A man dressed as the anime cartoon character Pikachu slides across a varnished hardwood floor as six men and women laugh while they pummel him with orange, red and green foam balls.
This is not a bad dream – this is the Vancouver Dodgeball League tournament.
League has grown from 12 to 1,600 participants
Over 1,600 members make up the VDL’s 184 teams. Executive director Pete Tang said some players travel from as far as Ladner and White Rock to compete in games and tournaments in Vancouver gymnasiums.
“I think that people come out for the novelty of the sport,” said Tang. “It’s a little different so they want to try it out.”
Since the league began in 2004 with just 12 players, it has grown exponentially. VDL programs director Kaitlin Sterndale-Bennett said the VDL is “the largest non-profit, volunteer-run dodgeball league in the universe, to our knowledge.”
For those who like sports, and being “goofy”
Tang said the league relies on word-of-mouth to draw new players, who come to “bring back memories of playground dodgeball,” though he said the game offers much more than that. “The appeal there is just great spirit, sportsmanship. People like to dress up and be goofy.”
The league is divided into three tiers based on players’ skill and experience so that beginners and experts alike can enjoy the game.
“We want it to [be] fair for everybody and we want everybody to have fun,” said Sterndale-Bennett. “If you’re getting killed every week, that sucks.”
Sweden makes more than just meatballs
Sterndale-Bennett said that although players in tier one can launch balls at opponents at breakneck speeds, injuries rarely befall players because the league uses custom-made, latex-skinned foam balls from Sweden.
“It’s predominately sprains – thumb sprains, ankles, knees, bruising. Honestly, a lot of it comes from people not warming up properly.”
As the VDL expands and evolves, league executives are developing new skills clinics and tournaments to keep players happy.
The 17th season of the VDL begins in early 2014. Those interested in joining the league can find information at www.vdldodgeball.com.
Story and slideshow by Nick Eagland