of taking out a bank loan, our chances of getting a Dodgeball-esque pitching machine had all but disappeared.

But the dodgeball gods smiled upon our team that day. A closer examination of the variety of pitching machines on eBay revealed a style that I had never seen before. For lack of a more a precise definition, it was basically a weight bench with a large slingshot attached to the vertical poles that hold the bench press bar.

The machine’s specs said it could throw up to 70 mph and the price tag of about $80 provided a huge sigh of relief. But its simplistic design had me thinking that it might be possible to build our own and help preserve our already meager budget. An early sweep of local consignment stores made it obvious that finding an affordable weight bench was not going to be as easy as I had planned.

Despite that, my main concern was soon taken care of when I found a couple rubber exercise bands that I could use to make the slingshot. They were the quality I needed at a price that made my wallet very happy. Further digging into the wide world of weight benches led me to determine that a different support system for the bands would be necessary if I wanted to transfer my creation from my imagination to the dodgeball court.

After a trial run with the rubber bands, a sign post and a weight tree proved my idea could actually work, I quickly planned out a new contraption that I thought had an outside chance of working. I called up my buddy Robert to ask if he would help me construct my masterpiece, since my only experience with construction was the few times I watched Bob the Builder with my younger cousins. (OK, it was just me.)

He agreed to help and gave me a list of supplies that I would need to acquire. I hurriedly rounded up those necessary items and he arrived a few days later. Using a couple 4X4s, some 2X4s, a box of nails and a saw, we spent the next two hours assembling the creation in the shadow of my family’s carport. My original design, which I had anticipated would not work, did not fail to disappoint. Instead, Robert used his expert design skills to tweak and improve upon what I had initially envisioned.

After a hard day’s work, we both stared in awe at the masterpiece that stood before us. I was slightly scared because I knew something had to go wrong. I decided to test it out to see if I was just being paranoid. I excitedly jumped out in front of the machine, which I dubbed the “ROB 9000” in honor of Robert’s help, and awaited its maiden ball launch. There were butterflies in my stomach and I couldn’t keep my heart from pounding inside my chest.

Robert placed a dodgeball inside the pouch between the bands, pulled back and let it fly. Before I could even react, the ball had shot out like a rocket and planted itself firmly in my gut. I was ecstatic. Having the air driven from my lungs by the ROB 9000’s first launch sent tears of joy down my face. It had worked better than I ever could have imagined, and as I stood there gasping for breath, only one thought kept going through my mind:

“Wait until the guys get a load of this…”

Hall of Fame talk

I’ve been on the NCDA forums and I was excited to see a Hall of Fame topic for discussion. I looked through the posts and I saw that the top votes went to guys. This is completely understandable. But the more I looked at the nomination process the more I wanted to be a part of it. I want to be in the NCDA Hall of Fame but sadly I haven’t done anything to warrant a nomination. So I have decided to do everything I can to make BGSU dodgeball a top competitor in the years to come and possibly get a nomination. But I don’t want to be the only one. I want every girl in the NCDA to make difference for their team. Whether it be popularizing a “Grip” (like OSU’s Funk) or revitalizing a team, a girl can be an indispensable part of their team. Let’s get those nominations ladies!

Blue Demons Focus on Fun

Story by: Ben Rusch

DePaul University, located in scenic Chicago, is a unique team within the NCDA. Whereas many teams focus on the competitive aspect of the sport, the Blue Demons tend to focus on the fun and ridiculous nature of a bunch of undergraduates playing a child’s game.

Several players take a keen interest on inventing complicated (and usually impractical) trick throws, including The Awesome, The Amazing, and The Mexican Flying Coffin Filler. The spectacular failures and the shocking successes of throws like these are equally entertaining.

In terms of tournament play, DePaul is in a rebuilding phase.

Last season’s National team sported two seniors and 14 players with no prior tournament experience. While numeric successes from Ohio State were limited, we were able to hang out with our good buddies at Michigan State, and our new friend “Chris” from GVSU.

DePaul-style dodgeball has significant differences in game play than most schools in an effort to increase the pace and intensity of the game.

For example, a catch does not eliminate the thrower (though one person from the catching team’s jail returns to the court), and boundary lines (excluding the neutral zone) tend to be fluid.

The basic core belief of Blue Demon Dodgeball is that it’s a game, and while no game should be taken too seriously, dodgeball should probably be taken even less seriously.

When it stops being fun, the reason for grown men and women to throw rubber kickballs at each other ceases to be.

Is Dodgeball Sexist?

I love dodgeball with all of my heart but it seems to me that the NCDA is geared for the guys because most of the decision making is done by guys. Even the throws are geared toward a male grip. I wonder whether dodgeball could be a more diverse sport with a healthy mixture of males and females. Maybe it isn’t. The few girls in the NCDA may have to become guys to even be competitive. Also the fact that girls are vastly underestimated as players is bothersome mainly because I have been conditioned to pick out the girls as easy outs because thats what the rest of my team does. I have seen girls that have canons (due to softball I’m guessing). I’ve seen girls with great hands. I’ve seen girls that are great blockers (usually their main function). So why are we not seen as a player to look out for? We play just as hard as the guys and we deserve to be recognized for our efforts. Hey, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this sport is truly for the guys but I hope that in the future we can appreciate everyone no matter what kind of reproductive organs they have.

Our current nationals format the best?

