Michigan Takes Dodgeball Seriously
The competition is fierce, yet the stakes are not high. For members of the National Collegiate Dodgeball Association, club dodgeball is a way of life, regardless of the sport’s obscurity.
“Dodgeball has changed me as a person,” Kevin Bailey, the Grand Valley State University team captain, said. “The most rewarding part of dodgeball for me has been realizing a passion that I have and all of the friendships I have made through it.”
The association began 12 years ago and has developed into a non-profit that is student-run out of Bowling Green, Kentucky, however, college teams from all of the United States are involved in the league. Michigan State University was one of the founding teams of the league and continues to impress throughout.
“We are an educational non-profit, meaning we foster an environment that provides college students the ability to get involved in event planning, management and the like,” NCDA league president Felix Perrone said. “By having this organization we allow students to step up within their own teams and really hone their skills with event planning, group work and management.”
There are 24 active teams in the league, with five up and coming. Perrone, who became the president of the league in July, supervises all of the different school’s involvement.
“Leading up to running the league I started playing dodgeball in a traveling competitive league in high school and then went to Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Kentucky,” Perrone said. “I was on their team all throughout my undergrad and I also went to graduate school there and got my masters in organizational communication. I was on the team for six years and acted as captain, assistant captain and advisor, but I was always working for the league at some capacity as well.”
One of Perrone’s focuses has been to get college teams to join the league, and his success with Michigan teams has been apparent, with four teams in the league.
“Michigan statistically has the highest level of competition,” Perrone said. “A school from Michigan has won the NCDA National Championship every year since 2007, with GVSU leading national championships with seven in the past 11 years. We’ve never been able to pinpoint why Michigan has been such a hotbed of dodgeball talent, but the best answer is that the teams play each other so often. When you have four teams with amazing leadership, dedicated players and close competition, it’s hard not to excel.”
Players in the league have excelled on the court, but many of them credit dodgeball for providing success off of the court. Having ‘dodgeball’ on a resume is an icebreaker that tends to peak curiosity of future employers.
“People see dodgeball and they don’t think it’s an actual or legitimate organization,” Perrone said. “They look at it and almost laugh, but they are curious. It’s another way that gets people’s attention. It’s something different.”
The league has been able to produce players that have an unwavering commitment to dodgeball.
Scott La Valley, Central Michigan’s club president, has been involved with the sports for five years and continues to use dodgeball to give himself an edge.
“Being the president was my first experience in a major leadership role and it is something that helps me stand out a bit on my resume,” La Valley said. “I am a biology major so it doesn’t necessarily help career wise, but it helps to stand out.”
Players like La Valley agree.
“Especially when you go to a larger university like Michigan State, it’s easy to get lost in the crowd,” Perrone said. “I don’t know what it is about college dodgeball kids, but they are a different breed. We have such a wide range of people, but everyone is so accepting and everyone has such a good time with each other, whether you’re on the same team or a different team, these kids are always having fun.”
Rewarding seems to be a popular theme among players throughout the league, which is what the NCDA strives to promote, even among the competition.
“The most rewarding feeling for me is finally being on a team that is able to topple teams like GVSU who has won the national title the last three years in a row,” La Valley said. “It feels good to come out on top against them. That or when you hit someone in the head.”