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Dodgeball: It’s not just for kids anymore!

By Staff | May 13, 2009

It’s just the third week that it’s been offered, but the crowds coming to the Sanibel Recreation Center on Monday evenings is already beginning to grow.

That’s because the 18-month-old facility now plays host to Dodgeball Nights, a pickup game that brings participants back to their youth, when memories of elementary school recess sessions of the hit ’em and dodge ’em sport can make them feel like kids again.

“A few people mentioned to me that they would like to play dodgeball here,” said Rec Center staffer Nick Brown. “I thought it might be a good idea, so I mentioned it to my bosses and they liked it, too.”

For those of you who may not have played the sport – or for those who may not remember – dodgeball begins with two captains selecting their teams of players. On May 11, about 30 players lined up during the selection process. And, like it’s been done on school fields for generations, best friends pick best friends, and the less-than-athletic-looking types must await their fate of whether they’ll be picked last or not.

But once the games begin, everybody appears to be having a lot of fun.

“I just wanted something to do tonight,” said Alec Cohn, one of the first players eliminated but hoping a catch from one of his teammates will send him back into battle. “I heard about this and thought it might be fun to do.”

With classic rock songs of the ’50s and ’60s playing over the loudspeaker, players on opposing sides of the gymnasium bob, weave, jump, dive, duck and dodge themselves amid a flurry of flying balls. They use a soft, Nerf-type of sphere that doesn’t hurt upon being struck. They only pain the players may feel, however, is being caught unaware of an incoming “out” toss.

“You really have to have excellent reflexes,” explained Sam Halberson from the sidelines. “It’s good exercise, too. You don’t get worn out too fast, even if you’ve played for an hour or two. It’s a lot more fun than walking on a treadmill.”

Some of the other basic rules of dodgeball include:

There is no referee; play is an “on your honor” system.

If you step across the half court line, you are out (except during the initial rush, when only one foot may cross the line.

No player can throw until every rusher has returned to the three-point area.

Balls may be blocked by another ball. If you drop the ball, you are out.

If a ball bounces off of anything before striking a player, that player is not out.

Any ball striking a player’s head do not count as outs.

If a player catches an incoming ball from the opposing team, one player previously called out may return.

Teams are re-made after the best two out of three games.

“I’m tired!” said Maureen Tesoro, taking a sip from her water bottle after being struck by an opponent’s ball. “Everybody seems to be sweating, so we must be getting a good workout. It’s different, but it’s also a lot of fun.”

A small group of onlookers smiled when watching the dodgeball action at full tilt. Ellen Mayeron was among the spectators laughing at the criss-crossing battle of dayglow green and orange balls, which bounced high off of each player eliminated.

“I can’t believe that those balls don’t hurt,” she added, smiling. “But it’s very nice to see so many kids this age enjoying a sport that everyone can play.”

Dodgeball Nights are held from 6 to 8 p.m. on Mondays at the Sanibel Recreation Center, located at 3880 Sanibel-Captiva Road. No registration is necessary; just show up and play. Proper footwear is required and players must be at least 14 years old. While there are no additional costs for Rec Center members, non-members will need to get a day pass. Call 472-0345 or visit www.mysanibel.com for more information.