Kentucky Dodgeball Classic

Six teams came together for the second annual Kentucky Dodgeball Classic on Nov. 16. Three teams finished the day at a perfect 3-0, and three others finished 0-3, yet Saginaw Valley State University was awarded the first place trophy due to point differential.

For SVSU, it was their first tournament championship as a team.

“The thing I was most impressed with is how many people (on our team) actually wanted to go this year,” SVSU president and captain Bryan Janick said. “It was nice having a full team even though six varsity guys didn’t go.”

Saginaw Valley opened up their tournament with a 7-1 win over Western Kentucky. They followed it up with two more convincing wins over the University of Louisville 9-0, and host University of Kentucky 5-0.

“We played really well, but the one game that stuck out the most to me was when we lost our only point to Western Kentucky,” Janick said. “The next game we did not let them past the half court line and the win only took 45 seconds. It was amazing.”

Michigan State University and Kent State University also went undefeated, as they topped the three Kentucky schools as well. MSU was credited with finishing second and Kent State third.

“The tournament was a great opportunity to play some teams early in the season that we don’t normally see until nationals,” Michigan State president Michael Youngs said. “I think that our rookies got some much needed experience and all in all it was a great tournament for our team.”

While Western Kentucky, Louisville, and Kentucky went a collective 0-9 on the day, they still gained a lot of experience.

For Louisville, it was only their second day of action in the National College Dodgeball Association.

“It was really tough playing against more experienced teams,” Louisville player Lainey Birkhead said.

“Everyone threw a lot harder and seemed to have at least some kind of strategy in place. We went into the tournament wanting to gain experience and have fun and I think we were able to do just that,” she said.

While Western Kentucky was able to beat Louisville earlier in the season, they found playing the northern teams much more difficult.

“In order to beat the non-Kentucky teams, we must learn to play better as a team and stop attacking alone,” Western Kentucky president Josh Raymer said.

“We also must do a better job of watching out for cross court throws and dominate the other team from the opening rush. We stay on the baseline too much and let the other team pick us off in bunches,” he said.

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.

Too long of a season?

So there is surprisingly only a month left in the dodgeball season. But it leaves me wondering, is our season too long? It seems each your teams start playing games earlier and earlier in the year, and then this year SVSU played GVSU in early September. So essentially, our season has gone from the start of the fall semester to all but the final three weeks of the school year.

So, is it too much? For a team like SVSU it might be. We have had a game or a tournament almost every weekend. Which leaves for little else to do… Not that I am complaining. Though, I wonder what the schools that play fewer games like the Kentucky or Ohio schools think.

Perhaps if we shortened to a start date of early November, and still ending in April it would create more of a season feel as well, instead of a year round thing.

Perhaps having this long of a season isn’t a bad thing. You can get the most games in this way, you can get new members anytime, and build your arm strength to an ungodly level.

That’s really it… no pressing issues this time

How to get your club rolling

Just about everyone that plays in the NCDA wants to see more and more teams join. However, the last two seasons we seem to be at a stand still when it comes to new teams joining. We have gained a few, but have lost others. Here is my advice for those of you that are interested in creating a team at your school, or for those of you that want to give your existing club a shot in the arm.

Firstly, and what seems to be obvious but is not always done well is getting the word out about your club. While it’s impossible to get everyone to take note that you are creating dodgeball team, things as simple as a few flyers, an add in the school paper, and open pracite times are a great way to get the word out. Even try getting the word out to local papers. Some eat dodgeball stories right up, since it’s quite different than their normal coverage.

Secondly, try and find that core group of players that you think will be most dedicated and work your way from there. They don’t have to be the best players (though that always helps) but they should be able to create a solid foundation for your club, so that as it grows bigger and bigger you have the foundation ther to support it.

Thirdly, increase your membership anyway how. Invite everyone you know, and have everyone on your team invite everyone they know. Invite the people you see in the hallways or the guys that are playing pick up basketball before your gym time. They may have no dodgeball skill at all when they first start, but I have seen first hand some players that have developed into great players that were not good when they first picked up the game. And, chances are if they like it they are going to invite their friends, and maybe those friends are better athletes than they are.

Fourthly, have your club participate in school functions. If there is a food can drive, have your guys bring in as much food as they can. Not only does it look good in the eyes of the administration at your school, but if you win it creates more publicity for the team. When they have welcome week, club day, or whatever it’s called at your school make sure your club has a table at the event. In fact, maybe even sponsor a school event.

