“One, two, three, dodgeball!” is the battle cry echoed across the athletic field at the Ross Summer Camp in East Hampton signifying the start of the game. At the summer camp, kids 6 to 14 have the opportunity to choose a “major” that they will devote three hours a day to for two weeks. From surfing to robotics, kids take their pick from 25 activities that foster development and growth.
“The foundation for all of this is compassion. What we try to do is encourage kids out of their comfort zone and try new things,” said Chris Engle, the camp director.
Dodgeball, a major added last year by John Brown, dodgeball specialist, and a first-grade special education teacher in Sag Harbor, is quickly gaining steam. He decided to create the elective after kids enjoyed it as a recreational game. “It catches on,” said Brown, who is assisted by Scott Rinaldi, a head counselor, and Jack Bluth, 14, a counselor-in-training.
“It’s violent, it’s like wrestling, only from a distance, and it’s less painful,” offered Bing Johnson, an 11-year-old dodgeball major. The object of the game, for those who don’t remember, is to eliminate the opposing team by hitting its players with a ball, while simultaneously avoiding shots.
At its peak last summer, there were 26 kids willing to hurl brightly colored balls at one another down the field at top speed, relatively speaking. Unlike your old school dodgeball, these soft numbers are foam-coated and “don’t leave a mark,” according to Bing.
“It looks like we play dodgeball all day long, which we do, but dodgeball is about endurance and cardio, it does help them out. We’re active all day,” added Brown. There are 10 different types of dodgeball, including Dr. Dodgeball, where an assigned “doctor” brings participants back to life (and the game) after they have been deemed out, and Foursquare Dodgeball, in which four separate teams compete against one another at the same time.
“Throwing, catching, anticipation, it teaches courage. You have to have a little toughness if you’re playing dodgeball,” said Nick Behrens, assistant director of the camp. Most important, according to Engle, is for the kids to find their passion. “It’s fun, if you have a good arm, you can throw it and practice a lot,” said David Cook, a 10-year-old dodgeball major. His teammate Andrew Hartog, also 10, added, “don’t forget diving catches, they’re fun too!”
Monday’s match, on the first day of camp, pitted the dodgeball majors (all boys), against the softball majors (all girls). When there was only one representative from each team left on the field, the battle of the sexes was brought to a halt with a “jailbreak,” which lets everyone who is out back into the game. Ultimately, the girls were victorious, much to the thrill of the softball majors.
The dodgeball majors will have plenty of time to perfect their skills. In the meantime, Brown would like to establish dodgeball scrimmages with other summer camps in the area.