Saturday, July 24, 2004

Dodge ball's back - a softer version

By Nancy Young
Enquirer contributor

MASON - Dodge ball, 2004 style, is making a hit here.

Every Tuesday and Wednesday evening, teams of children, teens and adults from around Greater Cincinnati can be found firing Nerf balls at each other at Wall2Wall Soccer, 846 Reading Rd., in spirited games of organized dodge ball.

Members of the Bojangles and Co. and Gosu teams jockey for balls at the beginning of a match in the Wall2Wall dodge ball league.
(Enquirer photo/MIKE SIMONS)
Thanks to Ben Stiller's popular summer movie Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story and Extreme Dodgeball airing on cable TV, the game - banned on many school playgrounds over the years because it could inflict physical and emotional harm - is enjoying a comeback.

"We have over a dozen teams now in the midst of our summer session," said Bobby Budde, marketing director at Wall2Wall. "We have teams for elementary-age kids, high school leagues and an adult league that is currently almost all men with just a smattering of women."

"Playing dodge ball brings me back to middle-school days," says Jonathan Padial, 26, of Amelia. "I feel like a kid again. Because I come right from work, it is also a great way to relax, have some fun with my buddies and lose the stress."

After taking off quickly locally, dodge ball looks to be around for awhile.

"When Ben Stiller's movie came out, we heard our adult guests talking about it," Budde said. "Knowing that our indoor fields are used much less in the summer, our director of soccer operations, Dave Langner, came up with the dodge ball idea as a way to increase field usage."

He said they've been "astounded" by the response, and now plan to extend the season into fall and possibly have a winter session. A college league is also a possibility.

"It is fun to watch the differences between the ages," Budde said. "The adults just want to smash each other! Maybe for them it's a stress reliever. The kids truly want to learn the rules."

From its playground past, dodge ball has become increasingly organized. There's even a National Amateur Dodgeball Association, which is holding a championship tournament this weekend in Schaumburg, Ill.

Rules at Wall2Wall include the use of a Nerf ball, rather than the familiar hard red playground ball, to cut down on welts. Secondly, teams play six-on-six, three games per match, with teams playing two matches a night. Finally, each game includes a referee.

"We were inspired after seeing (the movie) Dodgeball, " says player Scott Lagerost, 23, of Hyde Park. "Dodge ball brings back my competitive edge. Playing this game satisfies our competitive urges and is just a great way to chill out."

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