Playing Dodge Ball Taught Me Everything I Need to Know

Posted: February 11, 2011 in Humourous, Uncategorized
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dodgeball-imageI normally always write about business related subjects on this financial services “business” blog. But today, I want to turn to a subject much more related to real life and how it affects us both personally and business wise. No, I’m not going to talk about the Anderson family cat that cries (it’s hilarious) in the middle of the night when it becomes lonesome. Nor will I give specific “internet tips” on the fix I found and performed on my wife’s BMW when the steering wheel suddenly locked up while running — just last week. (a 3/8th drill bit and precise drilling unlocked it) Those types of subjects are all good content for personal blogs and maybe someday, I will realize the need to expose my personal life to the entire population of the world…

Today, I am going to talk about Dodge Ball. Dodge Ball in junior high school taught me everything I ever needed to know about life. Playing it was not optional in my junior high school. It was like being at Custer’s last stand. Except, it was also like the “Groundhog Day” movie – it was replayed every week! Same gym class, same P.E. classmates, same red ball, same result. The sides would be chosen by the P.E. teacher and you only could hope that Jeff Swanson was on your side. I know they mixed it up for us. Sometimes it was one side versus the other. Other times, it was one on one, last “boy” standing. (Yes, I am too old to have been integrated with the girls P.E. class’s as they do today)

So, here is what I learned very early in life, from A to Z:

Adrenaline Rush: I think the first time I got one was when I saw the dodge ball coming in slow motion directly into my face. SPLAT! There was an adrenaline rush but it was too late. My old plastic gull winged glasses would go flying off and slide into the path of other scared children who often stepped on them before I cold retrieve them.

Begging: Sometimes, you would be in the gun sights of an opponent and like a deer in the headlights, you knew you were about to get hit. This is where I first learned how to beg for mercy.

Covering Up: You had to cover up when time allowed and prepare to get hit. You knew it was coming, but sometimes, you had the grace of the red rubber ball Gods to be able toDodge8 protect yourself from the blow. Covering up always seemed to help just a little with the pain that always follows getting walloped with a fast thrown dodge ball.

Diversion: Learning how to divert your wild legs pumping like a crazy person as you ran around the court trying to avoid a hit. I learned serpentine moves that most likely could still help me today, should some attacker try to hit me with a paint ball blast, or worse, a real gun.

Empathy: You always had the same kids and you learned how to feel sorry for them. But sympathy alone wasn’t the only lesson I learned. I sometimes would try to help them get away and tried to help them stay in the game longer. But sometimes, by helping, I would get hit because my attention was taken off of where the ball was.

Friends that Turn On You: When we played last man (boy) standing, yes, even your friends had to turn on you to win. They would normally leave you alone until the end, just as I would, but eventually, I learned what it was like to have your friends turn on you. The betrayal was mandated by the school leaders and P.E. teacher, so I never took it as a serious infraction.

Guarding: I’m talking about another kids’ body here! I learned I could shield from the wrath of the red ball by positioning behind slower kids that you knew would get blasted because they just couldn’t move very fast. People do the same thing when speeding on a long trip down the freeway. You get behind a car speeding hoping if any radar goes off, the guy ahead of you will get the ticket instead of you.

Hiding: An old grade school court didn’t have any place to hide. Just walls. But, lighting was varied at times when the window light would darken when clouds blocked the sunlight. I wasn’t the one hiding usually, but plenty of kids would try this approach to try and stay in the game longer. Of course, like guarding, they would hide behind each other too to shield the direct hits of the ball as long as possible.

Intimidation: I learned this technique (not really a good thing) while being forced to play Dodge Ball. There was a lot of taunting during a game and some daring as well. A ball holder would intimidate you to take off and run and then see if he could hit you. As I became a pretty good player, yes, I too would taunt and intimidate classmates. I’m not proud of being a little too cocky at times during those games…

Jiggling: Jiggling, juggling, whatever you call it, means you will be observing your physical body do things that will amaze you. You could take off south but still have parts heading north during the transition. Spastic kids really didn’t do well trying to jiggle. They would hit the floor, not from the ball, but from trying to move too fast and not having proper co-ordination to handle the moves they attempted.

