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On the Dodgeball Frontier: Inside the NDA

Inside look at the National Dodgeball Association

By Carina SimmsPublished about a month ago 5 min read
Player: PJ Antalek on opening rush Photo Credit: Kris Haas

One of the most enduring debates within the community of dodgeball, creating even more beef than the Drake versus Kendrick rap feud, revolves around the superiority of different ball types. While the choice of ball often dictates distinct styles of play, it's indisputable that a fervent community persists in playing with the larger, 'kickball' style ball. Enter the National Dodgeball Association (NDA), a league renowned for its emphasis on the pinch style dodgeball. Yet, not all enthusiasts are enamored with the larger rubber sphere. Many players of this variant discover their passion through the National Collegiate Dodgeball Association (NCDA).

According to Felix Perrone, Treasurer of the NDA, a staggering 95% of its membership come from the NCDA. This relationship is not coincidental; within collegiate programs, the 8.5 ball is the ball that is played at the college ranks in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic region. Transitioning from the NCDA to the NDA offers players a seamless progression throughout adulthood, each step up the ladder representing an elevated level of competition. Both leagues are growing, but the NCDA has been around longer. Since 2005 it has been operating and growing the sport at a collegiate level.

Felix Perrone is a seasoned veteran in the dodgeball arena, boasting more than two decades of playing. Not only was he the founding treasurer of USA Dodgeball, served as treasurer and president of the NCDA but he also assumes the role of treasurer for the NDA. In addition to his NDA duties, Perrone coaches the Ohio State University dodgeball team, adding a dynamic layer to his multifaceted involvement in the sport.

Felix's journey into competitive dodgeball began at the age of 14 on a traveling team from southern Indiana. His passion for dodgeball continued through his years when he played for Western Kentucky University. Reflecting on his early days, Felix recalls playing the 'stinger' variant, characterized by four 8.5 balls and two 5-inch rubber stingers. While this version has faded from prominence, it holds a significant place in dodgeball history as a pivotal role in the dodgeball term ‘no-sting’. However, Perrone also vividly remembers the inherent risks of this style, particularly a severe injury involving a player struck in the eye with a 5-inch stinger ball, causing his eye to pop. The danger of these smaller rubber balls, akin to the impact of softballs, emphasizes the importance of safety considerations in the evolution of the sport.

Felix notes that when playing with the 8.5 ball, injuries typically align with those from other ball types—commonly, a sore shoulder or an occasional broken finger. There's a prevailing misconception that rubber 8.5 balls are more injurious. However, Felix contends that foam balls pose greater fatigue on the arm over extended periods, especially for players with an 8.5 or cloth background. Additionally,cloth balls, due to their proximity to the thrower within the neutral zone, have a higher potential for causing significant injury compared to the current 8.5 ball standard.

Perrone acknowledges the challenging learning curve associated with the NCDA and NDA style of dodgeball, attributing it to larger courts, a bigger ball, and expanded rosters compared to mainstream and international standards. However, he asserts that its success is indisputable, thanks to the passion and meticulous organization within the league. The NCDA represents the epitome of collegiate dodgeball competition, boasting participation from esteemed institutions such as Ohio State, Michigan State, Cleveland State, and Penn State Universities, among others, totaling 27 schools who participated in the 2024 season. Despite being a hidden gem in our culture, college dodgeball has the potential to rise among prominent club sports and collegiate leagues. Operating primarily in the Midwest and mid Atlantic region.

The NDA hadn't anticipated becoming one of the nation's premier dodgeball leagues; originally, its aim was to provide a platform for 8.5-style dodgeball. When queried about potential expansion to the western regions, Perrone firmly stated there were no such plans at this time due to the lack of interest west of the Mississippi River. Perrone said: "Something that I hope others realize about the NDA is that we are an organization deeply rooted in history and passion. The NDA, aimed at supporting and promoting NCDA collegiate athletes post-graduation, offers a unique focus. Unlike organizations geared towards international competition, our goal is to provide a venue for continued skill enhancement and competition among the elite in our style of play. We believe that passion drives excellence and that we are getting to the point where everyone is happier now that there are multiple organizations running different ball types so players can focus on what is important to them."

Akil Atonine aerodynamic dodging Photo Credit: Kris Haas

Those dedicated to playing 8.5 have less concerns about forcing their style of dodgeball upon the community, but rather give people who want to play 8.5 a place to develop, flourish and grow with streamline ways to play throughout adulthood. There are some key differences between the NCDA and the NDA. First, the NCDA plays with 12 people per team on the court with 10 balls. This happens within the boundaries of a standard basketball court with 28’ throw lines. The NDA is 8 people per team on a 70’x40’ court with 26’ throw lines and plays with 8 balls at a time.

Recently, the NDA partnered with its sister organization, the NSDA, to introduce competitive dodgeball with the 7-inch no-sting ball for women and non-binary athletes. The inaugural tournament took place on May 5th in East Lansing, Michigan. Leslie Severt, a former college dodgeball player with over 15 years of playing experience played for the Streetsboro Black Widows, in Lansing. She expressed optimism about the NSDA's potential, noting efforts by its newest board members to enhance opportunities for women in competitive dodgeball. While the NDA prides itself on not having gender-specific roster requirements, it often finds itself dominated by male roles and spaces. The NSDA aims to address this imbalance by providing a platform for women and non-binary athletes to compete on equal footing. However, Jade also acknowledged the financial barriers that can hinder young players, particularly recent college graduates, from participating in competitive tournaments. The NSDA offers a local avenue for women seeking to play at a high level, providing them with a space to compete in the Midwest and Mid-Altantic region.

Players Alexis Schultz and Adam Pfeifer synchronizing their throws Photo Credit: Kris Haas

In conclusion, the National Dodgeball Association (NDA) stands as a beacon of passion, skill, and camaraderie within the dodgeball community. With a focus on the pinch style dodgeball and a commitment to developing talent from collegiate ranks, the NDA offers a unique platform for players to develop and excel in their craft. Led by stalwarts like Felix Perrone, the NDA provides a seamless transition from college to adulthood, elevating the level of competition with each step up the ladder.

The success of the NDA lies not only in its rich history and passionate community but also in its dedication to providing a venue for continued skill enhancement and competition among elite players. As Perrone aptly puts it, "passion drives excellence," and the NDA embodies this ethos by offering players a space to hone their skills and showcase their talents on a national stage.

For those looking to experience the thrill of dodgeball at its finest, the NDA is undoubtedly worth exploring. Whether as a spectator or a participant, the NDA offers an exhilarating style of dodgeball that is both captivating to watch and rewarding to be a part of. Stay updated with the latest news and events by following them on Instagram @NDAdodgeball. As a growing organization, the NDA continues to innovate through partnerships, particularly with the NSDA, expanding opportunities and pushing the boundaries of the sport. So, don't miss out on the excitement—come join in on the NDA dodgeball and witness the thrill of the game firsthand.

Kraken celebrating Photo credit: Kris Haas

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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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