Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan

Dodgeball, the equalizer – Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan

Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan
Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan

Every time the subject of dodgeball comes up, I share how I played as a kid at Fort Bragg.

It was military dodgeball, which meant if you got hit with the ball in an area that wasn’t a mortal wound, you kept playing. The battle did not end until every last girl and boy was taken out with a head or chest wound.

This was a good lesson in perseverance. You get knocked down, but not out. It was also a good lesson in how to properly throw stuff at someone else but in a way that’s all in good fun. Sort of. There were always a few overly enthusiastic dodgeball players. Being an Army brat taught me life lessons.

This past week I played an adults vs. kids game of dodgeball. The adults, many of us still dressed in workplace attire, were all game for it. We were a little hesitant at first going over the rules. It wasn’t the military dodgeball I was used to, but rather two other variations on the game I’ll share with you in case you want to play.

Jedi dodgeball: The usual dodgeball rules. Once you’re out, you sit down. But if the Jedi tags you, you’re back in the game. The Jedi for each team stands in circle (a Hula Hoop on the ground works) and holds a lightsaber or soft bat. In front of the Jedi are all the players, who are also protecting the Jedi, because if the Jedi is tagged with a ball by the other team when he or she is outside of the circle, the game ends and that side loses. However, the Jedi needs to leave the circle to untag their fellow players. Still with me?

Mushroom dodgeball: It’s everyone for themselves. There are only two dodgeballs. Once you get hit, you’re down. You can still throw or pass the ball, you just can’t move from your mushroom stoop. Last one standing wins.

If you recall my column about playing a pickup game of basketball with kids, you know I get competitive even though they’re better than me. So you know how dodgeball ended. The kids beat the grownups. But only because they got the Jedi. We were all ready for round two.

Instead we moved on to mushroom dodgeball, also fun. Playing with our kids was fun. But what I noticed most is how a bunch of adults in their 30s and 40s let go of the workday and just played. Not an organized league, but a game they were informed the rules of just a few minutes earlier. The way that kids play. A game on a hot summer evening outside. A game that, when it ends, you still want to play. A game that lets you forget about what happened at work that day, or your to-do list, or any of the myriad of things grownups think about every day.

All this in a game about throwing balls at other people. They were soft, unlike those gym balls we used in the 1980s at Fort Bragg.

Often parks and recreation are the first to look at when its time for budget cuts, but it matters a lot. Like the city of Durham’s move this summer to make pools free admission for city kids, quality of life matters.

Now that you know the variations on dodgeball, I hope you go play Jedi, mushroom or even character-building military dodgeball sometime soon. Win or lose.

Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: 919-419-6563, @dawnbvaughan