Killer Instinct:  Yes, you learned the killer instinct. When the ball was in your hand and the target was directly in sight, the desire to shoot the ball as hard and as fast as you can at your target came over you. And, after a few direct hits, you started to enjoy the feeling of taking out a classmate. Sick! Sick! Sick!

Lamenting:  Yes, my cries of sorrow and grief started each time a dodge ball hit my face and bent or broke my glasses! Lamenting took place in the boy’s bathroom trying fix or tape those old gull wing glasses so they would stay on my face the rest of the day. Then, when I went home with taped up glasses, the parents lamented too because they knew a trip to the eye doctor and another bill was imminent.

Misery: I suppose there is misery in a blow or shot that kills you. Playing Dodge Ball, nobody died that I know of while playing the game in my home town junior high school. But, the direct hit to your face (and a few other body parts) felt like death for a few minutes and the word M I S E R Y was fully understood during those minutes of declining pain before you eventually became well enough to regain your composure and act like your normal bratty junior high self in front of your classmates. For the direct face shots, you could also easily pick out others that got the face shot as they walked down the halls with a big red blotch on their faces!

Navigation: Forget GPS guidance, those white Converse All Star tennis shoes were my guidance system!

Offense: Having a ball in your hands was a wonderful thing. You knew that you had power and were in charge, but you still had to be defensive the way we played, since another classmate enjoying that same feeling of power when you are in defense – could easily whack you with his ball while you are temporarily enjoying your power moment. Sadly, some kids never got to go on offense as they were too busy running around like spastic disabled kids.

Pity: At first, I learned pity for myself only. Recovering from the physical blow was equally related from having to recover from the embarrassment of being a pretty good school athlete but never being able to win a game of Dodge Ball when we went one on one. Jeff Swanson, the star athlete and one of my best friends during my school years took those honors. But, by the time I hit 9th grade, I pitied the kids who couldn’t defend or ever get the ball. Some were the smartest kids in class, but their bodies just didn’t do so well on that Dodge Ball court. I am sure they hated it worse than I… (and refused to let their kids buy any red balls ever since)

Questioning: When you are running around in defense, trying to save your life in a Dodge Ball game, you don’t have time to think much or question. But, after a couple years of forced “war” by the school system, I started to question a lot of activities we were forced to do in junior high. I questioned having to eat all your lunch, especially when it came out of great big cans and tasted like World War II rations. I questioned having to wrestle, a sport I was no good at and didn’t like at all. I questioned having to climb the thick rope up to the top of the gym roof, being scared of heights like I was from being forced to climb up the outside of a farm silo at home. I questioned the big pipes with unraveled insulation because we would hit them with our hands as we ran in and out of the boy’s gym. (not knowing the wrapping and slap exposed us to asbestos) I do believe the start of my inquisitive mind began the first time I had to play Dodge Ball.  And, that quality has served me well as an adult businessman.

Running: As a sprinter, I ran a fast 220 yard and quarter mile, making the first team in track in junior high and high school. (and getting some medals to prove it) But, it started in Dodge Ball during P.E.  In my business practice, I often will tell someone to “run” figuratively in my financial consulting. Run from shoddy salesman,  offers too good to be true, free things that aren’t really free, etc.  But, I guess I must acknowledge the physical running in multi years of forced Dodge Ball games helped build the physical skills and muscles that later aided me as an athlete. 

Stress Management: When you are in a war, stress management is automatic. But, before and after a game of Dodge Ball, you have to manage the stress of what is coming and then, what has happened to you after a game. Questions abounded and I had to learn to manage the stress. Will I break my glasses and have to explain to the parents it wasn’t my fault?  Will Jeff Swanson turn on me at the end and take his good friend out to win? Or, can I beat him this time?  It all was quite stressful, and management of the stress came early to me, thanks to Dodge Ball.

