As we inch closer and closer to the start of another National Collegiate Dodgeball Association (NCDA) season, I plan to begin a series of articles on “College Dodgeball’s Winning Formula”. From my experience as a player and board member within this league, there seems to be no shortage of enthusiasm or commitment among players. But that has not transitioned to on-court success for some teams, especially those in their first year or two as a program.
My goal with this series is simply to provide some insight into what it takes to be a championship level dodgeball player/team in the NCDA. It is no secret that building a club sport at your school is a difficult task. Competing against programs with far more experience makes that process even more trying. This series should help expedite that improvement process. Future topics in this series will be about recruitment of players, practice formats, etc., but this first portion is a bit unique. The reason I am writing about Elite Dodgeball right now is because the Elite season just ended, and I am more convinced now than ever before that this is something NCDA players NEED to be involved in. Now, time for Part One: Play Elite Dodgeball!
The title says it all. But for those of you who have been living under a rock the past few years, Elite Dodgeball is a highly competitive dodgeball league that has grown dramatically in recent years. It is played with a 6v6 format on a smaller court than what we are used to in our league. The Elite season spans spring-summer, and each “Region” (divided North, South, East, and West) has 3 tournaments during that time-frame. After the regular season there is a National Championship Tournament late in the summer.
You may be wondering why I would advertise another league through the NCDA website, but it’s pretty simple: the NCDA and Elite are not competing leagues. In fact, the two leagues complement each other quite perfectly. The NCDA is a major breeding ground for Elite Dodgeball. So many NCDA players join the league to continue their dodgeball careers during the NCDA off-season or once they have graduated. Simply put, Elite has gained many successful teams through the NCDA that otherwise would not be part of their league. As more and more NCDAers become convinced they should play Elite, the percentage of Elite dodgeballers with NCDA experience will continue to rise. On the other side, Elite is an ideal off-season league for collegiate dodgeballers to play in if they want to hone their skills and improve as a player before the next NCDA season kicks off in the fall (more on this later). On top of that, NCDA players can form relationships with athletes from across the country that will only help in our efforts to grow and expand collegiate competition. Basically, whenever a group of NCDA players decide to compete in Elite Dodgeball, it ends up being a win-win for the two organizations.
Many NCDA players/alumni compete in Elite Dodgeball tournaments throughout the year, and this past weekend I saw a huge number of current/former NCDA ballers in Boston, MA for this season’s Elite Dodgeball National Championships. I, along with many other members of the NCDA Executive Board and Content Team, have been urging college dodgeballers to join Elite, but I felt the need to put it into writing here.
There really are countless benefits that come with making a team to compete in Elite Dodgeball tournaments throughout the summer. First off, there are cash prizes (something we can’t exactly do as a college sport… sorry). Beyond that, there is the social aspect that comes with Elite. I have made so many new friends and connections through this league. I’ve also had the opportunity to take weekend trips to various cities throughout the country to (hopefully) win money playing the best sport known to man. Who wouldn’t want to do that? Oh, and for any lady dodgeballers out there, while the NCDA only offers one division (coed), Elite has a number of different divisions including an all-women’s division. It is awesome to have that opportunity to play in different formats.
Anyway, the social aspect of Elite is great, winning money is also nice, and the experiences I have had off the court have been phenomenal over the past few years, but there is one more MAJOR benefit that comes with playing in Elite.
You will get way better at dodgeball. Trust me on this one. The main reason I made this “part one” of my series is because I have seen so many players go from average to All-American thanks in part to their involvement in Elite Dodgeball. Why you ask? A few reasons.
First and foremost, playing against strong competition will only help you improve, and the level of talent that you will see in Elite Dodgeball tournaments is second to none. There are unbelievably talented players all across the country that don’t happen to be in college anymore, so NCDA Dodgeball is out of the question for them. What league do you think they play in? Yep, you got it. Elite Dodgeball.
This past weekend, as I mentioned, Elite hosted its National Championships in Boston. I can confidently say that it was the best collection of dodgeball talent that there has been at one tournament… ever. Seriously, in the history of the sport of dodgeball, last weekend in Boston was the most competitive tourney that has ever happened. Playing against the best competition out there will only help you improve. You will have no choice but to do so. Going head-to-head with top level talent is the best way to prepare for an NCDA season. It is certainly part of the reason why my team at Grand Valley State was able to have so much success over the past half-decade. So many of us chose to play Elite during the off-season, and it set us up for success during the NCDA season.
A second reason why Elite helps NCDA players get better is due to their format / ruleset. NCDA plays from a 30 ft throw-line, while Elite divisions play from 20 and 25 ft (depending on if it is a pinch division or a non-pinch division). Playing from closer quarters has helped NCDA players improve their reaction time, catching skills, and overall court awareness. After playing a summer of Elite Dodgeball, you will go back to NCDA and notice how much the game has slowed down for you. It will make the 30 ft throw-line seem easier, even when there are 70mph pinch throws flying at your face…
As mentioned above, there are multiple divisions. Elite offers both pinch and non-pinch divisions. While this may sound weird at first, I can assure you that it will help you as a player. In the NCDA, there is only one ruleset. In Elite, while there is a division where pinching the ball is permitted, there is also an “Open Division” where you are forced to throw and block the ball open handed, no pinching allowed. Sure, many NCDA players have grown up with pinch as their main play-style, but learning a new form of dodgeball, and adjusting to this new format does wonders for your skillset. For anyone who has never played in a tournament outside of the NCDA, learning to throw without a pinch will be a learning curve, but in the end will help you improve your arm strength, hand strength, throw accuracy, and overall dodgeball IQ.
So, as I wrap this article up, I’ll spell it out pretty simply for you. If you want your team to compete for championships in the NCDA, there really is only one choice to make here: play Elite Dodgeball. NCDA format is 12v12 while Elite is 6v6 as mentioned earlier. I’m no math major, but it sounds like every school could put together 2 Elite teams for next season if you draw from your starting lineup alone. Throw in your bench and JV players and some schools could produce upwards of 5 Elite teams by themselves! There is a massive talent pool in the NCDA that Elite Dodgeball is yet to discover. So many great players have not yet tested out this league.
If you have any questions regarding Elite Dodgeball, or what you should do next as you try to form a team, feel free to message me. I would be happy to answer all your questions or put you in contact with the right person to do so. The NCDA has a great relationship with Elite, and they would be more than willing to assist you in the formation of your team for next season.
Speaking of next season, Elite has not announced their tournament dates for the 2018 season just yet. Generally, they do an announcement on Christmas, disclosing all the dates for that following year. Most NCDA teams happen to be located in either Elite’s “North” or “East” region. Tournaments in those regions typically span from April-July.
Stay on the lookout for that tournament schedule information when winter hits, but in the meantime, talk with your teammates and gauge interest. Like I have said several times already, if you want to win in the NCDA, play Elite Dodgeball!
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