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Opinion June 2013

No More Dodgeball? Tell Me It’s Not So!

By Jim Cotsana

I look at these events and wonder how those of us in our 60s ever survived our childhood. I fondly remember playing dodgeball in the school gym or on the playground. Hitting your opponent with the “soft” ball was a good thing. Catching the ball was great but getting a bloody lip, if hit in the mouth, was even better.

The school district in the small New Hampshire town of Windom has banned dodgeball. Keep in mind the state motto for New Hampshire (my home state and where I currently reside) is “Live Free or Die” and proudly embossed on every license plate. The reasoning behind this ban is that dodgeball has been labeled “human targeting.” As such, it’s an activity that supposedly encourages violence and bullying.

Not only was dodgeball removed but nine other “violent games” were also removed. I look at these events and wonder how those of us in our 60s ever survived our childhood. I fondly remember playing dodgeball in the school gym or on the playground. Hitting your opponent with the “soft” ball was a good thing. Catching the ball was great but getting a bloody lip, if hit in the mouth, was even better. You had your “red badge of courage” for the day.

During the winter months, there was an area close by my neighborhood where the snow plows would pile the snow high so we had a little mountain to conquer. We all took turns playing “king of the hill” to see who would last the longest before relinquishing his throne. We all got a few bumps and bruises. There were also times on weekends when a parent would join in and he would eventually let us push him off the peak.

Other games we played included kick the can, who could climb the highest in the pine trees (we got pine pitch all over us), capture the flag, and kickball as well as tackle football. We would also go to the park in the spring and summer and have pick-up baseball games and yes, using hard balls without any helmets. Remember, we had no cable TV and only 3 stations and video games were still science fiction.

Those were the good old days of the ‘50s when you fell off your bike, you got back on and kept going, skinned elbow and all. Once you got home, your mother would wash it (if it really needed it), use a little Mercurochrome along with a band aid.

Sure we argued amongst ourselves and got in frequent fights which occasionally resulted in a bloody nose, lip, or a black eye. But if feelings were hurt, they never lasted and we were still best friends the next day. This was all part of growing up and we realized with every game we played there would be winners and losers. If you lost one day, you played harder the next and eventually even some of the consistent losers tended to win. That’s life; you can’t win all the time and you shouldn’t expect to.

Does anyone wonder why, at least in my opinion, the kids today tend to be soft except for the muscles in their thumbs from playing video games? I see it in my neighborhood where the most exercise I see kids’ getting is riding these expensive bicycles with more gears then they will ever need. We were outside all the time in good weather and got quite tan without the tanning beds or the spray on version. I also don’t recall any of the kids I grew up with as being overweight. We ran or rode our bikes – three speed versions at best – without helmets. I will admit helmets are a good idea, but back then we wouldn’t ever be caught wearing one.

In addition to the political correctness that has invaded our youth by way of complaints by a few parents concerning dodgeball, I also see it rearing its head at another level in our local schools. When I was in junior high and high school, there were maybe 10-15 students who made the high honor roll (not me) and 40-50 on the honor roll. Today, when I read the local paper, there are 25-30 with high honors and it seems like the remainder of students are on the honor roll. They are either ALL very good students (which I doubt) or it’s another case on not wanting to single out kids who haven’t worked as hard. We don’t want anyone to have their feelings hurt but this is also going too far. It certainly looks as if the standards have been considerably lowered. They will have a rude awakening when they’re out in the real world and realize everyone is not a winner and they better quickly develop a thick skin.

Bullying is indeed a problem and, I suspect, always has been. I recently looked at some current information and the statistics are very telling. It’s not only physical but also emotional and verbal abuse that some children face every day from a variety of peer groups. I don’t think bullies are not born but are exposed to this behavior in the home. Parents have to act and not blame teachers or the schools. However, schools need to take immediate action when this is observed since the child being bullied is not likely to report it for fear of more reprisals.

My heart goes out to these kids, particularly those who fear going to school, leaving their homes and, most of all, those who go to the extreme of ending their lives to stop the torment. However, banning games that have been played for decades is not the answer, so please leave dodgeball alone.

 

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