The Cluttered History Of Dodgeball

Everyone knows the game of dodgeball

Whether it’s because they played it in gym class growing up, or they saw the famed Hollywood movie of the same name, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t have some sort of fond (or perhaps painful) memories of the game.

But where did it come from?

The origin story behind the sport of dodgeball is more sordid and complex than that of your run-of-the-mill sport. In fact, historians and regular old Internet bloggers alike have yet to discover the true origins of dodgeball, though there are plenty of available resources which have led to general speculation and tall tales.

So, if you’re looking for the one true history of dodgeball, you’re unlikely to find it here. But, that doesn’t mean we can’t still dive into the somewhat cluttered and sordid evolution of the game we all know and love. Let’s take a look.

Brutal Beginnings

The most common tale traces the game’s beginnings back to Africa more than two centuries ago. There, it is said, dodgeball was less of a game than a brutal training method in which competitors would hurtle rocks at one another in an attempt to, erm, eliminate them. As they used rocks instead of the softer, more bounceable balls we use nowadays, the elimination method was a little more brutal than just getting pegged and standing on the sideline.

The tale goes that Dr. James H. Carlisle witnessed this display and saw the opportunity to turn this training routine into a game, and he did just that when he returned to Europe. Carlisle and some peers, including Phillip Ferguson of Yale, ultimately brought it to America and a battle between St. Mary’s College and Yale. Ferguson is thought of as the “father” of dodgeball in some aspects, as it was him who thought of the concept of dividing competitors into teams within a set arena. Soon after, in 1905, the first rules were drawn up and the game soon took on a life of its own.

Growing The Game

Eventually, and no one is quite sure how, dodgeball became the sport we know today. Essentially, the game is played between two teams of players who are split evenly across the court or battleground. Each team has its own designated “side,” and crossing over to the other side is one way to get eliminated from play. Other ways include:

  • Getting hit by a ball thrown by an opponent
  • An opponent catches one of your throws
  • Cheating (throwing at an opponent’s head, picking up a ball from the opposition’s zone, etc.)

Most people got their first taste of the sport while in middle school gym class. The balls were of course soft, sometimes Nerf-style or even kickballs, though in recent years it has been the subject of scrutiny because of its fast-paced and sometimes dangerous nature. Parents have advocated for the game’s removal from schools in many states, and thus avid players have had to discover new outlets to play this once-revered game.

A True Underdog Story

Of course, dodgeball got a whole lot of positive press in 2004 when a movie starring Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller was released titled “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story.” The movie told the tale of a ragtag group of gym members who entered a competitive dodgeball tournament with the hopes of winning the prize money and saving their failing gym. The movie ultimately revived interest in the sport and opened up the world’s eyes to a new form of extreme competition.

Competitive Dodgeball

Despite the black eye on the game imposed on the battle between parents and schools, the game has grown into real life international competitive phenomenon. There are several competitive organizations who play dodgeball professionally, or at least recreationally, on a regular basis. The World Dodgeball Federation hosted the first ever World Dodgeball Championships in 2012, and it is now an annual event (Canada is the current world champ, in case you were wondering).

A New Twist

In recent years, players have discovered a new, high-octane version of the game known as “Air Dodgeball.” Air dodgeball takes the same basic rules of the game and throws in the added twist of playing on a trampoline. At Rebounderz trampoline parks in Apopka, just north of Orlando, you too can discover this unique way to play one of your favorite childhood games. Our trampoline arenas transform into the perfect battleground for groups of friends, team outings, birthday parties, and more to dodge, dip, duck, dive, and dodge as they bounce off the walls — literally.

Dodgeball is a game of skill and precision which can help promote fitness, balance, and coordination for people of all ages. It’s not that brutal game that it was once said to be; instead, it’s a fun and interactive game that can be uplifting, promote weight loss, improve reflexes, and do a whole lot more.

Come on in to the Rebounderz trampoline park in Apopka to experience this game for yourself in a whole new light.