Around the Island

Who wants to play Dodgeball? Working through youthful traumas for a good cause

COURTESY PHOTO | The classic dodgeball.
COURTESY PHOTO | The classic dodgeball.

You’ve seen the movie, you’ve played the game, and perhaps you’ve even nursed the wounds.

Now it’s time to get back out onto the court and work through all those unresolved playground issues.

Yes, we’re talking about dodgeball, a game which, just like Red Rover, has separated the sensitive from the psychotic for generations, turning many a well-adjusted elementary-age student into a damaged adult.

If the word “dodgeball” conjures up youthful playground nightmares of that an unathletic kid who was always the first one out, well, your life is about to change.

That’s right. It’s time for redemption — and it’s all for a good cause

On Saturday, March 25, the Shelter Island Early Childhood Learning Center will host a fundraising dodgeball tournament in the Shelter Island School gymnasium. Adult participation is encouraged and it may, in fact, do a lot of us quite a bit of good in terms of closure.

The idea for the tournament came about not long ago when JP Torrealba, the parent of a former learning center student, suggested on his Facebook page that a bunch of Island friends get together to play dodgeball. The feedback was astounding, and soon, Mr. Torrealba agreed that turning it into a dodgeball tournament fundraiser could be a great and super fun way to raise some much needed money for the preschool.

You might be surprised to learn that dodgeball has actually become quite the craze in recent years, and it is now an officially sanctioned sport played with real rules. Gone are the dodgeball days of yore when victims were herded into the middle of blacktop circle surrounded by classmates who lobbed the ball as hard as possible at the smallest and slowest among them.

These days, teams face off on opposite sides of the court with a line of balls positioned on the center line. At the starting signal of “go,” members of both teams sprint to the center in an effort to grab a ball and seek out an opponent. There’s a five second grace period (imagine that) after the initial rush, and actual play commences when the word “Dodge” is shouted.

From that point on, the objective of dodgeball is to eliminate all opposing players by hitting them with a ball on the fly below the shoulders without crossing the center line. If an opponent catches the ball, the person who threw it is eliminated.

Sounds civilized, right?

Nicholas Morehead, a learning center board member and parent of a student there, admits that he was an avid dodgeball player in his youth. He found it was a game that served his athletic prowess well.

“I was a sports kid. I loved dodgeball,” he said during a recent visit to the Reporter’s offices. “I was overweight so I couldn’t run fast, but I had good hand-eye coordination, so I could catch the ball.”

“Dodgeball is a lot of brute force and all about hand-eye coordination,” he said. “It’s a timeless game. My 7-year-old plays it now.”

This is the first dodgeball tournament to benefit the Shelter Island Early Childhood Learning Center. Mr. Morehead explained that in the past, an end of year fundraiser was held for the school at the time of graduation.

“We wanted to change it a bit and have fun, make it inclusive so we get people from the area aside from the preschool to take part,” he said, adding a shoutout to Shelter Island School for allowing the dodgeball tournament to be held there.

Ultimately, he notes, this game is about helping the preschool financially. This is particularly important now, given that the learning center suffered the loss of its 4-year-old program after the public school began its own pre-K program.

“It’s so important these kids get early education. Studies have found that it saves money in the long term when it comes to special education costs, truancy, and social services,” Mr. Morehead said. “It serves the demographics of folks that want to live here — the young people.”

Though many participants in Saturday’s tournament might be viewing it as a way to work out long-simmering frustrations, remember, it will all be in good fun.

“I think it will be all ages. It’s a little on the fly, we haven’t figured out all the rules yet,” Mr. Morehead said. “I’m thinking 10 teams of five is a good number. Because it’s all ages, we’ll have a mix of kids and parents and divvy teams up in equitable ways. It’s like a march madness bracket. If you win, you’re in, if you lose you’re out.

“Head shots will not be allowed,” he promised.

While the dodgeball tournament will be the main attraction, fortunately for those eliminated early on, this event isn’t only about ducking those balls. Volunteers, including the learning center’s board members, parents and the community, have organized a Chinese auction with a whole slew of prizes including massages (who couldn’t use that after dodgeball), gift certificates to local restaurants, ferry coupons, sports gear and photography sessions.

Following the tournament and awarding of medals, there will be a party at The Tavern where drinks and food specials will be served.

The Shelter Island Early Childhood Learning Center’s dodgeball tournament is Saturday, March 25 at Shelter Island School Gymnasium. Dodgeball participants pay $10 to enter and are strongly encouraged to arrive by noon in order to register and be placed on a team. Bracket style tournament play begins at 1 p.m.

Tickets for the auction are $5 for one chance, $20 for five chances and available from JP Torrealba at The Tavern all week long. Or call Kelly Surerus at (631) 749-5050 or Nicholas Morehead at (631) 965-2956 to work out delivery.

Also be sure to check out the group’s Facebook page for more information: