Dodging’s the issue: Students enthusiastic about new dodgeball league at UTC

By CHRISTINA COOKE
The Chattanooga Times Free Press, February 13, 2005
Staff photos by John Rawlston

The four members of Balls to the Wall did not practice at all for the first dodgeball game of the intramural season at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. In preparation, Daniel Garmon said, they watched Ben Stiller’s movie “Dodgeball” “like 30 times” and slurped raspberry slushies from the University Center immediately before the game.

On Tuesday, 20 teams gathered to play four-on-four dodgeball inside the glassed-in courts at the UTC racquetball center. Ron Nelson, intramural coordinator at UTC, organized the dodgeball league after the trial tournament last November proved a hit with students.

Mr. Nelson declared the inaugural match of the newly formed league a success. “Any time you can get 20 teams of college kids to show up for anything, you are successful,” he said. The teams will play four matches before the tournament scheduled for Thursday.

Dressed in the matching lime green T-shirts they purchased at Wal-Mart, with the stickers pro- claiming “Now Even Softer Fabric!” still affixed to them, team Balls to the Wall took on team Deez Balls in a five-game match.

The four members of each team started at opposite ends of the court. When the person over- seeing the game banged his palm on the glass wall, the players raced toward the three red rubber balls spaced along the 20-foot line.

The fastest grabbed the balls, then ran back to tag the wall on their respective ends.

From there, the players pelted each other, caught the ricocheting balls and pelted each other again. Some wound up the balls with one arm and let them fly. Others opted for two- handed overhand throws. A few players tried to fake out their opponents by looking in one di- rection and throwing in another.

Those caught on the defensive tried to duck, dip and scoot away from balls aimed at them, often to no avail.
Once they got smacked, the players ducked out the door at one end of the court and became highly involved spectators. “Don’t throw it!” “No! No!” “Stop being nice!” “Aim low!” and “You’re fired!” shouted the members of Deez Balls to their teammate, Chris Manuel, who, near the end of the game, faced Balls to the Wall’s Nathan Helton in a one-on-one skirmish.

Mr. Manuel and Mr. Helton fired balls at each other for some time before Mr. Manuel pegged Mr. Helton’s rear, ending the game. “They won by a cheek,” conceded Mr. Helton.

“This early season loss hasn’t deterred us from our goal to win the championship,” said Preston Sparks of Balls to the Wall. “It’s a minor setback in our long-term goal of world domination.”

All of the members of Balls to the Wall remember playing dodgeball in school when they were younger. “The game brings us back to our childhoods,” Mr. Sparks said. “I played all through middle school. I was dodgeball king.” His teammates Mr. Helton and Mikey Robinson said that they did not have such glowing dodgeball experiences. Both admitted to being hit in the face a lot.

Ed Prentiss, president of the National Dodgeball League, said that dodgeball has grown in popularity in the last few years as more and more people have become interested in alternative sports.

“Some people enjoy the pace of it,” he said. “You’re always moving, you’re always on. It’s a unique sport in that you’re always on offense, and you’re always on defense. As an individual, you’re always active in the game.
“It’s also a sport that anybody can play. There’s not a lot of equipment that you need, and you don’t need to know a ton of rules. It’s very accessible,” he said.

Most players in the UTC league expressed a similar sentiment. “I like the idea that dodgeball doesn’t require any skill,” said Mike Bradley of Team America.

“It’s fun because you get to hit people with balls,” said Geoff Desillier of The Ryders. “It’s better than lying around and sleeping or doing homework.”

“It’s the greatest sport ever,” said Mr. Sparks.

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