The History of Dodgeball

James Kim, Staff Writer

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With spirit week right around the corner, many students and faculty are looking forward to one of the events that will take place, the dodgeball tournament. Although you may see dodgeball as a fun game played in gym class, it surprisingly has a history behind it.

Around 200 years ago in Africa, dodgeball was not a fun game, but a deadly game. Rather than using soft balls, like the ones used in most gym classes, people threw large rocks. Tribes used this game to work out. Each player would have the goal of injuring their opponent. If a player happened to get hit, they would continuously get hit until they were finished off. Meanwhile, their teammates would defend them while trying to injure their opponents. This deadly, yet useful game taught teamwork and cooperation among the tribe members.

A missionary, named James H. Carlisle, spectated this several times. Once he returned to England, he influenced his peers to play a sport similar to the one played by the tribes. He changed the vicious game into a safer game. The big rock was changed into a leather ball. It would be strategically played on an open field, where the player would be “out” if he were knocked to the ground by a ball. However, players were able to bat away balls. There were other variations of this game that were played.

Philip Ferguson witnessed games being played by St. Mary’s College. He liked the concept of the game but changed it to where 2 teams are on either side of the playing field. He brought this idea all the way to America, where rules were officially made in 1905. The sport rapidly spread across the nation and is still played to this day.

photo credit: The Odyssey Online
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