Last month, we had six current and former NCDA players join together to form a team to participate at the NDL’s World Dodgeball Championship in Las Vegas. Western Kentucky’s Felix Perrone helped spearhead the formation of the team by inviting players from his own school and from other schools around the league. He was joined by Evan Bemus (WKU), Brett Rice (WKU), Camden Fullmer (Kent St.), Dan Shackelford (Kent St.), and Mike McCarthy (CMU). Felix recounted his experience in Vegas, as well as broke down the different rules that the NDL plays by, in an excerpt he titled “How I Spent My Summer Vacation.”
How I Spent My Summer Vacation
For the past three years I’ve been actively trying to get a team of six WKU players together to go to the National Dodgeball Leagues’s annual World Dodgeball Championship in Las Vegas. The first two years were a bust, so this year I tried to expand my search to various friends/players in the league to create a “super team”, if you will. I called upon my buddies from Kent State and McCarthy to see if this would be a possibility. After months of planning and budgeting, we had our team set in stone, Brett Rice, Evan Bemus, and myself from WKU, Dan Shackelford and Camden Fullmer of Kent State, and Mike McCarthy formally of CMU.
Coming from three different areas of the country we all met in Vegas on Friday to begin our weekend dodgeball adventure. The weekend (for us) kicked off with the annual NDL banquet, which hosted all the players and league administrators for a buffet style dinner and drinks. The food was awesome and we made friends with other players from Boston. The tone of the weekend was set during the dinner when the NDL’s commissioner, Ed Prentiss, gave a speech talking about how much dodgeball truly meant to him. You think you love dodgeball? You need to meet this guy. Although we didn’t agree on styles of play, it didn’t matter, there is a certain level of respect you have for a man who has done nothing but organize dodgeball tournaments for the past ten years with the lone goal of spreading the love of this sport to as many people across the world as best he can. He told a story of how he drove 8 hours to a tournament in Missouri hosted by the NDL on Mother’s Day where only two teams showed up. He didn’t even care; he said at least those two teams had fun. He ended the speech with a metaphor I’ll never forget, “I’ll do this for as long as I can, as long as I can pick up a ball, I will play dodgeball. But when my time comes and the head official calls me out, I will simply raise my hand, exit the court with my head held high knowing I did the best I could with the time I was given.”
Arriving to the gym on Saturday was awesome; we were so excited for a full day of dodgeball against people, regions, and styles of play that were unfamiliar to us. Here’s a breakdown of the basic rules we understood going into this tournament that differed from the NCDA’s rules:
1) No gripping the ball
2) Don’t touch the boundary lines at all
3) Ricochet kills are a reality
4) Blocking doesn’t kill the ball
5) If you do a suicide, make a kill, you’re not out when you land in your opponents play area
6) No team catches, if the ball bounces off your teammate and you make a catch, they’re still out, as is the thrower, but you do get one player back in also.
7) No headshots. If you hit someone in the head, you’re out.
The court was much smaller, it was a 60’x30’ court with a 10’ neutral zone in the middle. It was played 6 vs. 6 with six balls. Each team started off with two balls and two balls were placed on the centerline.
The first division we played in on Saturday was the ‘No Blocking Rubber’ division. Rules were simple, block a ball, you’re out. The first thing we noticed in this division was a lot of people were wearing kneepads, which helped because most people were very talented at the drop catch. If a ball was caught, 9 times out of 10 it was because someone was down on their knees catching it in the stomach. When it came time to scheduling our play in the No Blocking division, drawing team names out of a hat made the double elimination bracket… There was a round robin leading up to the elimination portion of the bracket, but those pools were created randomly and the games counted for nothing. The round robin was simply a warm up for the elimination portion of the tournament. There were four teams in each pool and you played each team once for two points. It didn’t matter if you won or not because your position in the bracket was already set. We didn’t know this and actually passed up our “bye” seed for the bracket play because we wanted to play more and thought the “bye” meant we played one less game in the round robin. Because we’re stupid, stupid men some times.
The games were played on a best three out of five points basis. During the round robin warm up portion we beat all of our opponents, only losing two points in the five games we played. During the bracket play, we beat a team from Canada, and one of the professional teams before falling to another professional team, which we lost 2-3. Once we reached the losing side of the double elimination bracket we played another professional team, which we also fell to 1-2 after some crazy calls and plays (losers bracket was played best two out of three games). Everyone seemed to be very impressed with our play style, but the one thing we lacked was aggression. Those teams had little strategy but a lot of quick aggression. We also lacked a full understanding of the rules, but I’ll get to that later.
