In movies such as DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story and Bad Teacher, dodgeball is depicted as the sport of choice for bullies to torment their peers. But members of one Toronto team say they’re aiming for quite the opposite.
They call themselves the “DudeBros” and no, it is not an all-male team. The group actually consists of 10 males and females in their early 20s.
A small company, owned and operated by 26-year-old David Heimlich called the Nation Leagues, has put together co-ed dodgeball teams. They compete every Thursday evening at Cardinal Carter Academy for the Arts during the fall season.
”I created it in October 2007, starting with only ball hockey and brought in dodge ball as one of the games to play in 2010,” Heimlich said. “It was a simple, easy sport to organize and play as well as it being one of those out of the ordinary games in comparison to the usually played basketball and baseball.”
The players on each team must sign a consent form stating their acknowledgment of the risks involved, although they play with soft, almost foam-like balls. Players must be over the age of 18 and must also comply with all rules stated in their instructional class the first day. One of the major rules being “no intentionally hitting players in the head.”
”The people with the poor attitude and sportsmanship are usually the bullies and it happens from time to time when an individual on either team is mad in general,” Heimlich said. “When they choose to get upset and curse at another player or fail to follow the rules, they are ejected from the game and sometimes not even welcomed back depending on their behaviour.”
Torie Jones, 23, is one of the three females on DudeBros and is new to the dodgeball scene. She finds that male players are more competitive than the females, which has sometimes led to less “civil” games in the past.
”There’s strategy to the game which might seem like someone is purposely targeting you, but then there is always the cheating aspect,” Jones said. “The ref says when you’re out you have to walk off to the sidelines but no one’s natural instinct is to walk out, creating uproar when passionate players start fighting over the score and calling people out for misplays.”
Some tips from Jones were not only to “shake it off” but to also encourage positive banter between teams especially when certain players are doing well.
”To handle a bully during a dodgeball game is like any other sport — you have to stay calm and not allow the situation to escalate. There is nothing worse than having to stop a game because everyone’s yelling at each other,” Jones said.
The games, which usually last from three to five minutes, are played for an hour inside the school’s gymnasium.
Ultimately players agreed bullying was a social issue that happens in every sport.
”Bullying is everywhere and in hockey you check someone, baseball you throw the ball when he’s at bat and in football you tackle him when you shouldn’t, so it’s not so much dodgeball-related as it is individuals having their own anger issues,” Heimlich said. “If you’re a jerk, you’re a jerk.”