The National Collegiate Dodgeball Association’s 2016 Executive of the Year is awarded to Caleb Arnold from Ohio University. The captain for first-year NCDA member team Ohio, Caleb demonstrated excellent leadership, scheduling his team 25 games. This honor is bestowed upon Caleb after the NCDA Executive Board vote (also nominated for this award was Erik Zander, the captain for Wisconsin Platteville).
I was able to ask a few questions of the league’s Executive of the Year, and I learned a lot about Caleb and his team. After reading through Caleb’s responses, I anticipate everyone else will have as much respect as I do for the President, Captain, and Founder of Ohio University Dodgeball:
Kevin Bailey – What were the reasons for you starting up a team at Ohio, and what were the main struggles that you encountered during this process?
Caleb Arnold – First of all, thank you and the rest of the league for giving me this opportunity to discuss a little about my team. Anyways, I have always had a passion for dodgeball. I was the kid in middle school that was first picked and the one that went to all of the extra school activities that consisted of dodgeball. When I went to Bowling Green, I had fallen in love with dodgeball all over again. I knew from day one at Bowling Green I was going to transfer to Ohio, there was just an academic struggle as to why I didn’t begin here at Ohio University and all because of dodgeball, I am extremely grateful I had to take that slight detour. When I got here and realized they didn’t have a team, I hopped on the opportunity. The main struggles with this process, however, was recruiting and also doing the best I could for the team to hopefully become a club sport next year. As most people know, we have only taken a full roster to one tournament. Many of them dropped because we lost but the dedicated ones have stayed and have been here since the beginning. Those players are now a family to me.
KB – Talk a little bit about your transition from BGSU to Ohio. What are some similarities / differences when it comes to the dodgeball club?
CA – When I went to Bowling Green, I didn’t plan on being a part of anything because, like I had stated before, I planned on transferring out when I could. When I heard of a dodgeball team, I just had to check it out. I went to the first practice and loved it. I think I missed one or two more practices the entire rest of the semester. We were a young team too. A lot of the Nationals roster was freshmen. I think that’s the biggest similarity that my team now and the team I was a part of last year had. It consisted of a large fraction of freshmen. That means that there is a huge learning curve to be done. As you can tell, Bowling Green has struggled with losing a large part of their team last year and now they have a young team. One huge difference though is the leadership. I mean Tyrell has been in the league for a few years now and I was in the league before starting my team for a semester. In that semester, I went to 2 tournaments. I attended Ohio Dodgeball Cup where we took home the win. Then I attended Nationals. As we have gone through this year, I had to learn to be a leader as well as teach my team when I learned something new myself. The thing I have loved about both teams though is the love we have with other teams. For the teams that open up to us with open arms, we return the favor. Sure there have been some teams that keep to themselves and that’s how they play. I think one thing our team loves is the homely feeling of the league and that will continue to go for us.
KB – Your team has played a remarkable 25 games as first year members of the NCDA. What was the main motivation for playing so many games?
CA – One thing I emphasized when presenting to the Club Sports Executive Committee here was that 25 games because that is by far our greatest achievement for this season. The main motivation for those games was what we could be next year. I told everybody from day one that if we have ten, we are going to tournaments. It’s the best way for us to learn and it’s the best way to get our name out there. The main motivation was to get through the rough year and earn what we hope to have next year, which is club sport status and a gain in numbers. Once we begin taking full rosters, I believe that we could be a threat, at least to teams closer to our level. We began being a threat to some teams with only eleven guys or so and that right there is I think enough motivation for my team and I to keep going strong.
KB – Adding onto that last question, how did you manage to travel so frequently as a club, and was there any pushback from your team doing so?
CA – One word: carpool. We never took a school van or bus or anything. I would shoot a text to the people who I knew had a car and ask if they would drive. Each player would fork up some money for gas and that was how we managed to travel places. As you can tell, there weren’t too many times that stopped us. A couple of times at the beginning of last semester and once this semester. Other than that, we booked it to Saginaw and Central Michigan. The only pushbacks that we did have happened when we had a shortage of drivers. Of the already small roster we have, we had a total of five drivers and if two missed, we were in a bind. Two of them didn’t join the carpool until this semester so last semester was a struggle for us definitely. Once my car got totaled, I even had to go home every weekend we had a tournament to borrow my mom’s car just to get us there. Other than that, if we had drivers, we were going.
KB – I am very impressed with you as a leader, being able to keep a youthful team together through 25 matches despite not having any wins this year. Can you talk a little bit about how you kept team morale up this year?
CA – I think this goes back to one of the previous questions, it was what we were working for. Even if we don’t become a club sport just yet, the fact that we could get into our Involvement Fair next year and recruit more freshmen was enough for my team. The numbers gain would help us tremendously. If we could gain just enough to take some subs to tournaments, we would’ve been much better off this year. With this being said, they had to be people that show up to practice. In my opinion, one of our worst played tournaments was the Buckeye Invitational and we took a full twenty player roster to it. This result was because close to half of that roster tended not to show up to practices. This league isn’t just middle school dodgeball anymore where the big kids can pick on the little kids. It’s a game that requires strategy and though we didn’t win, my team loved the fact that they were improving more and more every day.
KB – What are your main goals for your team at Nationals?
CA – The main goal for my team at Nationals is to go out and get a win. It doesn’t matter what day it is, get the win. We have worked extremely hard all year trying to get this goal and this will be the tournament that we take close, if not, a full roster of fifteen. If we can do that, I truly believe we can go out and get a win. With that being said, a couple players may sit the first game to get an understanding because they haven’t been to many practices recently. Aside from that goal, our next up is just to make some noise. We want to show the league that once we get everything under control, we don’t want to be the team to play for an easy win. We want to compete and give top teams a struggle.
KB – What was the best and worst moment of the year for this squad?
CA – The worst moment for this year for our team was by far the Buckeye Invitational. As I said, it was the first time we took a full roster but almost all of the new players we took didn’t continue playing. Also at that tournament, tempers were flaring. We had a player begin running his mouth causing arguments among our team. One thing we don’t do is argue between us or the other team. If something is to be settled, the leaders handle it in a mature way. That tournament was just an ugly event for us and we lost a few people afterwards. The best moment for this team for the year was probably the Ohio Dodgeball Cup. Though we didn’t win, I think we found ourselves during that tournament. We had a lot of spectacular plays and we almost took the host Akron down to a tie game late in the second half but a shot clock violation ate that chance up. That’s just a simple mistake that happened at the entirely wrong time. I think that tournament led to pretty good success at the Baldwin Wallace Invitational the following weekend. Where we are getting now is where I want to be.
KB – Any predictions for the future of Ohio University Dodgeball?
CA – One prediction I have for the future is I think Ohio University Dodgeball will become a contender within the next two years. I think next year, if we get the numbers we are hoping for, we will be able to compete with most of the Ohio region and probably some of the western regions that can’t travel as much. Most teams can’t hold up to Michigan teams so I won’t be too hopeful for that within the next year or so but before I leave, I will make us a struggle for the teams up north. I do have to say we will keep to the same work motives to attend as many events as possible. I think we have played the fifth most games this year out of any team so we will keep to that work ethic as long as I am here.