Dodge ball bans are ludicrous

by Jim Longworth

I played organized sports as a youth, including baseball which I dearly loved. But my favorite disorganized sport was what we called Battle Ball.  It was a little rougher version of dodge ball, and consisted of two groups of guys lined up across from each other on a basketball court.  Combatants would attempt to drill every player on the opposing side with a light weight rubber ball.  It was exhilarating and fun, and it was the most popular part of physical education classes. That was then, and this is now. Somewhere along the way, the PC mongers began looking to ban or regulate everything that remotely resembled anything aggressive in speech or in action. One of their targets was dodge ball. By May of 2001, TIME magazine reported that a growing number of school districts had banned Dodge Ball in states like Texas, Virginia, Maine, and Massachusetts.  And, today, the anti Dodge Ball movement is stronger than ever. Combatants on both sides of the issue were interviewed recently on HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel”.   One was Physical Education scholar Neil Williams from Eastern Connecticut State University.  Williams, considered by some PE pacifists to be the guru of the ban Dodge Ball revolution, told “Real Sports”, “Dodge Ball is like going hunting.  It brings out the worst in kids.  Kids are human targets.  It’s not a game that has values we should be teaching our children”. Paul Zintarski, a PE Director at Naperville Central high school in Illinois was even more emphatic, saying, “Anybody who teaches Dodge Ball in this day and age should be fired”. But if Williams and Zintarski are the leaders of the movement, then Christine Hollingsworth is the poster girl.  Hollingsworth is principal of an elementary school in Phoenix, Arizona, where she has adapted a number of athletic activities so as to be played without any physical contact whatsoever.   For example, her studentsplay tag, buty instead of tapping the person who is “it”, she requires her kids to step on the shadow of the intended target ( I guess they can’t play tag at high noon).   And when Hollingsworth’s students make a good play, they give each other “air fives”.  It’s like a high five, except with no touching. Fortunately there are a few sane people left in this country who have been willing to stand up to the anti Dodge Ball forces.  One is Matt Laybash, a writer for the Weekly Standard.  He calls the movement to ban Dodge Ball the “wussification of America”.   Laybash claims that people who want to take competition out of Phys Ed altogether are, in fact, cheating our kids. Liddie McNutty agrees.  She has been a physical education teacher in Maryland for over 30 years, and has continued to fight for the right to include Dodge Ball in her classes.  She believes that Dodge Ball teaches kids life lessons, and she also points out that, “not a single student has ever been injured playing Dodge Ball”. But opponents of Dodge Ball don’t let facts get in the way of a good story, and in today’s PC society, banning Dodge Ball is a good story. In spite of that, there are organizations working hard to preserve the controversial sport.  One such group is the International Dodge Ball Federation.  Another is the National Amateur Dodge Ball Association whose press release now promotes their beloved sport as a “more safe and enjoyable sport”.  They cite the use of rubber coated balls and safety conscious rules.   Returning to “Real Sports”, I couldn’t help but notice an ironic twist to Gumbel’s program line-up that day.  The show began with a report on seven outstanding high school athletes in Virginia Beach who had been shot over the past year.  All of them were innocent victims of senseless violence by young men with too much time on their hands, and no outlet for letting off steam.  It made me wonder if such violence could have been prevented early on had the murderous punks been too tired to pull a trigger because they had been playing Dodge Ball all day. I exaggerate, of course, but the point cannot be denied that activities like Dodge Ball give young people an outlet in which to act out their aggressions in a safe environment. Beyond that, it is important for kids to know what failure is.  Laybash lamented that banning Dodge Ball actually cheats kids.   Clearly, not everyone can be the winner in Dodge Ball, and so it is in life.   What happens to a young man who is shielded from losing, then, one day experiences an embarrassing loss of a job, scholarship, or promotion?    What happens when he is rejected by a girl he really likes?   How will he handle coming in second place if he’s never been prepared for that scenario?  Chances are he might become violent or aggressive in manner or in deed, and that makes lack of life skills far more dangerous than getting hit with a Dodge Ball.     Balls are easier to dodge than bullets, so it’s time for these do-gooder activists to bite the bullet, and just let the kids play.   It might save us all a lot of problems later on.