Lastly, run your club as professionally as possible. Have an up to date website, run your home games smoothly, have everyone wear team jerseys, and invite school officials to come watch, and invite athletes from other sports to watch. Make sure someone from your school paper is there to cover the event, and if they aren’t there, send them the results!

There are surely more things that you can do to increase your membership in your club. Every school is different, but these guidelines should hopefully help you out.

Mercy rule in dodgeball?

It’s been something that we’ve discussed as the years have gone on in our league, but I think it’s time we bring it back up; and that is having a mercy rule in our games. At one point I was against it… but now I think it’s time we adapt some form of mercy rule.

When the league first started out, all of the teams were pretty much in the same boat in that they had only been around four a couple of years. Even the teams that had their clubs established were still getting used to the thought of playing competitively. The only time games were really lopsided was when someone played Oakland. So a mercy rule would have rarely been used anyways.

Now, however I think that we are at a point that it should be implemented. There are teams that are taking part in their fifth season in our league while others are just hoping to survive through their first season. Other than at the Michigan Dodgeball Cup this past weekend, there have been more blowouts than close games.

Why do I think a mercy rule should take place? Take a look at Henry Ford’s game against Saginaw Valley last semester. The score was at least 14-0 (I think it was 16.) Did it effect HFCC to get beat that bad? I can’t say for sure that it did, but let’s look at a few things. Last semester their club was only a few weeks old and they were able to take 14 players and a coach to Saginaw to play us. Now, they have been canceling games and not able to go to a big tournament. Is it just coincidence that they can’t find players now?

Plus, it sets up the danger of teams trying to top one another to set a record. Now that teams know we beat a team 16-0, if someone is beating a team 11-0, they are going to keep playing full throttle until they get 17.

So, the solution? My idea would be that once a team gets up on another team by 10 or more points the score freezes. The game keeps going on, but when a team wins a point it is not added. It’s simple, and it doesn’t make a big deal out of the score like completely stopping a game would.

There may be other options out there… but this would be effective, and most importantly simple.

Does dodgeball belong in P.E. class?

It’s been becoming more and more common for schools to take dodgeball out of their physical education classes. Most of the time they claim that it’s too cruel to put kids through and that it can cause psychological damage. I realize that gym class can be a tough time for an adolescent, but for the time being let’s close the psychology books and talk things over rationally.

Firstly, the anti-dodgeballists claim that kids are forced to play the game against the will. In reality, they are absolutely right! Students are forced to play every sport in P.E. class, so how can they even bring this into the conversation? I was forced to do math homework every night, even when I didn’t want to but you didn’t see me complaining to the school board.

Also, have any of the anti-dodgeballists been in a high school gym class recently? Of the 30 kids in the class 27 of them want to play the game. Compare that to when they go outside to play softball where you have the girls picking wildflowers and the boys trying to catch the ball without a glove on I think you should be happy that you have as much participation as you do. Sure not everyone wants to play dodgeball in gym class, but I think you could argue that more don’t want to do the dance unit either.

Secondly, the anti-dodgeball wackos have labeled the game as a sport that causes psychological damage. As I stated above, I understand that gym class has given some people painful memories. For me, it wasn’t painful at all. However, the hour before in math class it was pretty painful for me when I failed the exam.

How is dodgeball different than any other sport in that regard? Don’t you think that Scott Norwood’s psychological damage from missing the game winning kick in Super Bowl XXV is worse than someone getting hit by a rubber or foam ball? Sure it might sting a little, but by the time you change back into your gym clothes I’m going to guess you’ve forgotten about it.

I think it’s also to point out that dodgeball forces you to develop a lot of different skills. Not every student has a great arm, so maybe they focus on catching. If they can’t catch, then maybe they have to become a matrix style dodger.

So the next time a mom with a school-aged child, that has nothing better to do comes up to you and complains about dodgeball being played in gym class you have something to combat her with. Though, if she is anything like the moms that convinced the supreme court to change the high school basketball seasons around, you might be in for a tough battle.

Winter break’s effect on dodgeball

I can’t help but notice how much my dodgeball game usually declines over winter break. I don’t expect this year to be an exception either, as I was finally getting to the point I wanted to be at before the fall semester ended. And then, a four week layoff happened and I really am worried about how bad I am going to be tonight at practice.

