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Dodgeball Ban in Schools: Inbounds or Automatic Out?

What are we teaching our next gen of citizens? The mere word “Dodgeball” brings up emotions and memories instantly, like a word association test. Since circa 2001 there’s been a growing movement to ban the PE game in schools. Does Dodgeball promote bullying and violence, or create anti-competitive wimps? Have some schools and educators gone too far by moving to kill an American institution all in the name of PC-love and understanding? This debate is seeing a second wave of interest and noise. Which side are you on? Let’s hear from parents, but especially you teachers out there. Oh…and there’s a poll after class (below).               — BadWitch


Readers Are Spellbound & Perplexed…

Dear GW/BW – My daughter’s school is  considering finally banning Dodgeball. My husband is dead set against this, but I’m on the fence. I loved it, but I can see what they mean about teaching our kids good lessons like not bullying and non-violence. On the other hand, why do away with something so traditional? What are your thoughts?   – Dodgy Movement, City/State withheld

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Dear Dodgy Movement,

I am a parent who grew up in the late 70’s. Dodgeball, tag, and floor hockey (with plastic sticks) was all part of the normal Physical Education classes. I have to side with your husband. I love dodgeball, not because I was the best at it or because I was the bully who wanted to pick on smaller kids. I love dodgeball because it is a sport about life. You may be the under-dog, too small or too big and lanky with little coordination (that was me), but you have a skill you can rely on to survive.

For me, I was truly jazzed when the best dodgeball players would throw the ball at me. I knew I could not actually dodge the ball (read: big, lanky kid line), but I could catch the ball. I learned that even if the most popular or the biggest bully came after me, I had the resources to rise above it. I would sink to my knees, take the pain, catch the ball and deliver a resounding, “Ha! You’re out!” Dodgeball taught me that no matter what was stacked against me, I had my own unique skills to win. I wasn’t as small and agile at dodging the ball as some other kids, but I could catch that big red rubber ball. I could survive based on my own talents. That’s an important lesson.

Now, some schools go further than banning dodgeball. They ban any activity in which someone may lose. This means the demise of innocent games like musical chairs. This means everyone gets a medal so no one gets to say, “I’m number one!” How can we take these important life lessons away from our children? We don’t want our kids to lose and we don’t want them to be disappointed, which as a mom, I get. But at the same time that means we are avoiding giving our kids the lessons of how to rise above disappointment. How to grieve a loss of something small—like a game or a spelling bee—accept the lessons inherent in the situation and apply those lessons to do better the next time.

We are a society with a huge problem with perfectionism. We expect it from ourselves and our kids—despite the fact that one of the best lessons in life is failure. Albert Einstein was a horrible student. He failed a number of times. But he was allowed to fail and allowed to learn what he did wrong and what he did right. He could analyze what his strengths and weaknesses were so he knew where to apply himself. In the end, clearly, those lessons paid off. If our own children are not able to experience these lessons when they are children, we are dooming them to an adulthood of disappointment, with no coping skills to fall back on.

We think we are saving our kids by taking away every pain and every hurt. But these are the lessons that shape character. Raising children in a plastic bubble so they don’t have to experience the pain we have felt as children is cutting them off from experiencing life. It may seem like you are just asking about banning a violent game, but in truth, your school is hovering on a societal slippery slope. Take a step back from the edge. Let your children learn the lessons they need to succeed in life. Everyone will not be CEO. Everyone will not be President. Give them the tools to rebound now.

Play ball!

GoodWitch

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Dear Dodgy Mover,

I saw REAL Sports, too! In preparing my serious answer, I Googled “history + of + dodgeball” and was amazed to see that Asian cavemen in 50,000 B.C. invented this fine display of sportsmanship and competition, that our Founding Father and #1 Ranked Dodgeball Player George Washington later perfected. ‘Nuf said. I only wish we would take teaching critical thinking skills in school as seriously as dodgeball.

I personally hated Dodgeball because it’s not suited to my physicality. I’m not sure it fits my definition of “sport”, but am willing to take it at face value as a PE activity or game. Despite that I didn’t like and sucked at it, I am against hiding behind the PC notion that Dodgeball and similar touch-oriented games or activities in school lead to anti-socialism (bullies don’t learn that behavior in class), teaches violence (see football), promotes the notion there are no losers (get a Real Life). Just as in life, not every sport/activity is for everyone. Just as in life, not everyone is equally good at everything. Just as in many phases of life, Dodgeball borders on one of those rites of passage that must be endured or enjoyed, achieving near-bar mitzvah or prom status! It helps kids figure out what they are good at, how to deal with things they don’t like, how to help others who are weaker than them, and how to play fairly and within the lines.

Dodgeball (much less Tag and high-fiving!) should not be banned in schools. A healthy America cannot thrive by generating more over emotionally-charged, unrealistic whiners who think they are owed something more by merely existing and breathing the carbon dioxide of those hard workers who have firsthand experience and smarts about what consistent elbow grease, good attitude and self-determination it takes to get to Self-Actualization at the top of the Maslow’s Hieracrchy of Needs pyramid. And I am not equating “success” with “money” or any such external rewards exclusively, I’m talking about successfully being or dating a, or living or working with future ex-Dodgeball champs and survivors.

No Dodging Life is for the Living,

BW

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