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Education Letter to the Editor

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March 14, 2001 5 min read
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Booting the Dodge Ball

To the Editor:

Ban dodge ball for promoting violence and maintain funding for football? Duh. (“Dodge Ball Takes a Drubbing in Several School Districts,” Feb. 21, 2001).

What’s required is an approach to activities that modifies them to: reduce danger, promote healthy, inclusive action, and offer advantages to those who employ strategic logic.

You have only to watch the Japan National Dodge Ball Finals to realize that the American version of the game is just that: a version.

Mike McClain

Okinawa, Japan


To the Editor:

Should we teach dodging skills to children? Certainly. Can we use three-person dodge ball? Probably. Are there other ways to teach dodging? Yes. Will some children love to play dodge ball during recess? Yes. But does it have an educational purpose for all children? Probably not.

There are groups of children who, in a game of dodge ball, learn only that they can be a bully or a target of bullies. The children who feel picked on and ridiculed are often the ones who are eliminated first in dodge ball. Teachers should not have to teach dodge ball. Nor, if they can use dodge ball in a developmentally appropriate manner, should they be barred from using it.

The bottom line is that there should be a specific reason to have this game in the schools.

Michael Dumin

Radford University

Radford, Va.


To the Editor:

I do not play dodge ball now. But when I did, I have to say, it was enjoyed by all. No one sat out, balls were so lightweight that you couldn’t tell when they hit you, and there was movement all the time. We never played the same form of dodge ball more than two days in a row.

My question is this: Are children not human targets as goalies in soccer or hockey? It all goes back to whether specialists use improper equipment, play the game too often, and don’t use it as a teaching tool for skills and fitness. The best approach is professionalism, common sense, and remembering to keep the kids’ best interests in mind.

Carmen J. Bachmeier

Burlington-Deslacs Elementary

Burlington, N.D.


To the Editor:

I guess dodge ball is the root cause of all the violence we have in this country. It must be physical education teachers’ fault, for allowing dodge ball to happen through the years.

My physical education classes play non- elimination dodge ball with gator-skin balls, and the game was voted the third most popular in the school. (Out of 653 students, dodge ball got 603 votes.) As for liability, there is not an activity we do in which some risk is not involved. Every physical education teacher can be liable.

We need to be more concerned about large gym classes, facility problems, and equipment needs.

Larry Barbour

Dallas, Texas


To the Editor:

Most of the quotes in your article on dodge ball missed several important points. First, in this day and age, when school violence is so prevalent, why would any physical educator or recreator want to promote a game that involves throwing objects at people? There is not another sport that involves dodging objects that are hurled at you purposely. Why don’t we just teach how not to miss your target when engaged in a drive-by shooting?

Good physical educators are so busy teaching and enforcing appropriate social skills (the ones so many parents neglect to teach their children) with cooperative activities, that they would not even consider having their students play a game like dodge ball. These same physical educators are also busy teaching children how to get fit and stay fit for a lifetime. They are busy teaching them the movement skills they need to learn for participation in a host of lifetime sports, so they can enjoy a life filled with physical activity.

It is only the lazy physical educators and those who have no idea what the word “professionalism” entails who are still playing the traditional version of dodge ball in their classes. Professionals attend conferences regularly, read journals, and stay in tune with the latest in terms of what is best for the children they teach. Professionals dumped traditional dodge ball in physical education classes years ago.

Robin D. Reese

California State University

Sacramento, Calif.


To the Editor:

Actually, in Malawi, Africa, where I come from, we call dodge ball a different name, Mahanaim. We found out that our Mahanaim resembles a type of ball played in Israel. (Incidentally, we have developed a local name for it. We call it “Phada.”) It is a treat to a lot of students. They love it. We use a cloth type of ball, but other teachers use the regular ball. Among the skills used are dodging (hence the name here), catching, throwing, aiming, and so forth.

I think we need dodge ball in our schools. After all, in real life, children will face all those things we want them to avoid in dodge ball. Dodge ball, go forward!

Mark Tembo

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Blacksburg, Va.


To the Editor:

Dodge ball and variations of it can be invaluable, with inclusion of all types of students. It is up to the teacher to make sure there is short-term elimination, use of safe balls, and participation by inactive students.

The biggest liability, with gator-skin balls, is students’ hurting their arms from throwing too hard.

We play dodge ball only once or twice a month, and the students are begging for it. Usually, it is a choice between dodge ball and some other activity, and dodge ball is the choice of from 80 percent to 90 percent of the two classes we run at the same time.

Our students who do not throw well still love the game we play, because we have allowances built in. Any creative teacher can make dodge ball useful and fun.

We have over 40 variations of throwing games using the gator-skin balls. We have each game written up in a lesson plan and have even thought of putting a book together for safe and active dodge-ball games for 5th through 8th grades. After your article, and comments from scholars who apparently have not been in middle school classrooms as instructors, we are more inclined to do just that.

On paper and in theory, dodge ball doesn’t seem that great an idea. But to the vast majority of students, it is simply fun.

Patrick Wilson

Englewood, Colo.

A version of this article appeared in the March 14, 2001 edition of Education Week as Letters

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