However, I have been getting back in my workout routine, so maybe… just maybe I will be better than where I left off. While I’m sure I need to get a little rust off I am hoping that I can get my form back and play some of the best dodgeball I ever have.

Enough about me, I also think that effects the team as well. Take SVSU for example. We had a fantastic fall portion of the schedule. Our only loss was to GVSU (aren’t they like the two time defending champs or something?) , and we flat out dominated the rest of our opponents. It may sound like bragging, but I will stand by the scores of our games as proof.

That being said, I think a lot of that has to be thrown out the window the rest of the season. Teams have gone about a month without practicing, so really it is like starting over. There are people on our team that aren’t able to come back, and a few others that plan on joining. So the chemistry of our team is going to be effected at least somewhat. While I still expect SVSU to be one of the best teams the rest of the season, that isn’t going to mean we are going to dominate everyone as we did.

Sunday Jan. 18 we play Delta. Obviously there are plenty of reasons that this is a big game. I think that a lot of people, including Delta’s players think that SVSU is going to beat them. I’m not going to say that Delta is going to win, but I think that it’s going to be more of a battle than most people realize. I don’t care how many players Delta lost last season, they still have Dave Halloran, who is one of the best on the court generals in the league. Had we played a month ago, I would have said SVSU would have won 8-0, but throwing in the curveball of winter break I think it’s anybody’s game. I still think SVSU has the edge, but it’s going to be interesting to see how it plays out.

The Future of College Dodgeball

Since the first time I stepped on the court, I have always wondered where the future of college dodgeball is heading. In 2005, the first season of our league there were just five teams, Delta College, Michigan State University, DePaul University, Kent State University, and Ohio State University. Now we have almost 15 teams playing and several more popping up across the states. But where is it all going?

The beginning of our league kind of reminds me of the beginnings of college football. There were few teams, no coaches, and the officials were terrible. In fact the University of Michigan didn’t have a head coach their first 11 seasons. It seems in our fifth season as a league many of the complaints and problems are the same. However, the growth of our sport can not be ignored either.

Am I going to predict that someday fans are going to pack 5,000 fans in the Breslin Center to watch the University of Michigan play Michigan State University in a game of dodgeball, or have millions of people watch the University of Florida play the Cinderella Henry Ford Community College in the final four on CBS? Not even close, but I do think that this sport has plenty of room to grow and could develop into a great league.

I do not think dodgeball will become a varsity sport, not anytime soon anyways. But I look at college rugby as an example. While not a varsity sport, several schools in each state across the country has a club rugby team. They have conferences, state tournaments, and national tournaments. They also break up the teams into three divisions based on size and how good their team is. I think that in a few years college dodgeball could do something similar very soon.

However, there are a few things standing in the way of our growth. Firstly, as detailed on the league messageboard it is really hard to find people at other schools to get teams started. There is no reason that some of these schools don’t have teams, other than finding the right people to run them.

Secondly, is the cost of traveling to tournaments. We saw it first hand last year when several teams backed out of nationals because they couldn’t afford it. That’s why I have always been in favor of having a regional tournament one week to a month before the national tournament. Charge each team in the regional $200 to play, and give the winning team the money to go to nationals. Doing this you can also cut down on the teams that go to nationals. While still, teams that have to travel far this money may not have enough to cover their trip, they at least have a starting point to get their team to the national tournament.

Thirdly, is the lack of a commissioner or league board. In most developed leagues teams are issued a schedule and they are expected to abide by it. In the NCDA, we have one team who has played eight games, and at least four teams have not even played a game yet. I know that some teams would be against having a league commissioner or league board but in order for it to grow properly it might need to happen someday. Without having someone or a group of people running the league, it is just going to remain a loose collection of teams that meet up once a year for a national tournament. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that, but if we truly want this to grow into a league that is taken seriously then that is what needs to happen.

Before any of this can happen, we need more teams. We have clubs that are interested in joining our league all around us, but because of a lack of teams around them it wouldn’t be feasible for them to join. I also suggest you contact your local TV/Radio station or newspaper to see if they have interest in running stories on your team. The more exposure this league can get, the better. It will get people talking and get people interested. The more people that know about it, the more it has an opportunity to grow.