After the No Blocking Division, we played the Blocking Division, which is where I felt we did the best. We played against a lot of good teams in this division including a team who has been coming to and winning the Dodgeball World Championship since it’s first tournament ten years ago. That game was very heated and there was some bad blood formed between our team and theirs on the court after an exchange of words. We did end up taking a point against them which people were impressed by. McCarthy and I went over to the team after the game to try and settle the argument though, as much as they did get under my skin, I didn’t want to leave the tournament with people thinking negatively of us since we were representatives of the NCDA, which I intended to represent positively. We ultimately lost to a team of college-aged players who had won the trampoline portion of the DWC earlier in the week, they were very good, and I hope we made a good enough impression on them to start up an NCDA team at whatever school they went to.
We had been asked by the commissioner to play in the Stinger Division also, but we decided that wasn’t a good idea. We had never played with stingers before (they were rubber Champion PG balls that were a size between a baseball and a softball). We also decided to forgo the Pro Try Out aspect of the day also because of various indifferences with the rules and injuries we suffered.
All in all I had a great time and I do recommend the National Dodgeball League’s Dodgeball World Championship in Las Vegas to any dodgeball player. As I say that, I do think there are some things in the NDL’s rules that should be revisited or at least better explained. Here are some pros and cons I have for the NDL.
- The passion felt by all the players (amateur, professional, and administration) was contagious.
- It’s still dodgeball, just with a different twist.
- It provides a great opportunity for people to play dodgeball after college.
- I absolutely love the suicide rule they have. I’m not sure how well the suicide rule would translate into the NCDA though since our court is so much bigger, but I still like the rule a lot.
- The games are very aggressive and quick.
- The commissioner of the league was very nice and accepting. He is an easy guy to work with and he is a great catcher.
- No Headshot rule. It gets confusing because if you dodge down into a headshot you’re out; but if you jump up or are stationary and get hit in the head, the thrower is out. Also if two balls hit you simultaneously and one ball hits your head, you’re still in because the headshot voids out the other ball that hit you, but the thrower who hit you in the head is out.
- The God Ball rule (we gave it this name, not the NDL). If player A is hit by a ball and it goes straight up in the air, then is hit by another ball while they are looking up to catch the first ball as a “double tap insurance hit”, but they catch the first ball they are still in, but the thrower of the first ball which was caught is out. The catching of the first ball voids out the strike of the second ball, so as long as you are trying to make a catch off of a ricochet from your own body you are essentially invincible, as long as the catch is completed.
- No hats allowed. Don’t know why, but they are forbidden during games. Ninja facemasks are acceptable though (no lie).
- You can kill players on your own team.
- If you hit an opponent with a ball and it ricochets into one of your own players, they are out.
- BUT, if a member of your team catches that ricocheted ball off an opponent, you (the thrower) are out, as well as the opponent who was hit, and your team gets another player in because a catch was made.
- If you hit an opponent and the ricochet hits you, you’re out also.
- We were told by a player on another team that if you catch your own ball that ricocheted off an opponent, then you’re out also but you get another player back in (I don’t know whether this is true or not though).
- Balls are live off the referee. This happened in one of our games. A ball was thrown, it hit an opponent, bounced off the referee, then hit another opponent, so two people were deemed “out” in that play because balls off the referee are live.
- Ball shaggers were to be provided by each team, and if you didn’t have a shagger, you were just out of luck. Ball shaggers were allowed to throw balls to whomever they wanted; they were essentially a 7th person on the team. They were allowed to collect balls from anywhere and give them to whatever team or player.
- The professional teams played against the amateur teams in the tournament. That just seemed a little wacky to me.
- The tournament bracket to determine the “World Champions” was created by drawing team names, literally, out of a hat. The round robin played no role in how a team was seeded; it was simply a warm up with no reward for winning.
As much as these rules didn’t make sense to us. They would have been easier for us to accept had there been an explanation or rationale behind the rules, or even had we just known about the rules prior to us being called out because of them.
Each member of our team brought something unique to the table that helped us perform well. Evan showed off his blocking skills during the blocking division and came away with some serious catches in the no-blocking division. Brett was catching everything in his sight and was a foot assassin. Camden did a great job scaring everyone with his arm. Dan was just an all around asset to the team, catching, blocking, and throwing when it counted; as well as finishing off two or three points by himself. McCarthy was the suicide king, when he jumped the line to throw he was right on top of the opponents; it was terrifying (I guess volleyball is good for something haha).
After we left the gym that day, we had one of the best weeks of our lives. Dan almost got us killed by yelling like a wrestler at homeless people in the ghetto while wearing a little girls’ one strap bedazzled tank top he bought from people on the side of the road. Brett, from the same people, bought a TI-84+ calculator in the ghetto for $5 (and it worked!). We met a lot of interesting people, we spent way too much money, …………and lost at gambling. But we had so much fun. If anyone is looking for the trip of a lifetime, go to Vegas for the NDL’s Dodgeball World Championships, play your hearts out, meet all kinds of interesting people, and just have a good time.