Beyond the Opening Rush: Dodgeball’s Jekyll and Hyde

Posted on October 17, 2014 at 9:55 am |


One season, I ended up playing on Don Tran’s team. A few weeks in, he remarked to me: “You know, I used to think you were this super angry person from the way you play and I didn’t really want to be friends with you. But after getting to know you, you’re like the nicest person off court!”

I grimaced inwardly. God, am I really that scary looking?

Short answer: YES.

At least, no one’s answered me differently yet. And there are pictures (and graffiti) to prove it. See exhibit A:


Courtesy of Dana Miller, S17 Pub Night

I’m not naturally an angry person. I’m just very competitive. And when I play hard, I look serious. I’m still having fun, but I don’t have to be smiling and giggling to show that. Can anyone else relate?

But it was a good wake-up call for me. For one thing, it’s made me realize that I do it myself – form opinions of people based on my initial impressions. You know the old saying ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’? We know we’re not supposed to, but we all end up doing it anyway. Human nature. You see a player with a hard throw, you immediately think that they’re rough and unapproachable. A player throwing at head level? Must be a jerk of headhunter who’s out to get everyone. Someone who should be out but stays in after the ball deflects off their block? Totally a cheater.

But hold on. Did it cross your mind that they might just be new players who haven’t learned how  to control their aim yet? Maybe they aren’t aware of the rules? Before we make any judgment, let’s give our fellow players the benefit of the doubt. Talk to them, discover their story – maybe you’ll find they’re just subbing for friends and it’s their first time on court. Maybe they played dodgeball with other leagues and aren’t used to VDL’s rules. We’re all adults (or at least, 19+), and we should be mature enough to talk things out without flying into a raging tantrum or running to the execs to complain about it.

I’m not saying there aren’t people who cheat or conduct themselves questionably on court. But things aren’t necessarily what they seem, and it’s best not to form an opinion immediately based on the way people play dodgeball.

The reality check does another thing too: it reminds me to make an effort to be more friendly outside of the game. I might emanate anger and death glares when I’m wailing a ball with all my might, but I don’t harbour any ill intentions towards my opponents. It’s just my ‘in the zone’ mode. Of course, they can’t tell that when I’m raining frowns and thundering curses in their general direction (but not necessarily targeting them). A smile during the ending high-fives goes a long way, and eliminates so much misunderstanding!

On the flip side of that, I’ve been accused of being bipolar. I’m not, honest. What did I say about people forming preconceived notions? There are rare occasions where I won’t keep the ‘game face’ on. One season I teamed with Shawn Chow, of Pork fame. (On Pork, incidentally. How could you say no to a team with a cute pink shirt with a cute pink pig on it?) Shawn always tells me I’m being too serious, and imitates my ‘serious’ face’ and ’ninja kick’ (I have this awful habit of kicking my leg up when I throw to keep my balance), and reminds me to smile – all while I’m in the middle of a game. This would usually result in me bursting into laughter and grinning uncontrollably as I try to play. (And no, you’re not allowed to use that strategy against me.)

Bottom line is, we all look ridiculous in action when we’re playing a sport like dodgeball. (Have you seen some of the photos in our gallery?) It’s supposed to be FUN, people! And it is, even if some of us don’t look like the definition of fun. So don’t jump to conclusions and think we aren’t having a good time, or that we’re angry, or loud, or evil. Talk to us, get to know us, and you might find that behind that mean exterior there’s someone who is very much like you – someone who loves fun and dodgeball.

~ Michelle

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