I must admit, I am a fan of dodgeball. It’s a game that seems to have it’s ups and downs in popularity. While I remember first playing in elementary school, it wasn’t until middle school (or junior high) that I really fell in love with dodgeball.

In elementary school we used to play the game around a circle. Half of the kids would be inside the circle (trying not to get hit) and the other half (the ones throwing the balls) were on the outside. Did anyone else play it this way? In junior high each team had their own side of a large rectangle. This is the way you see it played everywhere these days, including the movie Dodgeball.

Years ago I was a “Village Chief” (Unit Leader) at a summer camp on the East Coast. Dodgeball was one of the camp activities that was very popular with staff and campers. We played with rubber balls (not like the soft skin Gator balls schools play with these days). Amongst the larger playground sized balls there was a 4″ or 5″ ball that was easy to throw very fast. We called this the Deathball. If you got hit with this little sucker you were gonna remember it for the next week. The Deathball was only allowed in the staff and high school dodgeball games.

One day the older male campers were playing, cabin vs. cabin. Counselors were playing as well. A couple of other cabins decided to come over and watch. The next thing we knew half of the camp was viewing the intense game of dodgeball. Everyone would ohh and ahh when the Deathball was thrown.

That day I got together with another Village Chief and we decided to put together an event. Camp staff vs. the high school campers (15-16 year olds). None of the girls wanted to play even though we invited them. They were all excited to watch, however. We appropriately called this one-game event “Deathball”. Some of the younger campers made posters for the event rooting on either the staff or the campers.

With the permission of the director we had the DJ equipment brought out as well as the popcorn machine and drinks. The whole camp was there. Music was thumping, the smell of popcorn filled the air and campers and staff alike were pumped. The game was played on a tennis court sans the net. The program director refereed.

With the blow of the whistle both teams rushed the center line for the three playground balls and the Deathball. Members of each team were being eliminated and then returning thanks to some great catches by both sides. The game lasted around 15-20 minutes until the staff finally prevailed. Thinking it was going to be an easy victory, the staff applauded the campers and shook each of their hands vigorously. We all had smiles on our faces after that game. The campers that played knew they had earned our respect for going into a game where they were the underdogs and being able to give us a real run for our money.

But it didn’t stop there. The female staff and the female high school campers, caught up in all the excitement, decided to have an impromptu game of their own. They opted not to use the Deathball. That was a smart move seeing that one of the male staff members and two of the male campers had some welts from that thing. The girl’s game was just as entertaining as the boy’s. Everyone cheered both teams on. Again the staff came out victoriously, but it was very close.

That day is still being talked about years later. The Deathball event has since been renamed to The Staff vs. Campers Dodgeball Event. As for the Deathball itself, it’s been retired for good.

Of all my memories of that great camp, this is one I’ll cherish for a very long time…and I know I’m not the only one.

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