Gym classes ban dodgeball, play American ball instead


Dodgeball: a game that has been played for decades in gym classes across the country, at least until 2001, when school districts in Maryland began discouraging and even banning the game.

According a New Times Times article published on 05/06/01, officials in Maryland claimed that this type of game could have a traumatizing effect on young children because it encourages violence and human targeting.

The article also cited the 1992 work of Neil F. Williams, a physical educate professor at Eastern Connecticut State University, who placed dodgeball in the Physical Education Hall of Shame, a list of gym activities that he suggested could damage children emotionally. The list included also duck-duck-goose and musical chairs.

Other states jumped on board in 2004, including schools in Maine, Maryland, New York, Virginia, Texas, Massachusetts and Utah, who have banned dodgeball, or its variations, including war ball, monster ball and kill ball.

Hammonton High School physical education teachers introduced students to it  by its new name: American ball. With multiple balls, students on teams throw balls at pins on the other side of the court. The goal is to hit the pins, not the players, but if a player gets hit by ball, they’re out. It removes the human targeting while encouraging the opposite team still avoid the ball.

Some school administrators, teachers, and students connect these games to bullying because, like bullying, it targets certain types of people.  What types?  The least athletic students are the easiest to knock out.

But isn’t that the point of the game? Others argue that, by their very nature, any athletic event or activity is competitive.

Are school administrators and parents too over-protective? The first mention of bullying and the parents quickly pull every string they can in order to eliminate the threat.  This type of personality also goes along with the new concept ‘everyone is a winner’.  In the past only the winner of the games would get trophies, now everyone gets one or else there is an uproar.

“This is a great activity,” was gym Coach Sarno’s response to the ban, “As long as we are playing in a safe environment and use softer equipment.”

Coach Rose Santiago agreed.

“I think the ban was unnecessary,” she said. “[Dodgeball] enhances agility and reaction.”With these types of responses it is hard to see how this ban was so heavily supported in our district.

Not only the coaches feel this way, but students as well.

“I feel like it should be in school,” said junior La R’rie Robinson. “[I don’t think it’s] dangerous and more people participate in this game than any other.”

For seniors Kelsey Fucetola and Sam Burke, changing the game’s focus doesn’t necessarily fix the problem.

“Even though you’re supposed to hit the pins, people still gang up on you,” Burke and Fucetola said. “We just hang in the back.”

Junior Rionna Ferguson can understand why officials might be worried about the game in younger grades, but not at the high school.

“Maybe dodgeball might affect younger kids because they don’t have that much common sense. They can’t always separate a game from regular life,” she said. “In high school, kids should know better.”