Aiming for a national title: Club dodgeball players use team to relieve stress, seek national championship
When junior Michael Riley first started playing on Central Michigan's club dodgeball team, he wasn’t expecting to have to dodge balls thrown at 60 to 70 miles per hour.
For eight years, CMU has had a competitive club dodgeball team that faces teams around the region, including Michigan State, Saginaw Valley State and Grand Valley State, from September to April.
National Collegiate Dodgeball Association rules
- 15 players on the court for both sides
- 10 dodgeballs placed in the middle for both teams to grab
- During opening rush, players aren’t allowed to slide into each other and can’t wrestle with another play for a ball
- Two 25-minute halves
- Objective: Eliminate all players on the opposing side
- When you catch an opponent's ball, the opponent is out and one teammate is brought back in
- First team to eliminate all players receives one point
- Most points at the end of the two game wins
- If no points are won by both teams, they go into sudden death
- In sudden death, there are 6 players for both teams. First team to eliminate the opposing team wins
- There is a shot clock for 15 seconds where a team can approach the other team and fire closely towards them
“I was big into sports in high school and I didn’t make it in the collegiate level,” said junior Tyler Prill, assistant captain. “My roommate mentioned going to club dodgeball when we ran into each other coming back from class. The competitiveness of playing dodgeball really drew me in. It made me feel like I was part of something.”
Many team members participated in high school sports, especially baseball. This has benefited them, throwing with speed and accuracy.
“I played baseball throughout high school and I came here to continue my baseball career, but it was a huge commitment and it wasn’t for me,” Riley said. “When someone comes to play and they’re new, you can instantly know if they played (baseball) or not.”
Some students, like Peter Broe — a first year doctoral student — have learned the mechanics through practice.
“I had to learn all of my throwing mechanics,” Broe said. “They can definitely be developed. You learn by playing. You get hit in the head so many times you learn not to go so close. That rubber ball is a cruel teacher.”
Broe played for the club dodgeball team at GVSU during his undergraduate, but said CMU’s team has a special camaraderie.
“Their team they had back when I was playing was nowhere near (as) fun and welcoming as this team,” Broe said. “It’s really fun playing here.”
CMU qualified for the National Collegiate Dodgeball Association National Championship last year, but lost to GVSU in the final game. CMU won the national championship in 2011.
“Team communication was where we faulted,” said junior Bryce Belen. “You need to communicate with your team to let them know what you’re doing and know what they’re doing at the same time.”
Belen joined club dodgeball toward the end of his freshman year. He was recruited at the CMU Up All Night event.
“It’s a good stress reliever to hit people with a ball,” Belen said.
In a matchup against GVSU last semester, Belen was the last player standing from CMU, taking on the last member for GVSU.
“It’s very intimidating and you overthink a lot of things,” Belen said. “I did it last semester against GVSU and I overthought. I thought I could catch a ball, but (I) didn’t.”
CMU went on to beat Grand Valley in overtime.
Getting hit in the face
Team President senior Scott LaValley said the team throws the dodgeballs at around 50 to 60 mph, but some players can reach the 70 mph mark. The highest speed LaValley saw was 82 mph by a student from another university.
Riley compares the feeling to a bee sting when the dodgeball strikes open skin.
“We get bruised all over and we get rings on our bodies from where the dodgeballs hit you,” Prill said. “The worst place I’ve been hit — besides the face — is the back or right in the stomach.”
A face shot is comparable to a big hit in football, Riley said.
“When you get a face shot in dodgeball, the crowd lights up, the team lights up, even their own team does,” Riley said. “It’s awesome and euphoric.”
The team prepares for matchups with drills, scrimmages and by practicing team communication.
“We do a lot of catching drills because it’s really important during a game since you get someone out and get one of your own players back in (on a catch),” Belen said. “That’s definitely an advantage.”
Club dodgeball brings students together to form lifelong friendships and memories, Prill said.
“It really gives you a sense of belonging,” Tyler Prill said. “It’s incredible to be a part of something when you get into this new world (college) and you feel like belong. It’s something I look forward at the end of the day every day.”
The club dodgeball team travels to East Lansing on Saturday to compete in the Michigan Dodgeball Cup.