Dodgeball – Day 44
My next challenge lay nearly 300 miles away in the distant shire of Bedford. No matter how good (or probably bad) I was going to be at this, I would at least win the accolade of most Dedicated Dodgeball Dude of the Day. It warmed my cockles to think that probably nobody in the whole of the land would be going to such an effort to get to a dodgeball training session, or maybe any training session, as I was today.
My co-pilot for this epic journey was a third of a pack of Oreo biscuits. As dodgeball is really popular in America, I felt that Oreos would be in keeping with the theme. With the strange feeling of just getting myself out on a road trip, without having to pack and think about my whole tribe, I waved goodbye with a mixture of excitement and anticipation as I braved the journey to the fabled “Up Country.”
Five and a half hour hours later, after two traffic incidents, one standstill, one misreading of the sat-nav and with my biscuits long since consumed, I pulled up at the venue, feeling exhausted and disillusioned about the whole thing. Usually when a traveller makes such an arduous journey, they are greeted at a warm hearth as they seek refuge and refreshment. I was stepping into the bloody unknown, in the dark, to get battered with balls.
When I eventually located my teammates for the evening, I found them in the gym doing some pre-training weights. I’m not sure what I was expecting but if I’m honest, I was kind of hoping for a community club, just chucking some balls about and having a bit of a giggle. It turns out that what I had stumbled across was England’s elite dodgeball club, with both men and ladies representing the country and incidentally becoming European champions. Fantastic and there was little old me; unfit, an extra-large target to aim at and with Oreo crumbs on my T-shirt!
Initially, I was worried this would be like paintball but with bigger balls, so it came as a relief to feel how light they were. We started practising, with the aim of throwing the ball at the opponent's feet. If they caught the ball, you were out, so the idea was to get it in the area where it would be difficult to catch.
Reminiscent of a firing squad!
Then it was a match play situation, where two teams faced each other over the width of the hall. Three balls were in play and the idea would be to hit an opponent for them to be out. They, in turn, had to dodge the ball, hence the name. The game commenced as we ran to try and pick up the balls in the middle first. What happened next was reminiscent of a World War I trench warfare re-enactment, as the balls were launched at an average speed of 60-70mph. I screamed. I swore. I hid. I then repeated those three in order for the duration of the game.
I am a hockey player and I have now tried 44 sports and apart from coasteering tapping into my fear of heights, I like to think that I am able to handle myself, especially in ball sports but this was different. These guys were different. I guess you don’t represent your country at a sport without being good and this lot were damned good.
The rest of the training focused on fitness, technique and game play, as I tried my best to keep up and to stop being such a wuss. Maybe I could invent a new ball sport - Screamball or maybe Swearball - where you have to shout as many different expletives as possible whilst bouncing a ball. More points would be given to foreign swear-words, so a kind of mixture between a dark version of Countdown and basketball. I will keep that on the back burner for further development. When the session finished, I thanked the guys for hosting me and wished them the best of luck with their season. I am not sure, after what I have seen, they will need it, though. I then set off the 50 miles down the M1 to my friend’s house, knowing that she would have a bottle of wine in the fridge, a warm hearth and hopefully some more biscuits.
Sofa Dodger; One Woman's Quest to Try 100 Different Sports and Fitness Classes in a Year is available on Amazon, please click here