Members of Toronto Dodgeball work out at Milne Valley Middle School in North York. To stay in the game, players often use balls to deflect those coming at them.

Dodgeball no longer just a kids’ game

A crescent-shaped bruise covers the top of Dave Kutner’s fingernail. It’s a memento of the game he’s devoted himself to the last four years: dodgeball.

More then ever, adults like Kutner are playing dodgeball, a sport known previously for its popularity among the pre-teen set. Dodgeball now ranks in the top five of the most popular sports offered by recreational sports league Toronto Central Sports and Social Club (TCSSC), according to its director of operations.

“We get CEOs, lawyers and students. Whether by gender or occupation, it’s a real crazy mix of everyone,” Rob Davies said.

TCSSC first decided to field a league in 2004 in order to capitalize on the popularity of the movie Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, a goofball-comedy starring Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller.

“We thought (dodgeball) would be a passing fad, but it hasn’t stopped growing,” Davies said. “We now offer it five nights a week.”

Kutner and Lorne Kurtz run Toronto Dodgeball, a league that offers officiated games in school gyms across the city. Like TCSSC, Toronto Dodgeball has benefited from the sport’s rise in popularity.

“There was such an overflow … we had to (add) a new division,” Kutner said. “And there were people on the waiting list that we had to turn away.”

According to Kurtz, 24, the increase in interest stems from the fact that dodgeball allows both genders to participate equally. Most leagues require that at least two men and women must be on a team.

“There’s very few sports that you can (play) with a big group of friends, guys and girls alike,” he said.

On a typical league night, eight teams play in a middle school gym separated by a divider. With names like Speedy Gonballez and Get Out of Dodge, the emphasis is more on fun than competition.

A game begins with six players on the floor. They lie on their stomachs behind the back line. Once the whistle blows, they race to the centre of the gym to grab the available balls, placed in a row.

In rapid succession, the teams alternate possessions. Points are awarded when everyone on the opposing team is eliminated. The first team to get to seven wins the match. But, for many dodgers, winning isn’t that important.

“We’ve been sucking this year, but that’s okay,” player Wendy “Firecracker Red” Dixon said. “We’ve got the most heart.”

The rules are ridiculously simple: if you’re hit, you’re out; if a ball is caught, the thrower is out. And, don’t step over the middle line. Otherwise, anything goes and anyone can be a target, whether intended or not.

Some players acrobatically avoid being hit by contorting their bodies in mid-air. For a supposed kid’s game, dodgeball can be quite the workout.

“I haven’t been a member of a gym, because I don’t need anything more,” Kutner, 25, said. “I’m in the best shape I’ve been in years.”

“I’m going to be limping into work tomorrow. Everyone will say, ‘oh it must have been a dodgeball night’. And I’ll say, ‘yes, it was,'” he said.

Filed by Rahul Gupta