Timing: There is a time to run and a time to stand firm. A time to throw and a time to hold back. A time to cry when hit and a time to suck it in. A time to feel sorry for spastic body classmates and a time to have no sympathy on them and their useless, pathetic bodies that could not move to avoid the wrath of the red ball.  O.K., you get the hint. Timing matters and as adults, some get it right, others don’t.

Uselessness: Man’s best laid plans can end up in failure and cause disgust. Going out early in Dodge Ball (or worse – being first to go out) can cause a lowered state of self image, and cause you to question your abilities and even your future. You can end up in a “uselessness” state if you let yourself slide down the slippery slope of self pity. Feeling sorry for yourself normally =’s uselessness. Dodge Ball taught me to pick myself up off the floor of defeat and temporary uselessness, and remember. I remembered I got another chance the very next week, to do better and try harder!

Venting: Zig Ziglar used to talk a lot about the loser’s limp. Sabatoging your success by doing things that will cause your failure. I never understood it better than while playing Dodge Ball. Some days, I just didn’t want to be victorious and let the red ball of death hit me early on in a game. But that wasn’t venting. Venting can go positive or negative, but it is necessary. Locker room venting from victorious players was laced with bragging and laughing at certain “hits” that caused a bad day for some of the players. And, sometimes those same boys were standing there naked in the showers having to listen to the verbal abuse that came after their “gladiator” experience they had to endure out in the Dodge Ball arena. But, sometimes, you would hear the defeated and hurting players venting too and it was good. When you get blasted in the face with a 800 mph red rubber ball, you can feel sorry for yourself or you can laugh it off and let it go. Proper venting helps you show up in the next class with no big mental problem, even if you are wearing the scarlet mark of the red ball for the rest of the school day. It would be undeniably displayed by all the broken blood vessels the ball caused!

Workmanship: When we played team against team, they tried to make it fair so you didn’t have an extraordinary number of lame players who couldn’t run, dodge, or throw the ball.Dodge4 So, you learned to work with your team no matter what. You protected the less fortunate when you could. You gave them the ball sometimes so they could experience the thrill of being the “Hunter” and not just the “Hunted”. Workmanship was learned while running around like a crazy person with multiple red balls flying by your body like guided missiles. It was a good lesson to learn how to stick together and block. We tried V formations, line formations, multi formations. War is something you learn fast in how to play the game!

Xanthic Skin: After a few good hits, I still remember the yellow skin bruises that always came later after getting whacked hard by that red ball!

Yelling: My vocal chords never developed to the point of being able to carry a tune. But yelling was magnified on the Dodge Ball court from my earlier lessons from certain Anderson family members who seemed to like to yell a lot. And of course, while I was doing my chores on the family farm at a very young age, there was yelling at the farm animals when they didn’t do what you wanted them to do. And sometimes, amongst siblings and parents. But, the yelling that takes place on a junior high Dodge Ball court gives you a degree in perfecting your vocal chords. Who knows, you might slide off a tall bridge in a winter storm and be stuck in your car below. Being a former Dodge Ball player just might save your life!

Zero In: All the other lessons learned playing Dodge Ball as a youngster are important for the most part, to my adult life that followed. But, when you have the ball in your hand and you learn to zero in on your target to anticipate a direct hit, while still protecting your flanks and rear from someone else perhaps zeroing in on you to take you out, you reach that point of harmony and strength, that special place, where you know this is “As good as it gets!”  And that is when you take the shot. Hit or miss, you take the shot.  Zeroing in and not delaying taking the shot in business has served me well. I don’t always hit the mark. But when I do, it is because I focused and wasn’t afraid to try.

Dodge Ball, I guess playing the game was a necessary part of learning and I thank you for what you taught me.


M.D. Anderson, AZCLDP




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