Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Dodgeball a Symptom of America in Decline

“If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball.” – Patches O’ Houlihan (Dodgeball)

Dodgeball a Symptom of America in Decline
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
April 2, 2013

It didn’t take the banning of dodgeball by the Windham School Board in New Hampshire to come to the easy conclusion that doing so emphasizes the physical and mental decline of America. Dodgeball is merely a symptom of this decline.

A rite of passage for virtually every American child since elementary school, dodgeball is a microcosm of battle and necessary combination of the use of brains and brawn. It’s not just about the bigger, stronger children whaling on the smaller, weaker children. It’s about the smarter children having a strategy to hide in the back of the field while the braggarts man the front lines. Being small has its advantages – one can typically move faster and is a tougher target to hit. And it’s also a team sport, so it pays to have better athletes up front to catch the ball and knock out the better players on the other team.

Is there a part of the game where bullying may come into play? Sure there is; and make no mistake, as the victim of bullies in junior high and high school, there is nothing I abhor more than to see the bullying of any student by either another student, or worse, a parent or teacher.

However, that is not a reason to eliminate dodgeball from gym class. In dodgeball, like any other gym class activity, there is opportunity for redemption. Lose today, win tomorrow. Improve the throwing and catching skills. And, like any gym class activity, there are the lessons of winning with grace and losing with dignity – notions barely recognizable any longer.

In this day and age, virtually all competition has been sidelined in favor of putting salve on a damaged self-esteem. Note to those parents and teachers more concerned with their child’s or student’s self-esteem over the learning how to win and lose: you are damaging your children and setting them up for failure and a rude awakening once they hit the real world.

This is a competition-based world in which we live and the sooner children learn this, the better prepared they will be to face life’s competitions – making the team, getting into college, getting the job, joining various clubs, and yes, even finding that special someone who will become one’s future spouse.

Windham Superintendent Henry LaBranche referred to dodgeball as a “human-target game” in an interview with the New Hampshire Union Leader. Dodgeball is not a conspiracy, Mr. Superintendent, and while the intent is not to hit the opponent, the body is a “human-target” in baseball, football, hockey and many other contact sports. Are those sports to be banned as well?

It’s bad enough children are placed in virtual plastic bubbles to avoid them getting skinned knees and the like, but children are not eggs and their shells will not crack, unless parents and teachers continue to shelter them like fragile porcelain dolls. After all, dodgeball is played with the traditional squishy red bouncy ball we all remember also using for kickball, not a medicine ball.

Sadly, this treatment carries over to the classroom where more and more schools are doing away with awards, naming valedictorians, and instead presenting certificates of achievements simply for showing up. Again the nature of society is competitive and children who don’t learn this in the classroom as well on the field of play will merely get crushed when facing the harsh realities of the world around them.

The emasculation of boys leads to men who become obsequious, sniveling man-children afraid of their own shadows. Barack Obama said he doubts he would allow a son of his to play football because of the potential for injuries and concussion. Such fates exist in all competitive sports and considering the obesity crisis in the United States, children should be encouraged, not discouraged, from participating in team sports. Put down the video games and play ball!

Team sports also creates the next generation of leaders – be they in the boardrooms, ball fields, or battlefields.

Earlier I noted that dodgeball is a microcosm of battle. Having a winning strategy is what keeps one in the game as well as alive on the battlefield. The winners in dodgeball become those stellar strategists in the boardrooms and on the battlefields, while the whiners continue to become soft and unable to fight their own battles in life.

This softness is what leads to a sense of entitlement by this generation of students of the government as well as government allowing them to remain on their parents’ insurance until age 26, but that’s another column for another day.

The coddling received as school children by being placed in cocoons by parents and teachers afraid they might break a nail will only stunt their growth as independent adults able to take personal responsibility for their own actions and their own lives instead of placing blame everywhere else.

This is not the fault of the children who at such ages don’t know any better, but the fault of parents afraid to see their precious child skin their knee, or teachers afraid to lose a job should a student get hurt, or administrators afraid of lawsuits should Johnny return home with a bruise from doing what Johnny does – play games with his friends.

Children must toughen up and adults must tough it out.

Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN.

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