Tuesday May 22, I went back to elementary school, both figuratively and literally.
The journey started roughly three weeks ago, as I was reeling from a particularly poor mental health day. I was upset with both my current level of fitness and my lack of a vibrant social life. I decided to explore some potential options.
My search took me to the pages of Reddit, where I found communities dedicated to Morgantown and WVU. I made a post in search of local activities, where someone suggested a new dodgeball league in town, with a website I could visit for more information.
My interest was piqued.
I had played the sport just a handful of times since my youth, mostly in college, where tournaments were occasionally organized for fundraising purposes. I had fond memories of gym classes from my youth, ducking hard rubber balls that came screaming at my head. Those games were often the best part of my school days.
I clicked the link provided out of curiosity and began to read about Monster Dodgeball, which recently started in town under the direction of Aaron Hess, who has played at a highly competitive level and was looking to introduce the sport to Morgantown.
The coed league meets from 7 p.m. at the Morgantown Learning Academy each week, where players each pay $5 to play, divide into teams and let loose for two hours. It sounded like a fun opportunity filled with the potential for much-needed social interaction and exercise, so I decided to hop on it.
I showed up there for the first time, after struggling to free up my Tuesday evenings for a few weeks. I pulled into the parking lot a bit nervous and walked through the doors to a gym filled with about 10 people. I was introduced to Aaron, dropped him the five buck fee and proceeded to hop into action.
Two hours and one sweat-soaked shirt later, I had begun to grasp the concepts of a sport I rarely played since adolescence, met a plethora of friendly new people and got in a great workout to boot. I asked Aaron if he could properly demonstrate the mechanics of a correct dodgeball throw, and he told me to show up early next week. I told him to count on it.
I learned a few lessons that I reflect on as I type this. The first is that you are never too out of shape or unfamiliar with a sport to pick it up recreationally. Everyone at Monster Dodgeball was very accommodating and helpful when it came to teaching me the basics, and it was clear everyone was there just to have fun. My nerves upon entering were completely unfounded.
Secondly, I learned that you don’t need fancy equipment or a large team to enjoy fitness or sports, and you can make friends without any of the oft-associated anxiety. All you need is five bucks, shorts and a pair of comfy shoes to kill all those birds with one stone.
And what was the third lesson? Keep your head on a swivel. You never know when a ball is going to come flying at you in a game of dodgeball.