During the interval between the women’s and men’s Varsity basketball matches, with the help of some carefully-placed metal fences, the Capital FM Arena played host to a little piece of history. The dodgeball exhibition match was played in front of the largest crowd the game has ever attracted in the UK, demonstrating its growing popularity within the sporting world. The dramatic nature of the match certainly helped to get supporters involved, as Uni’s aptly-named Balls of Steel team came from 3-1 down to win 4-3 against the Trent Titans.
Then again, with balls flying back and forth like missiles, and the growing tension repeatedly punctuated by quick-fire blocks and game-changing catches, there was already plenty to hold the attention. Catching up with Dodgeball Club President Josh Wilson afterwards, it was clear that though the sport still faces many challenges, this exhibition match shows it’s on the right track:
“When we went 3-1 down, it was heart-in-mouth stuff for a while, but some good catching got us back into the game. It was a very exciting game, and a really good spectacle. In the UK, dodgeball has never had a crowd like this. It’s great for the sport as a whole. You get people who don’t think it’s a real sport, and hopefully we’ve shown that it’s really competitive; a great sport to watch and to play.”
Though it has helped to bring the sport into the public eye, dodgeball has struggled to break out of the shadow of the wildly successful Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story. Patches O’Houlihan’s idea that “if you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball” is hilarious, but Wilson outlined the challenges it poses to building the game’s credibility:
“It’s people’s first reaction to the sport. Apart from “is it a real sport?”, you get “oh, is it like the film?” – that’s the main question you get in Freshers Fair. It’s got a lot of similarities with it; it’s slightly different, but pretty much the same. When people say “Is it a real sport?” – if you come along to a tournament, as you’ve seen today, it’s so competitive, and it is a real sport.”
Dodgeball aims to gain entry into next year’s Varsity, meaning that the sport is well-placed to shake off the shackles imposed by popular culture and continue expanding across the UK. One of the characteristics of the game which may help it to reach a wider audience is its accessibility, as Wilson attested:
“The amount of people taking up the sport is increasing massively, and the amount of clubs within the country is increasing a lot more. I think when you get people through the doors to training sessions, most of them come back. It’s one of those sports where it’s easy to pick up the basics, and then you can go to tournaments all over the country. There’s a tournament almost every week, plus we have league matches.”
With the Balls of Steel picking up medals at their last two events, the university is at the forefront of an exciting new era in the sport’s history. Dodgeball seems set to dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge its way into the collective consciousness of British sports fans.
If you’d like to get involved in the University of Nottingham dodgeball club, there are plenty of opportunities, with training sessions at Jubilee Campus on Tuesdays (5 – 6pm) and Saturdays (3 – 5pm), and a session at University Park Sports Centre every Saturday (5 – 7:30pm). The club has twelve fully-qualified coaches ready to teach everything from the basics upwards.