Dodgeball means many things to different people. Apparently it means two different words to Microsoft’s spell-check. As I enter the second semester of my fourth year playing in the NCDA, I have to take a step back and consider how this sport has impacted me so profoundly and why I have chosen to give so much of my time and energy to it.
Dodgeball in the NCDA is so many things at once. The amount of competitors in play combined with the speed and intensity of the sport make it one of the most exhilarating experiences one can ever have competing. Thirty athletes are assembled on an area the size of a basketball court with ten balls flying everywhere. The league features players that can throw these 8.5 inch rubber playground balls over seventy miles an hour. Not a day goes by that I do not think about how insane that concept is. There are many people who cannot even throw a baseball that fast.
The greatest element of NCDA dodgeball by and large has to be the pinch. I try explaining to civilians how this works and why it makes people capable of throwing so much faster, but in the end it’s useless. I tell them that they just have to see it for themselves. I always look back to my second year of Nationals, WKU 2011. I remember seeing a fan from UK sitting on the sidelines with a helmet. This act embodies the danger of our sport. Hits in the NCDA can get downright nasty. I’ve seen people get hit in the face so hard they thought they liked the ending to Lost. Players get black eyes and red faces routinely. This sport is not for the faint of heart or the apathetic.
I absolutely love this facet of NCDA ball. While most “dodgeball” nowadays is played with either foam balls or balls that are so overinflated they’d be better off being used for kickball, our league goes against the grain and features a style of dodgeball that is unparalleled. The pinch also allows for players to hold two balls effectively at the same time. There is no feeling like being the last man on your team, charging the neutral zone with double pinches and driving back several remaining opponents. Pinching allows a player to truly explore how he wants to release the ball, making for some amazing trick shots. From the cats at DePaul to Kent alumni Mike Klements throwing a ball over sixty miles per hour with his back completely turned, (he doesn’t even throw that fast overhand!) there is an ongoing experimentation with outlandish, seemingly unnatural throws.
I love this league because it is yours mine and ours. It is free from political or outside pressures. Anyone in the league can step up and get involved. It is ever changing; and you can help decide where it is going next. I love the league’s past. Every new player deserves a history lesson of the legends of the sport via game film. I love the rivalries, both between schools and between entire regions.
I would take a moment to express what my Kent State dodgeball means to me; but I feel Leslie Ellison has done a better job than I ever could. These are my people and I love them.
At the end of the day, I am absolutely convinced that this is the most competitive dodgeball league in the world. I will take my fifteen against any squad any damn day.