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Dodgeball in the Olympics? Why Not?

The quest for Olympic glory is in reach for the sport of dodgeball.

By Carina SimmsPublished 3 months ago Updated 3 months ago 6 min read
Dodgeball in the Olympics? Why Not?
Photo by Alex Smith on Unsplash

In 2024, the Summer Olympics will take place in Paris, France, marking a global celebration of athleticism and competition. Yet, amidst this grand event, another significant tournament will unfold: the 2024 World Dodgeball Tournament in Graz, Austria. Despite its growing popularity and international reach, dodgeball once again misses the opportunity to showcase the art of the game on the world stage at the Olympics.

However, dodgeball is on its way, and it's worth exploring why it might be an outlier in the world of sports.

The divergence of sporting traditions between America and Europe offers an intriguing perspective. Historically, this split reflects cultural preferences and societal norms. Take, for example, baseball versus cricket: while baseball thrives in America, cricket reigns supreme in Europe.

Similar contrasts exist in other sports. American football, with its emphasis on power and physicality, stands in stark contrast to rugby, which is favored by Europeans for its fluidity and finesse. Even in basketball and soccer, the two most popular sports worldwide, differences in play style and strategy reflect the distinct sporting cultures of the Americas and Europe.

Dodgeball, too, embodies this divide. In America, the game typically features six live foam balls and a hard middle line, fostering intense and rapid gameplay. Conversely, European dodgeball favors five cloth balls and a neutral zone, promoting strategic positioning and methodical play with 3-minute timed matches.

One such variation is the Vasti style of dodgeball, characterized by its unique gameplay where throwers are positioned both ahead of and behind the targets, creating a chaotic, frenetic atmosphere. However, despite its prevalence in certain regions, this style was only recently recognized as a form of dodgeball at the world organizational level. This discrepancy highlights the challenges in defining a universal style of dodgeball that encompasses the diverse variations played worldwide. According to the World Dodgeball Federation (WDBF), they are committed to promoting, embracing, and developing all forms of dodgeball.

There are dodgeball theorists who believe that for the sport to gain global recognition, there needs to be one unified, standardized way to play dodgeball. With the many different adaptations, variations, and rules, it weakens the legitimacy of the sport. If we as a community cannot agree on ball type, rule set, and global standardization, how can we expect the world to understand what game we are presenting to them?

These differences have contributed to the lack of a universal style of dodgeball, potentially hindering its acceptance as an Olympic sport. According to the Olympic Charter, for a sport to be considered for inclusion in the Olympics, it must be widely practiced by men in at least 75 countries and on four continents, and by women in no fewer than 40 countries and on three continents. Some argue that a unified approach is necessary to garner global recognition, sparking debates over which style should be showcased to the world.

The lack of a unified governing body is a significant obstacle. Currently, two separate governing bodies oversee dodgeball, each hosting its own world tournament. This division undermines dodgeball's global recognition and hampers its path towards professionalism. The world’s two governing bodies of dodgeball are The World Dodgeball Federation (WDBF) and the World Dodgeball Association (WDA).

Yet, despite these challenges, dodgeball remains a sport of immense potential. Its fundamental simplicity—throw to hit a target, dodge incoming throws—transcends cultural boundaries and resonates with people around the world.

One person who understands how global dodgeball can be is Zander Simos. He’s traveled and lived internationally. No matter where he goes, dodgeball is his home. He is currently the United States player represented on the International Board in the World Dodgeball Federation. His role as a player representative is to take player and coach feedback and have important feedback during policy meetings that impact dodgeball worldwide.

He believes dodgeball has the potential, but it needs to continue to grow to become more of a legitimate sport and be deserving of a spot in the Olympics. “If we cannot be larger than a spikeball event, we need to rethink our strategy,” Simos states.

Simos suggests that making the game easier to access will help grow the sport. For example, adjusting rules and boundary lines using preexisting courts like those for basketball, volleyball, and tennis so we don’t have to mark lines down with tape or cones is a challenge many of us face when running organized dodgeball leagues.

He also thinks in terms of longevity, explaining the need for a more durable outdoor ball type. Foam balls, he argues, aren't durable for long if played outdoors. Simos doesn’t conform to the ideology that dodgeball needs a single, universal style to become an Olympic sport. Instead, he leans into dodgeball's adaptability and versatility by accepting the two main recognized styles of competitive dodgeball in both cloth and foam.

As for the current two-division system, he thinks it works. “I think that this system works as they are two completely different disciplines, like doubles and singles in tennis… They are the same sport but are played, refereed, and scored differently. I feel the two disciplines are good for the sport as they reflect different play styles and two different entry levels to the sport.”

From a video on YouTube produced by Culture Trip in 2018, WDA President Tom Hickson stated that the sport aims to make a push towards the 2028 Olympics that will be hosted in Los Angeles, California. The video echoes the viewpoints of Simos, stating that the sport needs to grow, however, more so through means of viewership across media and youth participation.

Currently, dodgeball is viewed via Twitch.tv under the channel name Dodgeball (formerly dodgeballttv), Twitch is a video live streaming service the dodgeball community uses to broadcast the sport live. While it is a great platform the dodgeball community has been using to promote the sport, it can have its limitations as to the power of production that something on TV might be able to produce.

One area ripe for exploration is the concept of a throw clock. Similar to basketball's shot clock, a throw clock could revolutionize dodgeball gameplay by introducing a time constraint for players to make their throws. This would not only add an element of balance and excitement but also address concerns about game pacing and referee consistency.

The journey towards Olympic recognition for dodgeball symbolizes more than just the aspiration of a sport to gain global acclaim; it embodies the spirit of a community that thrives on passion, diversity, and the joy of play. As dodgeball navigates its challenges—from the development of universally appealing rules to the embrace of innovative concepts like the throw clock—it does so with the resilience and spirit of its players and supporters.

The potential of dodgeball to bridge cultures and bring people together around a simple yet profound game is undeniable. It speaks to the heart of what sports are about: connection, competition, and the celebration of human potential. As advocates for dodgeball push forward, their efforts serve not only to elevate the sport but also to highlight the importance of inclusivity, integrity, and excellence in all athletic endeavors.

By embracing innovative ideas and adapting to the evolving world of sports and media, dodgeball can indeed carve out its rightful place on the global stage. The time is ripe for dodgeball to emerge from the shadows of niche sports, presenting itself to the world as a contender for Olympic glory. This journey, marked by determination and the collective will of its global community, promises to transform dodgeball into a beacon of diversity and strategic ingenuity.

In conclusion, the path to Olympic recognition for dodgeball may be fraught with hurdles, yet it is a path paved with opportunity and hope. By embracing both the unity and diversity within its ranks, dodgeball can showcase its true spirit to the world. As we rally behind the dream of Olympic inclusion, let us champion the creativity, adaptability, and unity that define dodgeball, propelling it towards a future where it can shine on the world's biggest stage. The quest for Olympic recognition is not just about adding another sport to the roster; it's about affirming the value of every sport that brings people together, challenging them to aim higher, and inspiring the next generation to embrace the joy of competition. Dodgeball, with its unique blend of simplicity and depth, stands ready to win hearts and inspire athletes around the globe.

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About the Creator

Carina Simms

Hi all. I'm just an artist who loves storytelling. Trying to find my place within the community to continue my growth as a writer.

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    Carina SimmsWritten by Carina Simms

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