Remember when you were in elementary school gym class and your teacher would unleash you with a bunch of rubber balls in the middle of the gymnasium?
You’d beeline to those balls, make your way back to the start position and the carnage would begin. You’d dip, dive, dance and hurl like a complete lunatic. It was survival of the fittest and, oh, what a pure adrenaline rush it was!
These days we don’t have to live on just memories. The Harford County Dodgeball League has it all worked out.
When they first began to play, they rented out space in Forest Hill from the organization Just For Kids, but their game was most definitely not for kids. Since then, Forest Hill Recreation bought out Just For Kids and the dodgeball league is still going strong, renting hourly space through the recreation program.
Unlike the Hollywood version, Dodgeball: The True Underdog Story, when Harford County Dodgeballers get together on Monday nights, there are no underdogs. All these boys come to play. Girls, if you are looking for some good-spirited and competitive dodgeball this might be your one-stop shop.
Be forewarned, and this is not just for the ladies, this message is posted on their website:
“Harford County Dodgeball is like no other league you have ever played in before. We are a bunch of guys who like to beat each other up with rubber balls. We do not play with sponge balls and WILL NEVER play with sponge balls. If you are looking for a social league, try somewhere else. This is serious, hardcore dodge ball.”
They don’t joke.
So you thought you were a stud in P.E. class, huh? I’m quite sure that most people have not seen this level of dodgeball. Ever.
Harford County Dodgeball currently has 6 teams with 8-10 players per squad. The teams are: Cobra Kai’s, C. Milton Mustangs, Wargos, Dance Party Vietnam, Yo Mamma and Balls out. They are as creative as they are skilled on the volleyball-like sized court.
Ages range from 18-40. Incidentally, Dance Party Vietnam is a traveling tournament-oriented team and has been nationally ranked #8 in the country. They are undefeated this season.
While all the teams are serious gamers, the February 25 games I witnessed were light-hearted and fun. The Cobra Kai’s took on Balls Out and the Cobra Kai’s came away with a 16-12 victory.
From the moment the referee says “Dodgeball” it is on.
These grown men – lawyers, salesmen, firefighters, carpenters, students and policemen – bring it. They race to the balls as though their lives depended on it and as per dodgeball rules, make their way back to the wall. If they are lucky, they have a ball in hand. If not, they do their best to stay out of the line of fire.
Balls fly and bodies flail. It’s wild to see these fathers, sons and uncles get so into it. By day, they may be upstanding citizens, but on Monday nights they are fierce. Some of these boys are big. I wouldn’t want them lobbing me an egg in the old Easter-egg toss let alone face them at the line of scrimmage. But that’s just me.
Did you know a key to success in dodgeball is communication? These guys proved they won’t go down quietly. They strategize as they hunt one another down. They hoot and holler screaming stuff like: “Go low,” or “Watch that guy, he’s sneaky.” They joke, “Twinkle toes,” as they call someone out for their fancy footwork.
Indeed, they are in it to win it. They regroup and talk it up: “Who are we going after?” As you might suspect, they often gang up on one player to get them out. It’s a part of the game. Imagine your jack-rabbit like reaction when four balls are headed your way. On the sidelines you hear players root on their teammates with, “good dodge.” Speaking of the sidelines, if you happen to take in a game, it’s best to look alive.
These boys work it alright. They labor and sweat and from what I saw, never back down. They go head to head, jump high and low, whatever it takes. No sissies here. They belt out some good-natured ribbing to their opponents and teammates, all the while having a hell of a good time.
While I was taking in the action, many spectators peeked in to check out the spectacle. One person even said to me, “Damn, that looks like so much fun.” It really does.
Bill Pigott and Eli Adams, the two men who run and organized the league, had many good things to say about the competition and they feel they’re onto something. They’re hoping that more players will want to get in on the act, and yes, that includes woman.
They envision the league expanding outside of the corner of Forest Hill and moving into other parts of Harford County and beyond. Currently it costs $250 per team to play, so with a maximum of ten players per team, it costs $25 a head. They have playoffs and prize money is awarded for 1st place.
With prize money involved and all this testosterone flying around, I couldn’t help but wonder if things have ever gotten out of hand? According to Pigott, there have been a couple of times when a call would go against someone, especially in the playoffs, and “they’d take it personally.”
“But we’ve all been playing together for a couple of years now and we know each other,” Pigott added.
For the most part, things work themselves out and these boys keep it under control.
Not long ago, stories circulated about certain school systems trying to ban activities such as dodgeball. If you Google “banning dodgeball” you’ll see what I mean.
Here’s how Adams responded to such a notion: “It’s a necessity to have sports growing up like that…those kinds of sports everyone grew up with and I grew up with I turned out just fine. Personally I think when you eliminate those kinds of competitive things in school it just makes your childhood that much more fragile and you don’t grow up with that competitiveness.”
Pigott, who played semi-pro baseball, knows a thing or two about being involved with sports.
“We just have fun playing,” he said.
Isn’t fun the ultimate motive when it comes to sport anyway – even for a sport aimed at leaving you black, blue and smiling?
The Harford Dodgeball playoffs are in the works with the Championship Game set for 7 p.m. on St. Patrick’s Day – Monday, March 17. Get in touch with the league at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.