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Published: Wednesday, 3/16/2005

Let it fly: Adult dodgeball league offers fitness, fun

BY RYAN E. SMITH
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Lee Daher, left, follows through as Adam Brady takes aim in adult dodgeball in the YMCA s Fort Meigs Center for Health Promotion in Perrysburg. Lee Daher, left, follows through as Adam Brady takes aim in adult dodgeball in the YMCA s Fort Meigs Center for Health Promotion in Perrysburg.
RUGGIERO Enlarge

C'mon Lee! No pressure!

That's not entirely true, even if Lee's screaming teammates would like him to believe it.

See, Lee Daher - the guy with the Chicago Cubs cap - is the only one left on his team, and he's got to peg several members of the other team with little foam dodgeballs before they get him in order to win.

The good news is that he has all four balls. He calmly walks up to the center line in the gym and sets two of them down. He stands up and looks across the room to where his opponents are readying themselves.

It's a very Braveheart moment.

Lisa Genson avoids a dodgeball during a match.  I just
dodge. That s my theory,  said the mother of three children from Bowling Green.  Dodge, duck, dip, dive, and dodge. Lisa Genson avoids a dodgeball during a match. I just dodge. That s my theory, said the mother of three children from Bowling Green. Dodge, duck, dip, dive, and dodge.
RUGGIERO Enlarge

Then - a surprise - he gently lobs one of them toward the enemy. While it hangs in the air, drawing their attention, he spears one of them with another ball, this one thrown like a rocket. A second later, he's nailing another opponent with a ball - at the same time as he is tragically hit by one of them.

Welcome to the intense world of adult dodgeball. On Tuesday nights this winter, it's live and let dodge in the YMCA's Fort Meigs Center for Health Promotion in Perrysburg, where 20 teams and 200 people have signed up for a league.

"It's great exercise," said Adam Brady, 35, one of Mr. Daher's teammates from Whitehouse, huffing a bit after a match. "You act like a little kid out here."

"People think it's immature, but look at the growth," added Mr. Daher, 24, a West Toledo man who works as a carpenter on the new I-280 bridge when he's not playing dodgeball.

Not only has the league grown considerably since it was formed in 2003 with 120 players, but dodgeball opportunities have proliferated nationally, accelerated no doubt by the movie Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, which came out on DVD in December.

"It's huge," said Rusty Walker, president and CEO of the International Dodgeball Federation, based in Mississippi.

While some schools have banned the game from gym class, groups like Mr. Walker's and the National Amateur Dodgeball Association have grown, and the Game Show Network has come up with a show called Extreme Dodgeball.

The rules of the game as played at the local YMCA are simple.

Each team of 10 may have six players on the gym floor at the beginning of a match, with substitutes coming in as team members are eliminated. Each team starts with two balls and seven minutes to defeat the other team, either by hitting opponents with a ball or by catching a ball thrown by an opponent. Once you're out, there's no rejoining the game.

Kacy Watson, sports coordinator for the Fort Meigs YMCA, said it requires a wide range of physical skills.

"Quick movements. Agility. And some dodging," said Mrs. Watson, 24, who plays on one of the teams.

The game itself is a flurry of activity, full of players diving to the ground to elude a throw or dashing to midcourt to sidearm a ball, then retreating at top speed to escape possible retribution.

"The secret to being a good dodgeball player," Mrs. Watson confided, "is get all four balls on your team at one time and go after somebody, the person on the other team that's the best. Get them out first."

Some of the finer parts of the game are hard to master.

Just ask Jerry Szelagowski, who is on a team of Medical College of Ohio students. He's studying to be a surgeon, but when he's in the gym, he's more concerned with how to throw the light, foam dodgeballs accurately.

"It curves like crazy," the 23-year-old from Pemberville said. "The best thing you can do is get as close as you can and just let it rip."

While the league predates the release of the movie Dodgeball, the influence of the film is obvious. It's everywhere from the team names, which include the Purple Cobras (Ben Stiller's team in the movie), to the T-shirts that all the players wear, echoing the motto of one character in the movie who says, "If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball."

Clearly, Lisa Genson, 33, has seen the movie.

"I just dodge. That's my theory," said the mother of three from Bowling Green. "Dodge, duck, dip, dive, and dodge."

Those are the five Ds of dodgeball taught by fictional dodgeball legend Patches O'Houlihan in the movie.

Ms. Genson is a member of the Orbiters, a team of couples who all have children. They've enjoyed softball and kickball together, so why not dodgeball?

"We thought it would be fun," she said.

Sometimes, you just can't dodge enough, though, as one of her teammates discovered. Fortunately for Cherilyn Long, the balls are foam, not the rubber playground balls you remember from elementary school.

"I got hit the face last year," said the 32-year-old mother from Haskins. "It's not so bad."

Contact Ryan E. Smith at:

ryansmith@theblade.com

or 419-724-6103.



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