Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Dodgeball grows up



By Shannon Russell
Enquirer staff writer

With a staccato "Go!" David Valentine sprinted to mid-court, seized a grapefruit-sized foam ball and backtracked, his eyes sizing up the opposition in a heated dodgeball game at Campbell County YMCA.

IF YOU GO
What: Dodgeball at the Campbell County YMCA
Where: 1437 Fort Thomas Ave., Fort Thomas
When: 7-9 p.m. Tuesdays
Cost: Free (until leagues begin; YMCA membership not required)
Ages: 16 and older
Balls whizzed through the air, smacking the walls and Valentine's teammates with resonating whaps. Valentine calmly looked, aimed - then pivoted quickly to avert an oncoming ball - and fired. He smiled.

It was the most fun he'd had since grade school.

"That's about the last time I played dodgeball," said Valentine, a 28-year-old Fort Thomas resident. "But this is way better because you don't have to worry about going to lunch all sweaty."

Dodgeball is making a national comeback, thanks to Ben Stiller's 2004 movie Dodgeball and cable TV's Extreme Dodgeball, and the old-school game has already penetrated many Kentucky communities.

Campbell County YMCA executive director Brad Kinkema said dodgeball's uniqueness, cardio- and strength benefits and relaxed atmosphere have attracted dozens of adult players since the game debuted nearly two months ago. He hopes to parlay interest into a six- to eight-team league.

"It's such great exercise. These guys are worn out by the time they're done. They're running and throwing all the time," Kinkema said.

The rules are the same as in grade school: Players split into two teams and line up along opposing walls of a half-basketball court. Foam balls - three or more, depending on the number of people playing - are placed on a line splitting the court. When someone yells "Go!" the object is to grab the balls and return to the starting point.

Players then move freely on their side of the court, hitting opponents to eliminate them.

Players can reinstate knocked-out teammates by catching balls thrown by the other team.

"To win, you've got to dodge like you've never dodged before," quipped Mike Backers, a 34-year-old downtown Cincinnatian who played with his wife, Susan, while their four children took swimming lessons.

Backers said the game is painless and easy to play, and strategy fuels the excitement. He was among the players groaning and laughing after ambushing players with multiple balls, cunningly catching throws or rolling "mercy" balls cross-court.

Downtown Cincinnati resident Ginger Riley, 31, stood along the sidelines and kicked loose balls to her teammates. Having her brother, Ben Riley, and sister-in-law, Stephanie Cole, as rivals fueled her desire to win.

"Ganging up on the other team, that's the fun of it," Riley said. "That and hanging out with everyone after we play."

E-mail srussell@enquirer.com




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