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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 in the early 2000s, we held a dodgeball event that we titled “DeathBall”. This event 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 dubbed “the death ball”. This ball was banned during all normal dodgeball games.
The camp directors would bring out the popcorn machine and the DJ sound system, and all the campers would gather outside the fenced-in tennis court. Music would be pumping, campers screaming and red rubber balls flying. It was epic.
When I would talk with staff that I worked with there, we always talked 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”.
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 (and schools).
Fortunately, campers can, and do, have just as much fun 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 could 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.
How does your camp address this issue?
Have a different opinion?