“Dodge, duck, dip, dive, and dodge.”
Is there a soul alive in 2019 that’s not familiar with the 5 D’s of Dodgeball? Well, if a group of Canadian researchers get their way, there soon won’t be a soul who is. According to them, dodgeball is a “tool of oppression” that encourages violence at the cost of the weak and unfit students in the average school gym class.
The sport, in which teams try to hit each other with soft balls— or else catch them in order to get the thrower out— has long been a staple of public school physical education, but its reign may be coming to a close.
“According to three Canadian professors, the sport ‘teaches students to dehumanize and harm their peers.’ . . . ‘I think of the little girl who is running to the back to avoid being targeted,’ Professor Butler said. ‘What is she learning in that class? Avoidance?’”
If I may, Professor Butler, as that little girl who ran to the back to avoid being targeted, dodgeball is lit. As literally anyone who has ever met me for more than 38 seconds could tell you, PE was never really my thing; it didn’t matter what the game was, I wanted nothing to do with it, and I bided my time until the whistle blew and we got to go back to the more academic of pursuits. Looking back, I imagine I endured gym class in much the same way as some of my peers endured social studies or art class, waiting for their chance to shine in PE.
Children have different strengths. So what? What’s the difference between the high energy, exuberant fourth graders demolishing a group of introverted and studious children in dodgeball and said introverts absolutely wiping the floor with the dodgeball kings and queens in a Jeopardy!-style review session for a language arts test? One group gets to excel in something they genuinely enjoy at the cost of another; sure, it mightn’t be particularly fun to be on the losing side, but I don’t ever recall anyone particularly minding because we all knew that our time would come. That’s like, the whole thing of being a person. You’re good at some things and you’re bad at others.
Erasing games like dodgeball from school curriculum isn’t doing anyone any favors. Butler goes on to say, “The competition is about annihilating one’s opponent, ant the true definition of competition is between two evenly matched teams. Well, kids stack their teams, and they really enjoy beating the other team. What’s the enjoyment of that?”
Not to paint my young self as a sociopath, but this is literally the exact same thing that happened in classroom, “book smarts” related games. We stacked our teams and we went for the kill, and I’ll tell you what, it was a blast. Even as a petulant, short-sighted 10 year old, I realized that the athletic kids were just as entitled to showcase their talents as I was. I was happy to take a butt-kicking in dodgeball, kickball, flag football, you name it, because I had other outlets which engaged and excited me. We endure the stuff we hate because we know that it’s an hour out of a day where we get to do stuff we love.
Kids are competitive. Grown-ups are competitive. Erasing competition from schools doesn’t help a soul. If you ask me (which you implicitly did by reading this article), the professors cited should’ve been subjected to more dodgeball, or at least spent more time in a classroom to actually get a sense of what they’re talking about. They might be surprised. After all, as the great Patches O’Hoolihan once said, “If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball.”