Thursday, June 21, 2018
Dodgeball is still a hit (story audio)


Dodgeball is still a hit
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Indoor dodgeball teams play at the Dodge-it Dodgeball Center in Minneapolis. (MPR Photo/Toni Randolph)
Last summer's blockbuster film, "Dodgeball," reignited interest in the game many people haven't played since childhood. Some grown-ups started playing dodgeball again last summer and haven't stopped yet.

St. Paul, Minn. — You may remember the game dodgeball from gym class back in middle school. You throw, you catch, you dodge. And if you're not good at any of those things -- you're out.

Dodgeball is banned in many school districts across the country now because it's considered violent and bad for children's self-esteem, but it's still fair game for adults. Every week adults play dodgeball at the Dodge-it Dodgeball Center in Minneapolis.

James Snouwaerd, 26, of Maple Grove, is one of them.

"I haven't played it since fourth grade. I loved it back then. So I thought, do this, give it a shot, see what it's like. One season turned into two, into three and now we're in our fifth," Snouwaerd said.

Tony Cu, 24, comes from Maple Grove to play at the Dodge-it Center.

"I think it's kind of reliving your childhood a bit. When you were kids you were playing dodgeball, you were here to be with your friends and having fun," said Cu. "I think as we're older now -- most of us are in our 20s -- here we are, still playing with our friends. We're just 20 years older."

Troy Lanoux, 35, is another dodgeball fan.

"We were all kids once. That's when we started playing dodgeball. My generation is picking up all the kid games, with the kickball leagues and dodgeball and that sort of stuff. There's not a lot of organized sports you can play as an adult," Lanoux said.

You can play organized dodgeball at the Dodge-it Center in the Uptown neighborhood in Minneapolis. It has actual dodgeball courts, and that's where these 20- and 30-somethings play. The rules are probably pretty much the way you remember them from middle school. Lanoux says they're pretty simple.

"You throw balls at each other. If you get hit by a ball, you're out. If you catch a ball, the person who throws it is out. That's the real basics," Lanoux said.

And the skills are pretty basic too, says Rachel Howes, who plays with her boyfriend on one of the co-ed teams.

"Either you have to be able to throw, you have to be able to catch or you have to be able to dodge. And if you can't throw or catch, you'd better have a good pretty survival instinct," Howes said.

For those who don't like organized activities, there's pickup dodgeball. Every Saturday afternoon -- rain or shine -- you can find a game at Kenwood Park in Minneapolis.

They play in a meadow near the tennis courts, with only a tall fence as a true boundary. The court is created by bright orange cones set up at key points in the grass.

On a recent rainy and cool Saturday in May, about eight people showed up. This was a small crowd compared to the dozens of people who show up on nicer days. But the enthusiasm of this group wasn't dampened -- not even by the weather.

You can find Troy Lanoux here, too. He says there's a difference between playing pickup games in the park and playing in the league.

"(The park) is a lot more relaxed. There's less competition. There's still competitiveness, but there's more camaraderie and appreciation that we're all here to have fun. It's not about winning or losing, it's about being outside and playing dodgeball," Lanoux said.

Many people who are drawn to these games cite the movie, "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story," for renewing their interest dodgeball. It's about a bunch of misfits who enter a dodgeball tournament to save their gym.

The dodgeball movie generated so much interest that it sparked a game show on the GSN cable channel. And there are plans for a professional league.

Organizers say the professional league will be in great contrast to the quirky TV show. Ed Prentiss is the president of the newly-formed National Dodgeball League, which includes both amateurs and professionals.

"We're looking for really good athletes that will play this sport at the top level," said Prentiss. "It's not meant to be a sideshow, it's not meant to be goofy, it's not meant to be quirky. And that's a battle that we face because when we mention dodgeball, people go, 'are you kidding me?'"

Prentiss wants to launch the professional league in the fall with four teams, one based in Minnesota. Tryouts will be held in September when the National Dodgeball League sponsors its first amateur world championship in Las Vegas. And Prentiss says, he's only looking for the best.

"When we go out to Vegas, we're not looking for anybody," he said. "If they can't play, they can't play."