So many balls thrown at my face, and it was fun!

Published August 3, 2016   Posted in How to Think

I have never enjoyed balls being thrown at my face as much as when I played in a semi-professional dodgeball league. I only say “semi-professional” because that’s what some of those players considered the league to be. So many balls. So little faces. And these players were just damn good.


I’ve been smacked in the face so hard that I lost all feeling on that side. Yup, cheeks, nose and half my lip, pretty much a dormant pile of organic gooeyness completely outside of my control. Yet, when it was my turn to play again, I was eager to take another ball to the other eye.

Head shots are against the rules, but they still happen. Intentional head shots were grounds for disqualification – but hey, who’s counting?

The game of dodgeball

The game is simple, but the rules can vary from place to place.

Each team has eight or nine players, but only six of them play at once. The game begins with six or seven balls placed on the center line between the two team’s six players, who are all lined up in a row against the back wall (diagram below). When the whistle blows, the game begins and both teams scramble towards the center line to retrieve as many balls as they can. This is called “the rush”.

These are 8.3″ gator skin balls. Those with larger hands have a huge advantage.

All balls must be brought back behind an “attack line” before they can be thrown at the opposing team’s players. This helps prevent the game from ending very shortly after it begins.

Here is a diagram of a typical dodgeball court:

Dodgeball Court

Players are out if they get hit with a ball and fail to catch it. If a player catches a thrown ball, the player who threw the ball is out. Additionally, the team that caught the ball can rotate players from the ‘Out Player Line Up’ area back into the game, but the total number of players on the court cannot exceed six for a team. The game ends once a team has no more players left on the court.

Dodgeball is more than just throwing balls. It’s about painfully-effective coordination.

I remember several times being the last player remaining for my team. The opposing team might have their entire team left, but usually three or four by the end. Good teams will coordinate their attack on the solitary player left, throwing simultaneously and from different directions.

As the only player left, it is damn near impossible to stop two or three balls from barreling towards you from the left, right and center. If you’re lucky enough to have a ball, you can attempt to block the thrown balls by crouching low enough, sticking the ball out in front of you and hoping for the best.

But you need to have a firm grip on your ball (grip your ball tightly!). You are out of the game if you lose control of the ball that you are holding.

For many who grace a dodgeball court around the country, they take this game very seriously. Many play on travel teams and jet-set around the world in dodgeball tournaments. You will probably never see dodgeball on ESPN, but it’s a real sport, and dodgeball players are as serious about dodgeball as we are about early retirement.

And to each their own. Serious dodgeball players around the country are slamming gator skin balls into their opponents while I am writing early retirement blog posts that apparently now contain childish “ball jokes”.

We all have our strengths.

Moral of the story: Do what you’re good at, even if it’s against the norm. Who cares if dodgeball isn’t a major sport. Big deal if early retirement isn’t in vogue. So what if you’re the kind of guy who cries with each viewing of Old Yeller or has a thing for Julia Roberts, Erin Brockovich-style.

Do what makes you happy, whatever that may be…even if that includes running for your life from gator-skinned balls that hurt like a bitch when they hit you in the face. It’s what you do. Be proud of it.

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18 responses to “So many balls thrown at my face, and it was fun!”

  1. Love it – and the message that goes along with it! And damn…they’ve banned dodgeball in many schools these days. (OK – disclaimer, I was an Assistant Principal for little kids at school and had to make some of those phone calls home when kids would do the intentional head shots…which was a PITA) BUT – dodgeball was always a favorite and my son lives for the after school dodgeball fundraiser each year where they raise a ton of money for different causes. Heading out to do some things that make us happy today – hope you do too!

    • Steve says:

      Banned dodgeball? Really? Man, things have gotten wussified in our schools these days, haven’t they? As a former assistant principle, I’m sure you’ve seen that happen a lot. Thanks for reading!

  2. I’ll add “struck by dodgeball” to the differential diagnosis when someone appears to be having a stroke.

    I’m more of a Curling guy. It’s safer as long as you’re sure-footed. And nobody’s throwing the stones at you, which is a good thing since they weigh 44 pounds. And of course, it is an Olympic sport. Those Russians are crazy good curlers.

    Cheers to weird sports!

  3. Just remember the five “D’s” in dodgeball…

    I love me some dodgeball and I also love me some Erin Brockovich! I’m glad I can enter your “trust-tree” and share my true passions.

  4. TMI 🙂 ” I was eager to take another ball to the other eye.”

    Dodgeball does sound like a fun blast from the past, though a painful one.

  5. Kate says:

    Oh man, this gave me terrifying flashbacks to my childhood! As someone who isn’t aggressive in the least, I was a horrible dodgeball player and dreaded gym class when we had to play. Surprisingly, broomball in high school was one of my favorites, even though we had to play outside in the dead of (Minnesota) winter. Maybe it was separating the girls from the boys that made a difference!

    I was on the tennis team throughout middle school and high school, playing doubles. At a match during my senior year, one of our opponents was so close to the net that she was almost touching it. I hit the ball right to her and she wasn’t able to react fast enough so it hit her right in the face! I felt awful (and still do). It was the longest match, watching her play through tears.

    I’ve been hit by plenty of tennis balls during practice but, luckily, never in the face. Can’t believe you’d continue to play dodgeball after taking a hit that made your face go numb!

    • Steve says:

      Hey Kate! Getting smacked in the face is never fun, but in dodgeball, it happens. It was fun nonetheless, something I don’t regret doing. Met some interesting people, too! 🙂

  6. Mr. SSC says:

    “If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball!” 🙂

    That sounds like a great time, and like most “adult” sport leagues it sounds like you get the range of “let’s have fun” to “We’ll crush you!!!” types of teams. I think kickball would be another fun sport to get into when there’s more time. Just a great mix of socializing and getting some competitive fun in.

    • Steve says:

      Actually, we also have a kickball league in town, though I never actually played in that one. A co-worker or two did, though, and pretty much said it was a beer league, which a lot of these leagues tend to be. Socialize, complete and drink…doesn’t sound like a bad night to me!

  7. I wish there were a dodgeball league in my area. I played in a charity game last winter and had a blast!

    I was wondering where you were headed with this post, but you, of course, came through with great application.

    • Steve says:

      Thanks for the comment FinanceSuperhero. I know, I head into some strange places with a lot of my writing. If I manage to keep people guessing a bit, I’d say that’s mission accomplished! 🙂

  8. “Do what you’re good at…do what makes you happy”: killer advice neatly wrapped up in a great read.

    The advice is essential in a professional context and, evidently, in social undertakings as well. As the seminal ball-joke movie “Clueless” taught us: If you aren’t comfortable with balls flying at your face, you’re not gonna have much of a social life.

    Many thanks for the laugh. Nice work.

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