So you’re in the office talking sports with a few guys, and one of them chimes in and tells you he has a big match coming up that night. His dodgeball team is in the semi finals and he’s fired up about it. What inevitably ensues is a round of laughter, followed by another round of mocking, followed by someone finally saying the words “dodgeball is not a sport.” While I can personally attest to uttering those very words just a few years ago, after speaking with Dave Kutner, former baseball player, golfer, skier and swimmer turned captain of the Canadian Dodgeball team, I have come to realize that nothing could be further from the truth. We recently sat down with Dave to talk all things dodgeball, from how the sport has changed from guys wreaking havoc to a game of strategic and tactical skill.
How did you find Dodgeball and when and why did you start taking it seriously.
I found dodgeball by accident. I was looking for a sport to play one summer during undergrad and Googled "sports in Toronto in the summer" and came across a local dodgeball league. I tried it out and fell in love with it from the moment I stepped on the court. I started to take it seriously as the strategy of the game developed and the level of play increased. When I first started, it was just a bunch of people chucking balls at each other. But the game evolved and I loved the direction it was taking.
What was it about dodgeball that appealed to you more than other sports you played growing up?
I loved the team aspect of the game where the best player didn't win the game, it was the best team. I loved the creative outlet it provided me. There are so many different ways to throw and dodge so you can always have fun trying something new and testing out new moves. Finally, there is the social element. Dodgeball is a game of raw emotion, but when the final whistle blows, the dodgeball community is so tightly knit that it's a big family that you are excited to see every week.
What do you tell guys who say "dodgeball isn’t a real sport"?
I tell them to try it out. If you jump on in a rec league somewhere you will have a good time and get a great workout. If you want to see what competitive dodgeball is really about, there are more competitive leagues as well as competitive tournaments with cash prizes. Sports are determined by the level of strategy needed to compete and while the essence of Dodgeball is still somewhat barbaric, the strategy and tactical side has evolved so much in the last 5 to 8 years. Plays are now being called on the court with rotations and positioning to give you and your team the best shot to take out an opposing player. People who say that dodgeball is not a real sport tend to have never tried it since grade school.
What’s the difference between rec league dodgeball and the international competitions?”
The biggest difference is strategy and understanding of the game. At the rec level, you still get people who throw just as hard as the competitive players, the difference is that they are not able to control their accuracy as well. In addition, if you go and throw as hard as you can without the support of your team, you are an easy target for an opposing player to counter you. Teamwork, accuracy and catching skills are probably the largest differentiation between rec and competitive. The international competitions are the best of the competitive players, so the ones that have played long enough to have a complete understanding and respect for the game.
What’s are the biggest misconceptions guys have about the game when they first enter a league?
That the speed at which you throw does not determine how good you are. There are so many elements to being a well rounded dodgeball player. When I was first starting out, I was one of the hardest throwers, but there was one guy who always caught my ball, no matter how hard I threw it at him. I realized that just throwing hard at his chest gave him the advantage. I started to develop alternative throws (slider, curveball, etc) in order to mix up his timing and placement of his hands (similar to how a baseball pitcher attempts to keep a batter off balance by not just throwing fastballs over the plate).
The other large misconception is how sore you will be the next day. Dodgeball is not just an intense workout, but is also very high impact. As with all sports, remember to stretch and warm up and don't get stuck in the mindset that "it's just dodgeball".