Beyond the Opening Rush: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Posted on December 01, 2014 at 11:13 am |


Dodgeball brings out the best in people, but it also brings out the worst in us.

Let’s be realistic. I might extol the wonderful aspects of dodgeball, but I’m sure all of us have encountered or witnessed unpleasant occurrences on the court: cheating, yelling, arguing with the refs, and especially displays of bad sportsmanship.

A few weeks ago, I subbed for a friend’s tier 3 team. Generally, I like tier 3 players – since they’re usually new, they almost always show a sense of enthusiasm for this crazy, novel game, an enthusiasm that has cooled into stoic indifference in some of us veterans. Oh, vets are still competitive and we still love the game, but we’ve become analytical and strategic about it, and don’t go wild on court flinging balls with abandon so much anymore.

Anyway, without going into details, a misunderstanding occurred when I was subbing. The refs sorted it out, but the damage was done: the opposing player took offense and got angry at me. How did I know this? Because after the game, he pulled his hand away right before high-fiving me. I would have chalked it up as an accident if he hadn’t done it again after the next game. And the next.

Now, this bothered me enough that I talked to a teammate about it afterwards. I couldn’t understand why the player in question was acting this way: did he think I was accusing him? Did I make him look foolish by accident? Then my friend suggested: “Well, maybe he just can’t stand the fact that a girl can play better than him.”

Oh, my god. Are we still living in the 18th century? But sadly, I recognize the truth in the statement, and some of my female friends in dodgeball can relate and have confirmed it: some guys do resent women who can knock them out, or throw harder than they can, or catch them unawares.

Shouldn’t we be celebrating the fact that we have progressive sports like dodgeball that empower women by making a rule that you must have two ladies on court, or that only females can sub? Personally, I’m super grateful that the founding members and directors of VDL implemented these policies to give girls a chance to play more and be involved more. I’ve certainly met more people and become a better player by subbing on other teams.

From my observations of tier 1, good female players are respected and prized. No one takes offense when girls hit or catch them out – those ladies are up in that level because they’ve earned their spots. You really don’t want to antagonize them because that just means they’re less likely to play for or on your team.

It’s also no coincidence that VDL’s top (and most experienced) teams and players are usually the ones who score high spirit points, because they show respect to each other and the refs, apologize when they throw headshots, and call themselves out when they’re hit. (Of course, I’m generalizing. Many players in lower tiers are honest and commendable players as well, and there are the odd tier 1 players who argue with refs or lose their tempers. Not often, but it happens.)

Good sportsmanship goes a long way and is highly esteemed in a league that values spirit like VDL. If you cheat, argue, or throw a tantrum on court, maybe you’ll succeed in bullying the ref into giving you that particular win, but trust me, it won’t get you into the upper levels, and it won’t make anyone else regard you better.

Immaturity and childish behaviour won’t get you far in dodgeball, or even in life. With playoffs just around the corner, I’d like to remind everyone to take a step back and do a quick evaluation. Rein in your tempers and tone down the tension. Yes, we all want to win, but remember why we’re playing this sport, and what we gain most from it. It’s not so much about that one day where we battle for the coveted championship belt, but the journey there that’s the most gratifying: the ten weeks where we become a part of and find our places in a welcoming, spirited community, playing and getting better at a sport that brings us joy and excitement.

~ Michelle

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