IF you were to ask the average person about Dodgeball, their first response may have referred to a spandex-clad Ben Stiller contesting an Average-Joe Vince Vaughn for $50,000 in Las Vegas.
Looking past the 2004 Rawson Marshall Thurber film ‘DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story’, the sport has sky-rocketed in popularity – so much so that the first Dodgeball World Cup was held last weekend in Manchester.
Despite some calls for it to be banned from primary schools for safety reasons in the United States, the budding sport has continued to spread, and has attracted several more nations across the globe.
So what is it that makes dodgeball so lucrative? The sport is fast-paced, requires a great amount of teamwork and is very tactical when observed closely.
One Wales supporter said: “Unless people come and watch it live then they would not realise the speed of the balls and how much agility these players have.
“The game is very tactical as well. I think with enough money behind it then it could be big. It’s growing all the time.”
Across the globe, dodgeball has expanded at the grass-roots level throughout universities, high schools, and primary school teams. In the United Kingdom, there are 750,000 active players: it is even bigger in the US, with 9.7 million players.
The rapid expansion of the game has culminated in the World Dodgeball Association creating the first ever Dodgeball World Cup.
Tom Hickson, President of the World Dodgeball Association, said: “I think a World Cup in Dodgeball puts the game on the map. It raises the profile of the sport massively, especially at a grass-roots level.
“There will be people across the world who will think, ‘I want to be at the world cup and I want to represent my country playing dodgeball’. And it really resembles quite nicely what we do at the World Dodgeball Association.”
The start of the Dodgeball World Cup
On Saturday, April 16, fans filed into the 1000-seated capacity National Basketball Arena, Manchester, to commence the opening of the tournament.
Countries including Australia, Austria, Egypt, Italy, Malaysia, and the United States of America all fielded teams to compete in the mens’ and women’s tournaments.
All nations from the United Kingdom entered teams, with England mens’ team as strong favourites for the tournament after winning the European Dodgeball Championship for the fourth year in a row in Belfast in August 2015.
As expected, England fans were loud and proud in backing their team to win the tournament:
With 50 games played over the weekend, the tournament showcased intense action to those watching across the world on YouTube, which hosted over 40,000 total views on Saturday’s play.
The weekend’s matches climaxed in the finals with the ladies Australian ‘Dodgeroos’ stifling a late Austrian Women comeback to win 7-6 and take home the new Dodgeball World Cup in the women’s category.
The heavily-favourited England Lions played the Malaysian national team in the men’s fixtures. The Malaysian team, despite having never competed in an international dodgeball tournament before, defied all odds to reach the final.
The fairytale story was cut short, when Malaysia fell to England by 14-3: crowning the England Lions as the first winners of the Dodgeball World Cup 2016, and cemented England’s place at the top of the dodgeball world.
England Lions coach John Rudland told 24.7 sports: “I think the boys have been amazing. We’ve had a game plan from day one, and they’ve delivered exactly what we’ve asked.
“I couldn’t be prouder right now.”
The introduction of a World Cup was a major step forward of the relatively unknown sport that is dodgeball. The sport is propelling to even grander stages, as plans were recently announced for a 2018 Dodgeball World Cup to be held in New York. It could be that there is more to dodgeball than just spandex and rubber balls after all.
This article was written for Quays News.