Are you ready for some dodgeball?

NEW ULM – A few years ago, Garrett Freeman and his friends were looking for something to do on Sunday afternoons during the winter months.

The football season was over, so Freeman decided to try something different to pass the time during the coldest season of the year.

“A bunch of friends, we said what goes on Sunday afternoons when football season is over – not much,” Freeman said. “We said why don’t we go out and do something fun and we saw the dodgeball league. I talked to a few people and everybody we asked said it sounds like fun, so that was the direction we went and got a team together.”

Now, Freeman and his buddies are in their fourth year of playing and they seem to be enjoying it more and more.

The New Ulm Park and Recreation Department begins its dodgeball season beginning Feb. 10 and it runs into March, typically about a six to eight-week season.

Each team consists of six players and there are four males and two females per team. The goal for the Park and Rec Dept. is to add more teams, of course, and to make sure that plenty of people know that they have this sport as an option.

The league started in 2010 with seven teams and last year it had eight teams.

“Many teams come in thinking Dodge Ball is just a silly childhood playground game but will soon find themselves sweating and looking for the nearest water fountain,” Carrie Anderson of the Park and Rec. said. “People will be juking, diving, dodging, jumping, and throwing and will wake up sore the next day. It really is a great workout disguised by a fun, fast-paced playground game.”

Anderson said that the sport, like many other childhood games, are growing in popularity.

“The trend in recreation is showing that people want to participate in alternative athletic activities such as mud runs, extreme fitness, and unusual leagues,” Anderson said. “Kick Ball and dodgeball leagues have started to pop up in communities across Minnesota. People seem to have good memories of playing dodgeball when they were kids and want to bring those memories back.”

Dodgeball is any of a variety of games in which players try to hit other players on the opposing team with their own ball thrown while avoiding being hit themselves. The sport is typically played by elementary-age students in physical education classes and was made very popular in the 2004 movie Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story.

The game is typically played among children age 6-12 in elementary school. It is also popular in informal settings and is often played on a playground, in a gym, or in organized recreational leagues.

The New Ulm Park and Rec. Department doesn’t use the hard, rubber balls that are seen in the movie that made the sport popular again. Instead, it uses a softer ball that tends to sting a lot less when being hit.

“We use six rubber coated foam balls [per match],” Anderson said. “The rules are simple, if you get hit by a ball you are out. If you catch a ball thrown by your opponent, they are out and one of your teammates get to come back in. The team that eliminates the opponent’s team first, wins. Teams play for 50 minutes or 10 matches, whichever comes first.”

While the ball tends to be a softer surface, it’s still a highly competitive game.

“They’re a foam-covered ball, but they go pretty fast,” Freeman said. “When they hit you, you know they hit you.”

Freeman said that his team learned the game on the fly and now, like other teams, they are developing a strategy.

“We pretty much winged it at first, you just put the balls in the middle [to start the game] and you race to them,” Freeman said. “Our team name is the B&L Smash, so we’d run up to the line and grab the ball and yell ‘Smash’ and throw it back to a teammate, and then they would throw it at the people on the other team.

“You can’t pick it up and throw it, you immediately have to pick it up and throw it back to a teammate and then they’d throw it,” Freeman added. “But everybody gets to know what you guys try to do, so they catch on to your strategy and they try to change their strategy too.”

The leagues are competitive, but still very fun for those who compete, according to Anderson.

“With any adult athletic league, we have teams who are playing for different reasons,” Anderson said. “Some are more competitive then others, but that also makes the league a lot of fun. Anyone can play, whether it’s a group of co-workers, family members, college buddies, all you ready need to do is throw and move.”

For Freeman, it’s all about the competition, but it’s also about maintaining the bond with his teammates and friends.

“A lot of people bowl, or you play softball and all of those things, and it’s always a way to just get out with your team and just communicate with other people,” Freeman said. “It’s a really good way to socialize and get some exercise. It’s a great time, it brings you back to when you were a kid.”

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