I was talking with a friend of mine who I used to work with at camp many years ago. He is currently the director of a private day camp. We got on the subject of dodgeball and he says to me, “The owners no longer allow the campers to play dodgeball.”


When I worked for a YMCA camp about 10 years ago we held a dodgeball event that we titled “DeathBall”. This even consisted of two games, male counselors vs. male high school campers and female counselors vs. female high school campers. We played on the camp tennis court and used those red rubber balls that you play four square with. One of the red balls was pretty small and you could throw that thing hard – it was the deathball. This ball was banned during all normal dodgeball games.

We brought out the popcorn machine and the DJ sound system and all the campers gathered outside the fenced-in tennis court. Music was pumping, campers were screaming and red rubber balls were flying. It was epic.

When I talk with staff that I worked with there we always talk about that event. It was very fun and memorable.

That kind of thing wouldn’t fly these days. At my camp we still play dodgeball (probably too much), but we play with small soft Gator balls. So far, it hasn’t been outlawed at our camp.

I realize camp has to change with the times, and in this safety conscious, sue happy era, old school games and activities are being pushed out of camp.

Fortunately, campers can, and do, have just as good a time playing safe games and engaging in safe activities, as they do playing rough games and engaging in questionable activities.

Does your camp allow dodgeball?

Emotional Safety vs. Physical Safety

My personal feeling is that we should be focusing on emotional safety much more than physical safety.

It’s easy to stop playing dodgeball or put a helmet on a camper before they climb a boulder (that any seven year old can safely climb). It’s not so easy to keep all your campers emotionally safe, in fact it’s down right difficult. Also, emotional safety isn’t taken into account when purchasing camp insurance. Maybe that’s why we focus so much of our time and energy into physical safety.

My scars and broken bones have all healed from my antics and shenanigans as a kid. Some of my emotional scars haven’t.

Do I have the answers on how to keep all campers safe emotionally? Heck no.

Do you?

How does your camp address this issue?

Have a different opinion?