Can physics teachers play competitive dodgeball?

September 19, 2019 — by Rohan Kumar

I’m not a very athletic guy. Me playing football would look like a somewhat bony chicken trying to make it past a bunch of massive guys all bent on tackling it to the ground. So if I can’t play football, or really any of the other common sports like soccer or baseball, what do I do?

Well, it turns out, there are some weird sports out there that might be more geared to non-athletes like me. After a few quick Google searches, I found a massive list of crazy sports: ostrich racing, chessboxing, extreme ironing, underwater hockey, competitive slapping and more. Brand-name colleges, like UC Berkeley and Stanford, have quidditch teams, where people run around with brooms between their legs, trying to chuck a ball into a set of hoops. It turns out there’s even a World Wife Carrying Championship; the name is more literal than you might think.

I decided to try out one of these unconventional sports: competitive dodgeball. It turns out there’s a lot of rules for this sport on the National Dodgeball League (NDL) website. They were very different from the rules of P.E. teacher Yuko Aoki’s workout dodgeball, so I had to spend an hour just understanding them.

I then gathered some of my friends — juniors Enoch Luk, Oliver Ye and Christine Zhang and senior Brandon Wang — to play dodgeball in the Small Gym. Unfortunately, since few people shared my deep passion for dodgeball, I was able to muster just five participants, less than half the usual 12 players that the NDL requires. Aoki, from whom I borrowed the dodgeballs, also did not have regulation-sized balls; NDL regulations state that 4 Blockers, or 8.5-inch-diameter balls, and 2 Stingers, or 5-inch-diameter balls, should be used.

But I decided not to get caught up in the technicalities. Dodgeballers have to do what they have to do. We set up the six dodgeballs on the midline and split up into teams. The rules were simple: Players start behind the end line and rush for the balls in the center. They then have to bring the balls 10 feet away from the midline before the throwing can commence. The first team to eliminate the other wins.

I called “Ready. Set. Go!” and we all ran to get the balls. As I backed away from the midline, I was surprised to find a dodgeball in my hands. Maybe this was my sport after all.

I noticed that Oliver did not have a ball, so I wound up, ready to show the world my undiscovered talents. But when I threw it, all my hopes literally flew away. The ball went so high it almost got our team a three-pointer. Unfortunately, we weren’t playing basketball.

Tragically, in competitive dodgeball, you can’t hit someone by sheer luck. In P.E., I just randomly threw the ball, and usually, there was someone there to get hit by it. If I missed, there were players milling around who acted as cannon fodder to block balls aimed for me, anyway. This time, my two teammates, sadly, were not interested in being my meat shield, and the six balls were too few for me to waste on inaccurate potshots.

I got pegged by two balls pretty quickly after throwing mine, and soon, the rest of my team was eliminated. In the following round, I tried to team up with Oliver, who had performed well in the first round, in order to get carried to a victory, but unfortunately that didn’t work either.

My hopes of finding my dream sport were dwindling. I had to win at least one match. Thankfully, Oliver offered to be a referee so we could have a two vs. two match.

I paired up with Enoch, and after a few minutes of me trying to look like I was contributing to the team effort and occasionally dodging the stray balls that came my way, we won.

We were about to leave the gym when teacher Kirk Davis showed up. We now had a perfect three vs. three. For our final round of the day, I paired up with Enoch and Christine, since Davis wanted to test his skills against Enoch, who had managed to carry me to victory somehow.

The addition of Davis changed the game dynamic significantly. After an intense battle, a couple defensive (but ineffective) somersaults by Davis and some well-placed snipes from Oliver, Davis’s team pulled ahead and won.

We finally decided to call it quits after 30 minutes of hard dodgeballing. We were quite literally sweating, and we’d all had a ton of fun, even Davis.

Dodgeball may not be my sport, but it’s still exhilarating, especially with friends. With Davis joining in, Brandon pointed out the obvious: “We should have a staff vs. students dodgeball game.”

I couldn’t help but agree with him.


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