YORKTON - If you were going to list a bunch of different sports it is likely you’d be well down the page before you thought to add dodgeball, if it ever came to mind at all.
Of course many of us of a certain age will likely remember dodgeball as a gym activity in school, usually using a basketball or volleyball, an activity where bullies pounded fastball shots at those less inclined to athletics, an activity that thankfully seems to have been pared from schools.
But, there is a sport version of the game too.
In fact, there are a couple of versions of dodgeball explains Dwayne Hoppenbrouwers, a player from Edmonton, the city which will host the upcoming World Dodgeball Championships, (Aug. 28 – Sept. 4) – more on that later in this article.
As for the sport it has tended to diverge along two lines, offered Hoppenbrouwers, adding there are a few less recognized ones out there too.
There is a foam ball version which is the prevalent version of dodgeball in North America which uses a seven-inch foam ball.
In Europe they tend to play dodgeball using a slightly larger ball where the foam core is wrapped in cloth.
Both versions do pit six players versus six players with the focus being to throw one of the balls in play to hit an opponent and score points.
Hoppenbrouwers added Dodgeball is somewhat unique among sports having more than one ball in play – six in foam and five in cloth.
“There’s a lot of different kinds of dodgeball,” he explained in a recent interview with Yorkton This Week.
Hoppenbrouwers noted one of the focuses for the World Dodgeball Federation is to work toward a single rule set that unifies the sport and helps with its ultimate growth.
“They want a consistent set of rules,” he said.
But having a single style of game is down the road, but the upcoming World Championships will be the first to have both foam and cloth divisions, as well as a mixed team category.
The Dodgeball World Championship is a dodgeball competition for both men's and women's national teams. The event is organized by the World Dodgeball Federation, the sport's global governing body.
It was initially an open event, but stopped being an open event as the membership grew, and now works by qualification. In 2021, WDBF's membership reached 80 members, all also members of the relevant continental federations.
While foam was the only format used in previous editions, starting with the Edmonton event, the World Championships will be contested in both foam and cloth.
“This is a massive undertaking for the whole of Dodgeball Canada,” said Hoppenbrouwers, adding the national tournament was held at the same venue in June “as kind of a trial run, and it went extremely well.”
Hoppenbrouwers said 24 countries and some 50 teams have been confirmed to participate.
Canada, the U.S. and Malaysia are expected to contend on the foam side of things, with the United Kingdom and Austria frontrunners on the cloth side.
Hoppenbrouwers will be part of Canada’s men’s team in the cloth division.
The first World Championships was held in 2012 in Malaysia, with Canada winning gold (in foam).
The following year the championships were held in New Zealand and Canada won both the men’s and women’s divisions.
The Canadian men repeated in 2014 in Hong Kong, then won again in Australia in 2016.
The event was held in Canada once before, Toronto in 2017, where Malaysia won both titles.
There were no championships held in 2020 or 2021 due to COVID.
In Canada the sport is governed by Dodgeball Canada a federally-incorporated not-for-profit organization which represents dodgeball players across the country.
Hoppenbrouwers said in terms of interest the sport sort of peaked with the release of the movie Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story starring Vince Vaughn Ben Stiller in 2004.
“It’s (the movie, not a great representation of the sport, but it showed people as adults you can play dodgeball,” he said.
The sport numbers declined for a time after the fad of the movie passed, but Hoppenbrouwers said he now “thinks the popularity is back to growing.”
In Canada there are hundreds of teams in Ontario and B.C. “with lots of players,” said Hoppenbrouwers, adding there are good numbers in Edmonton, and cities such as Winnipeg too.
“The scene is definitely growing across the country.”
The big positive of dodgeball is that the core skills of passing, catching and throwing are things people know how to do naturally.
“We have experience with the basic skills almost all through life,” said Hoppenbrouwers, adding in other sports, for example shooting in basketball “uses a very specific mechanism” needing lots of practice to be good at.
In Hoppenbrouwers’ case dodgeball was not something he was actually interested in.
“Truthfully, I didn’t want to play,” he said, adding it was his wife who initially became involved and in need of players “kind of dragged me kicking and screaming” to play.
“We didn’t win a single game that season,” he added, but he did fall for the sport and has remained involved since.