Dodgeball isn’t problematic, it’s a sport that teaches teamwork and builds inclusivity

June 04, 2019 | Response to a National Post article published on June 3rd 2019

Our Dodge In Schools program in session with young students in Cambridge, Ontario. Brandon Ferguson Photography.

On Monday, the National Post published a piece on the perils of school yard games. This comes as little surprise to those of who have witnessed the curbing of recess activities like tag and red rover, all while their kids are admonished for the lack of activity, choosing to live in the virtual worlds of their phone and game consoles. The focus of the piece was dodgeball, with the characterization of the sport as “problematic” and “built on oppression and violence”. Not only is this simply inaccurate, but it is unfair to those who have worked hard to build it into the inclusive sport that it is today. While it’s true that dodgeball is an emerging sport still in its infancy, it has developed significantly at both the competitive and elementary levels. Dodgeball is a sport built on the foundation of teamwork, inclusiveness and trust, and is a far cry from the memories of schoolyard bullies throwing hard rubber balls at other children.

Our team at Dodgeball Canada represents thousands of dodgeball players across the country, and we’ve been leading the charge in developing the sport with a strong focus on promoting inclusiveness and diversity. We have and continue to provide programming in accordance with Sport For Life’s prescribed Long-Term Athlete Development model, and we’re working cooperatively with our sister organizations, such as British Dodgeball, where the sport is delivered to thousands of children. Recognizing the need to provide more education and guidance on how the sport should be adopted, we’ve developed our Dodge-In-Schools program nationally to educate elementary school teachers and their students how the sport can be used as a teaching tool to promote physical fitness, teamwork and effective communication.

Contrary to the Joseph Brean’s article published in the National Post on June 3rd, 2019, inclusion is at the very heart of dodgeball and its membership. The World Dodgeball Federation (WDBF) is sanctioning dodgeball in the Gay Games in 2022, and Dodgeball Canada is heavily involved in that initiative thanks in large part to the strength of our LGBTQ community. We also directly support the game in countries like Haiti, Cameroon and Tanzania, where the combination of low cost and high adaptability make it ideal given the socioeconomic barriers that exist.

The article lays out an argument against dodgeball in school settings, mentioning that it is problematic, and punitive to children who don’t possess the athleticism of others. The same can be said of many (if not all) other sports. Should basketball be banned because shorter children are at a disadvantage? Should track and field meets impose a speed limit so all students finish in first?

Our Director of Player & Sport Development and Team Canada head coach, Victor Gravili, educating students on the rules and ethics behind dodgeball. Brandon Ferguson Photography.

There does exist the opportunity for meanness in sport, including dodgeball. But we, and many of our sister federations worldwide, work to ensure that the game is introduced to kids with a focus on fun, skills development and teamwork. We recognize that bullying can persist in any sport when there is no proper programming in place to direct focus onto the core principles of trust, teamwork and sportsmanship. It is less about the medium and more about how you cultivate and enforce values in physical education activity.

Our organization has partnered with charitable organizations across the country in supporting local communities and kids programs. Our provincial affiliate in St. John’s, Newfoundland features a fully-inclusive league, with players of all ages and abilities participating simultaneously. The league has raised over $50,000 for persons with disabilities over the last three years. We have adopted foam balls as our standard ball choice for gameplay, which greatly reduces the chance of injury, and we’ve formally adopted Parachute Canada’s concussion protocols to ensure that we are protecting athletes.

Dodgeball is no more problematic than any other sport. Whether it’s through youth education programs, spearheading accessibility of sport on a global stage, or even through the sport’s built-in honour system for self-officiating, dodgeball has come a long way in order to make the game legitimate, safe and inclusive.

Duane Wysynski
President, Dodgeball Canada and the World Dodgeball Federation

Dodgeball Canada is a federally-incorporated not-for-profit organization that represents thousands of dodgeball players across the country. The organization consists of members from Victoria to Halifax, and many points in between, and aims to create a community of athletes from a diverse range of backgrounds and experiences. Dodgeball Canada supports player development for all ages and skill levels, and supports international development as an active Executive Member of the World Dodgeball Federation.