Ah, middle school dodgeball. It was a way for kids to take out their frustrations of the day on the kids of the opposing team and was an endless source of entertainment for the kids who lacked the coordination to actually stay in the game for more than thirty seconds (read: me). Equally as fun to play as it was to watch, I always looked forward to the rainy days in PE that would often necessitate a dodgeball game or two.
Every year, my middle school hosted an after-school dodgeball tournament extravaganza, dubbed the “Big Dodge.” Since my talents and interests have always been more in the administrative and planning realm than the athletic (which is something that has followed me well through high school and college), I was always eager to help plan and execute the event. The Big Dodge is a time-honored tradition — one that has been around at my school for over well over a decade now. Just google “Erwin Middle School Big Dodge” and you’ll see just how important the event is to the people in my community.
Every year, students across all grade levels sign up in teams of friends and classmates in the hopes of emerging as the annual Big Dodge Champions. For those who don’t feel comfortable in participating in the event as a member of a dodgeball tournament team, they have the opportunity to watch the game and cheer on their friends for a low ticket price — and those proceeds dually went towards supporting the student council and Relay for Life.
As I have already alluded to, the Big Dodge is a lot more than just an athletic competition — it is an opportunity for students, parents, and faculty alike to come together as a community. My town’s local newspaper, the Salisbury Post, covers the event every year. Reporter Rebecca Rider captures the uniqueness of the event through interviewing members of the Erwin Middle School community back in the winter of 2016:
“Eighth-grade student Aaron Vanderberg said that this is the first year he’s played. He was interested in playing his first two years at Erwin, but never found a team he felt comfortable with. This year, he and fellow baseball players formed the team “OVO,” which won its first two games. But Vanderberg says the Big Dodge is about more than just a team.
“It’s fun,” he said. “It’s this thing we do as a school and work together as friends.”
Teams can be comprised of all genders and grades, [Vice Principal] Allen said, something that usually never occurs within the school.
“This is a unique event,” she said.
This year, the school raised nearly $2,000 from student registration alone, and the rest from ticket sales. Lines of parents and family members come to cheer for their team stretched down the hallway as they waited to pay the $5 entry fee. To Allen, that’s another highlight of the day.
“This brings in parents that might not come to another sporting event,” she said.
Inclusive events like the Big Dodge are incredibly important for fostering the level of school spirit and community that administrators and educators hope to see in their student bodies. Through making all students feel like they can participate in the fun of a sporting event, regardless of their athletic ability or comfort in front of crowds, the Big Dodge is an event that everyone can get behind.