I can’t help but wonder if the way we run the national tournament at the end of the year is the best way to crown a champion. Currently, the way we do things we have all the teams come and play three games on Saturday, which pretty much destroys everyone’s arms. So what happens the next day? You come right back and can possibly play another three games.

It’s almost as if it’s a marathon of dodgeball, to see who can last the longest. While, I think Grand Valley was obviously a deserving champion this year, and would have most likely won it had they been forced to play 11 games the first day I still have to draw it into question.

What other sport does something like this? Outside of the time your beer league softball team decides to go to a softball tournament and plays 8 games in two days, you’re going to be hard pressed to find a sport that crowns it’s champions similarly.

Though there is always the argument that comes up that is hard to fight, in that teams want to play everyone they can at nationals because it’s the only time of year they see a lot of the teams. Well, the simple solution to that would be to host several small tournaments throughout the year. If nationals was limited to the amount of teams going maybe teams would feel like they actually needed to schedule a game or two throughout the year.

So what is my solution? Followers of my blog know that I have always been an advocate for regional tournaments that take place 1-4 weeks before nationals. The top 1 or 2 teams from each regional advance to Nationals. Then instead of having over 10 teams at nationals, and maybe even a few more junior varsity teams (what other national tournament allows JV teams???) you have teams that deserve to be there. Then when you say you go to the national tournament it actually means something. It gives your team something to work towards. I know there are people that disagree with me, but that’s fine. There will probably come a day someday along the line that you realize I’m on to something.

Reliving Nationals

Before April 4, 2009, the concept of Dodgeball Nationals was very foreign to me.

Don’t get me wrong, I had ideas of what the year’s final tournament would be like from listening to some of the older guys talk about it.

But without seeing it firsthand, the notions I held regarding Nationals were very similar to what I thought college would be like while I was still in high school.

People would preach to me about how awesome college was and I would hear dudes older than me reliving their favorite college stories like they were straight from a blockbuster comedy.

Needless to say, my emotions during the eight hour drive up to Grand Rapids were a mixture of nerves and giddy excitement. I felt like a kid on Christmas Eve before he finds out Santa Claus isn’t real. (My parents dropped that bombshell on me last year, much to my dismay.) As I tried to fall asleep on the Styrofoam hotel mattress Friday night, I had a million unanswered questions running through my head.

How would my team fare? What would the captains’ meeting by like? Was GVSU still as dominate as when they whipped us 15-0 our first season? Did anyone actually listen to our podcast?

Walking into that gym the first day was like walking into Disney World for the first time. There was so much I wanted to do.

The setup was fantastic.

Using GVSU’s basketball court as the main stage for competition was ridiculously cool. I mean, how many teams can say they play every game on their basketball team’s court? I could feel the excitement humming through my guys like electricity. They all sensed it.

We’re finally here. After months of anticipation, we’re about to play in the most legitimate tournament we’ll probably ever play in.

Some quick stretching and reuniting with familiar faces helped me shake some of the nerves. It wasn’t like I was seriously worried about the teams we were going to play or how well we’d do. I was just incredibly excited to be at the national tournament and anxious to get started.

Before I knew it, we were being whisked away to the bowels of the Fieldhouse for my first ever captains’ meeting. When we all settled into the chairs lining that lecture hall, you would’ve been hard pressed to find a more dedicated group of guys on the planet at that moment. After some last-minute scrambling, we finally configured the schedules for the first day. My team would play Central Michigan, GVSU JV and Wisconsin-Platteville.

During that first game against CMU, I could’ve griped about how we were drained from the eight hour car ride or just had first half jitters. The simple fact was that we underestimated CMU. That’s one of the beauties of Nationals. It brings together teams that you haven’t played or never even seen play before.

Despite turning a 0-4 deficit into a heartbreaking 3-4 loss, our game against CMU did yield one of the weekend’s funniest moments. It came during the first point. I never even saw it, but apparently a rocket throw from CMU made a detour to crush my buddy Adam Martin in his face as he stood up from grabbing a ball. This was hilarious for several reasons. If you check the pictures from Nationals, you can see the elaborate face paint and hairdo that #99 trotted out for the first day. Knowing that we’d be seeing black face paint on some of the balls was an amusing reminder of how many times Martin stopped throws with his face.

But nothing could’ve topped Martin’s face when he approached me before the start of the second point. In fact, I’m laughing about the thought of it as I write this sentence. The sight of Martin with his eyes swollen shut and a mixture of sweat, tears and snot running down his face was absolutely priceless. Even more classic was him telling me, “I’m fine! I can still play.”

Also on my personal highlight reel was getting hit in not one, but BOTH, buttcheeks by some rocket throws during the GVSU JV game. Like Ron Burgundy said, “I’m not even mad. That’s amazing.” Our team definitely had the best pre-point ritual when we imitated the Globo Gym Purple Cobras against DePaul.

I believe Jack Attack said he was “rolfcoptering” on the floor after that one. Finally, we perfected the game of “Gladiator” against SVSU. Watching our guys battle it out against the Cardinal juggernaut might’ve been my proudest moment of the weekend.

When it was all said and done, we didn’t finish as well as I’d hope. But here’s the way I look at it, thanks to an attitude rearrangement from DePaul’s guys: ten years from now, I won’t remember the record we finished with or the points we should’ve won.

I’ll remember all the awesome dudes we met and the feeling of being around so many people that love the great game of dodgeball. And how much my cheeks hurt after that GVSU game, of course.