The first practice of Delta College Dodgeball

When the day finally comes that my collegiate dodgeball career is over I will have many memories of the game. I am currently in my fifth season in the game and already it seems I will have enough stories to last a lifetime. One such story is the day of the first practice in the history of Delta Dodgeball.

I remember rolling the balls out of the garbage bags that first day. I hadn’t bought any mesh ball bags yet, since our team’s budget consisted of whatever I had in my wallet. No one seemed to mind that I took them out of garbage bags, just like no one seemed to mind that most of the balls had cartoon logos on them. In fact many players seemed to enjoy trying to each other with Dora the Explorer, Rocket Power, and Scooby Doo balls. Besides, I found them all at a Toys R’ Us in a big clearance sale so it felt like a steal. Although I do have to say my personal favorite was the blue Monsters Inc. ball. I cried the day it popped, and it’s still sitting in my room as a shattered memory.

I remember seeing the gym full of over 30 players eager to learn a new game. They had heard we were going to play against Michigan State, Ohio State, and other schools and were about as excited as kid finding a gummy bear on the sidewalk. It seemed like we had so much talent there that day. We had a kid who could catch anything you threw at him (who strangely never showed up again,) a kid who could throw really hard (Michael Parker), and kid that tried to hit the girls on the team in the butt with the balls (Matt Pretzer.)

It was a simple time, really. Words like gorilla grip, shadowing, and shot clock weren’t even mentioned. In fact had you said something like that we probably would have laughed. There were no such things as a yellow or red card, and really we were never even worried behavior would be a problem. Had we tried to give someone a yellow card they probably would have walked out the door never to return.

We thought that we were pretty good too. I mean we only had ourselves to compare to but we felt pretty confident. Sure, we wouldn’t go on to win a game that year, or for half of the next season, but for that one day we felt like we ruled the dodgeball world. Since we were in a secluded gym that most of the other students at Delta didn’t even know existed, who was going to tell us otherwise?

The Odyssey of Ben Murphy

Story by: Andrew Allen

After four years of playing and being president of the Delta College Dodgeball team, Ben Murphy has left the team to pursue other interests.

What do those interests include? Playing for Saginaw Valley State University’s team.

“I had four great seasons at Delta College,” Murphy said.

“It was just time for me to move on. I graduated from Delta back in April of 2007. I stayed last year because my job required me to take classes there and to play dodgeball.”

While there Murphy saw his team reach three consecutive national final-four appearances and set a single season wins record in the NCDA in the 2008 season with 17 victories.

“We had a special group of players these last three seasons,” he said. “My time there will be something I will never forget.”

As for whether he is going to miss running a team that he founded back in 2004, Murphy isn’t going to deny it.

“There is no question that I’m going to miss being at Delta,” he said. “In fact I already do. But I am already having a lot of fun and learning to play with a bunch of great new teammates.”

There was also something that he wasn’t quite used to when he fist took the court for SVSU.

“I can just go to practice and focus on playing dodgeball and nothing else,” Murphy said. “I don’t have to worry about who isn’t playing well and who isn’t at practice. I can just focus on my own game and helping my teammates out on the court.”

On Sunday, Oct. 26 Murphy saw his first game action with the Cardinals against Michigan State University.

“It was weird being out there in a different uniform,” he said.

“But I was so excited to get my first kills and catches with a new team it was unreal. I just hope I can keep improving my game so I can stay on varsity for the rest of the season.”

Taking over for Murphy at Delta is David Halloran, who will be entering his fifth season with the team. Halloran served his previous four seasons as a captain and vice-president.

“The team is in good hands with Dave,” Murphy said.

“A big reason that Delta was so successful over the years is because of him. He understands the team concept and the hard work it takes to win dodgeball games more than anyone I’ve ever met.”

Halloran is excited as well to take over the club, and hopes to get the team over the hump and into the national championship game.

“Taking over the team has proven to be something more than just stepping into the shoes of the past president,” he said.

“It’s been challenging, yet very rewarding. The team looks great and I’m excited about the young talent that keeps coming through the door. I expect to be a national contender and I can only see third place as the last option.

You might be wondering on if Murphy is going to be rooting for his former team.

“I really think that SVSU is going to be a great team this season,” he said.

“But if Delta happens to win it all I hope they don’t mind me stealing one of their championship t-shirts.”