In grade school, it was the ultimate way of separating the herd. Either you played with the big boys or you were the target. For some, even in adulthood, the reverberating tang of a big red bouncy ball still causes an involuntary flinch.
But such are the battle wounds of dodgeball. How many of us headed home at the end of the day with at least one big pink mark somewhere on our bodies, our heads still ringing from a particularly hard smack to the noggin?
In the past, dodgeball was one of those things we had to give up as the price for adulthood. It no longer seemed acceptable to line up a bunch of people and have them huck cantaloupe-sized rubber balls at each other with inordinate force.
But, thankfully, our society has progressed to the point where we no longer have to be ashamed of our desire to play with bouncy balls. In fact, there are leagues for it. According to the National Amateur Dodgeball Association (yes, this exists outside of a certain Ben Stiller/Vince Vaughn movie), adult dodgeball is a growing national sport.
"The National Amateur Dodgeball Association was created as a recreational pursuit for nontraditional sport enthusiasts," the Web site (dodgeballusa.com) reads. "It is an alternative sport requiring minimal equipment, set up and playing experience. Teamwork and strategy are more valuable factors in dodgeball than athletic skill and individual competitiveness. Anyone can play! Experience is countered by enthusiasm. Dodgeball promotes maximum social enjoyment."
The association hosts indoor and outdoor national championships, and offers the Bexley Cup to any team who manages to win both championships in a single year. The cup is, of course, named after the Bexley Reckers, the first team to take the prestigious honor in 2002.
The Web site lays out a long list of official rules, from the size and markings of an official dodgeball field and the initial rush to violations and the composition of the team. It also offers a handy line of official NADA merchandise, including T-shirts, logo-covered balls in a rainbow of colors, the NADA training video, ball bag and banners.
Treasure Valley players aren't on their own to discover the wonders of adult dodgeball. The Meridian Parks and Recreation Department is in the process of organizing its 2009 adult dodgeball league. Competition begins Monday, Aug. 31, and teams will play eight matches throughout the season. All teams will also participate in a double-elimination tournament at the end of the season to decide the ultimate victors.
Teams come in four varieties, open or co-ed, and competitive or recreational. That's right, there's an adult dodgeball beer league. Unfortunately, the big red bouncy rubber balls have been replaced by rubber-coated foam balls, which both the Meridian Parks Department and the NADA claim are safer. But do they still make that satisfying whop when they hit?
The registration deadline for the Meridian league is Friday, Aug. 7, and costs $275 per team. Registration forms and rosters are available online at meridiancity.org. For more information, call 208-888-3579.
In the meantime, get out the balls and start practicing. Or, if you're really serious, may we suggest dodging wrenches chucked at you because remember, if you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball. Or, at least that's what they said in the movie.