During the month of January, the NCDA Executive Board likes to honor an alumni that continues to stay relevant not just in the dodgeball community as a whole, but one that continuously makes an effort to do what they can to grow the sport of dodgeball on multiple levels. As the former Captain of Kent State, and current member of the Columbus Gamecocks, we have asked Kyle FitzPatrick to share some words with us about his journey through dodgeball over the past decade. Please follow along as President Felix Perrone and Director Jacob Leski (current teammates of Kyle’s) ask the ever-loving zookeeper about his passion for dodgeball, and why it still plays a major part in his life to this day…
Jacob Leski: Fitz, congratulations on your second Baller of the Month recognition. While we may both be incredibly biased, I feel I can speak for both Felix and myself when I say this is well deserved. So with that, how does it feel to be recognized by the NCDA 4 years after graduation?
Kyle FitzPatrick: Surprising, but feels great to still be recognized in the NCDA community.
JL: Did you ever imagine dodgeball would have the impact it’s had on your life? And feel free to add more then just one sentence Fitz…
KF: Fair enough! I don’t think anyone would expect dodgeball to take up such a huge portion of their life, but looking back it’s not as surprising as I would’ve guessed. I remember playing in middle school, and dodgeball being banned from my high school so sometimes I played in my neighbors basement with dog toys (life finds a way). It has been a very long journey since then, along the way I’ve met countless people that share the same passion for this sport. Many of whom are my closest friends.
Felix Perrone: Why are you looking forward to the 2019 ELITE season? Why is this season going to be any different for the Gamecocks?
KF: I’m looking forward to the 2019 season for the same reason I looked forward to the last three seasons: More Dodgeball! A new season brings new possibilities. For the Gamecocks, a new logo, a freshly loaded roster (including several 1st team NCDA All Americans), and hundreds of hours in the gym gives us all the tools we need for a successful 2019 campaign.
FP: What is it about the dodgeball community at Kent State that keeps you coming back each year to support them?
KF: I love watching people fall in love with the game, and I love watching those players get better and better as they put in the work. FUN FACTS: I didn’t get a single person out at a tournament my entire first year in the NCDA. Then after a large senior class graduated I ended up being Captain the next 3 years. There was a ton of growing pains, and a number of extra throwing nights to go from trash to decent to respectable on the court. I enjoy sharing my struggles when I see people frustrated, and helping whenever I can. Another reason I’m drawn to Kent is the Friday practices, they are beautifully unstructured and chaotic because everyone gets to play the role of reckless gunslinger and that will always be one of my favorite styles of play.
FP: How has the NCDA changed since you graduated? Do you think it’s been a positive change for the future of collegiate Collegiate dodgeball?
KF: The jerseys are better, teams are more engaged with each other and generally travel & play more. It’s been cool to see the rise of the East Coast teams. I remember being the only established NCDA team to go to the first East Coast tournament. And being able to see those programs grow over time has been great to see. I think the growth of the league, and the increased coverage over different tournaments and regions has been fun to keep up with. As far as the future, I think there are very dedicated individuals that really keep the sport moving. As long as people continue to step up and help the league anyway they can then I think the sky’s the limit.
FP: You were at Kent during the good years and the bad, did you ever feel like dodgeball wasn’t worth playing during those rougher years?
JL: Let’s try and share the wealth of questions here Felix…
FP: Leski is a silly idiot, wouldn’t you agree Kyle?
JL: Kyle remember that time Felix had an allergic reaction at an Elite round because he ate unwashed celery?
KF: True Felix: My sophomore year (first as captain) we had a win-less season. By senior year we went into nationals as the number 1 seed. Winning is fun, but if you’re not winning and you want to grow your program you have to find a way to have fun while getting experience (aka getting whooped on). Ryan Menn and I turned the club into a family and overall I enjoyed every year of my career. Hind sight is 20/20 though and there was plenty of doubt and drama along the way. If you only play to win then in my opinion you are missing out on the bigger picture of dodgeball and not getting enough out of your time playing the sport.
KF: I honestly don’t. Why would anyone give Felix unwashed celery? Hot take: Wash your celery.
FP: Thanks Fitz, the celery incident was a learning experience for us all. I added pesticides to my long list of allergies, and y’all learned not to feed me things.
Going along with your opinion about handling those rough years and what teams should take away from it, what do you want to see more of in college dodgeball?
KF: Well I think we all want to see more teams, and more specifically more teams competing for the championship. The first team to break the Michigan streak will be an NCDA savior. I also would love to see more maturity during matches, it’s something that is occasionally lacking and embarrassing.
FP: I 100% agree about the maturity levels. It’s the only thing about the NCDA that I am ashamed of. I hope we see a culture shift in the next couple of years. It’s interesting you said what you did, because it kind of answers our next question, but I’ll ask it anyway. If there’s one thing you could change about NCDA rules, what would it be?
KF: I think anyone that has ever said any version of: “Don’t go out until the ref calls you out, should be put on a public shame list. Most of the major rule changes I wanted to see occur have been put in place. 12v12, no dirty blocking, 6v6 OT. I haven’t stayed current in the newest rule debates, but I do believe in increasing the neutral zone for closer throw lines. I personally also think active shagging could be implemented aka any ball out of bounds on a team’s side could be given directly to the team rather than just placed where it went out of bounds. Could potentially limit wall bounce back strategies and lead to more engaging/less lopsided play. I desperately want to see maturity levels rise, but I believe that has to be a cultural thing rather than rule based, same goes for filming matches. Going back briefly about things I would like to see in the league, I would love too see more dodgeballers try other leagues and styles as well, whether it’s a local charity tournament, social league, or skyzone, and Elite circuits. Play everything, even if it’s different and you don’t immediately excel. I’ve watched so many amazing dodgeballers retire after the NCDA just because they are too stubborn to adapt to other styles and it’s a terrible loss for dodgeball in general…My answers are getting to the TLDR length.
FP: TLDR is fine! This is your time to talk about what’s on your mind. When Kevin Bailey is alone and reading the mean things we say about him and his team online does he say, “Geez” or “Wow” out loud or just in his own head?
KF: Out loud, I’ve never known Kevin to keep a thought to himself.
FP: Yeah, he is pretty much a blabbering idiot. Speaking of which, what’s it like being friends with Ryan Menn?
KF: Pretty great. We don’t actually like each other, but if I was getting married (presumably to Felix) he would be my best man. And he would mercilessly roast me with a decade of ammunition.
FP: That’s cute. He is a lovable lil guy. Two more questions then we’ll let you go. This is the last thing I want since you’re such an important part of the Gamecocks, but I have to ask since you’ve been playing so long. When can we expect a retirement announcement from Kyle “Nice ass body” FitzPatrick?
KF: I’m nearly 30 and I’m playing better than I did when I was 20. I plan on playing until I can’t (and maybe slightly longer).
FP: I honestly couldn’t be happier to hear that.
JL: I would like to finally add in that I was the one that brought the celery, and watched with joy as your tongue began to swell up. Last question! What do you want to say to college dodgeball players today?
KF: If you took time out of your day to read this article then you are likely as hopelessly addicted to the game as I am, and I’ll be seeing you around. Otherwise have fun, take something from every match, socialize with other teams, record your matches, be nicer to the Executive Board, and if you ever have any questions I’m easy enough to get ahold of. Cheers!